His­tory of Civil Script and mod­ern Cyril­lic type

Am­s­ter­dam Cyril­lic caps of Thes­ing’s print­shop, 1699-1707
Am­s­ter­dam Cyril­lic caps of Thes­ing’s print­shop, 1699-1707
The next articles are published by TYPE JOURNAL in two parts:
CIVIL TYPE AND KIS CYRILLIC (3 September 2013) and KIS CYRILLIC (24 January 2014), author Vladimir Yefimov. Here we give an extract from them. Vladimir Yefimov’s essays on the his­tory of Civil Script and mod­ern Cyril­lic type are one of the best world researches.

 

Civil Type and Kis Cyrillic

In 2002, an Eng­lish-lan­guage col­lec­tion of art­icles about typefaces and al­pha­bets from around the world was pub­lished un­der the title Lan­guage Cul­ture Type: In­ter­na­tion­al Type Design in the Age of Uni­code (com­piled by John Berry). The book, which came out in the wake of the AtypI buk­va:raz! com­pet­i­tion, con­tained an es­say by Vladi­mir Ye­fimov on the his­tory of Civil Script and mod­ern Cyril­lic type based on his­tor­ic­al forms—Civil Type and Kis Cyril­lic. Today (3 September 2013), 10 years after re­lease, the art­icle is not only still rel­ev­ant, but more cap­able than ever of rous­ing both pro­fes­sion­als and those read­ers who are in­ter­ested in the his­tory of Cyril­lic and Civil Type. Those who knew Vladi­mir will re­mem­ber his tal­ent for quietly and pa­tiently, time and time again, talk­ing about our let­ters as an as­set, rather than the oner­ous leg­acy of Peter the Great. Al­low us to in­tro­duce you to the first part of the es­say on the con­tro­ver­sial re­form.

 

he re­form of Cyril­lic type took place in Rus­sia dur­ing the reign of Tsar Peter (1689–1725). The old poluustav type was pre­served only for re­li­gious lit­er­at­ure, while for all oth­er pub­lic­a­tions, Peter in­tro­duced a new style that im­it­ated the forms of con­tem­por­ary West­ern type; in later days, the new type be­came known as Civil Type (grazh­danskiy shrift). The re­form par­tially altered the struc­ture of the Rus­si­an al­pha­bet, too: the use of European (Ar­ab­ic) nu­mer­als was in­tro­duced, and punc­tu­ation and caps us­age were put in or­der. Thus, Cyril­lic took on the form of ro­man serif type, in much the same way that Mus­covy was dressed up in European clothes. In fact, the in­tro­duc­tion of Civil Type meant the re­vi­sion of the Cyril­lic al­pha­bet’s struc­ture and the re­styl­ing of its let­ter­forms based on the shapes of West­ern (Lat­in) let­ters. Nev­er­the­less, from the point of view of mod­ern type design, the re­formed Cyril­lic type in­tro­duced by Peter could have been of a high­er qual­ity, had the de­velopers of the Civil Type re­lied on the best ex­amples of West­ern typefaces of the 17th and early 18th cen­tur­ies.

Read more…

 

Kis Cyrillic

Here is the second and fi­nal part of Vladi­mir Ye­fimov’s es­say Civil Type and Kis Cyril­lic. Ac­cord­ing to the au­thor, the typefaces of Hun­gari­an geni­us Miklós Kis (1650–1702) are the most strik­ing ex­ample of Dutch old-style An­ti­qua. In this second part of the es­say, Vladi­mir Ye­fimov gives a de­tailed ac­count of how Cyril­lic script for the Bit­s­ream’s Kis—a con­tem­por­ary ver­sion of Miklós Kis’s typeface—was cre­ated. One of the most beau­ti­ful Lat­in typefaces of the great Rus­si­an ruler’s era, in the au­thor’s opin­ion, gives the an­swer to a very reas­on­able ques­tion—Could a Pet­rine typeface take a dif­fer­ent form? The text is com­ple­men­ted with new il­lus­tra­tions and pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished draw­ings from Ye­fimov’s per­son­al archive.

 

t is evid­ent that the design of the new Cyril­lic type was done at the am­a­teur level, al­though this was prob­ably the first at­tempt in Rus­sia to use a mod­ern ap­proach to type design, in­clud­ing sketch­ing, the cre­ation of ori­gin­al draw­ings, the man­u­fac­tur­ing of type punches and matrices, then the print­ing of tests, with suc­cess­ive proofread­ing and im­prove­ments to the type. We don’t know which of the ro­man faces was used as the start­ing point for the design of the new let­ters. It is most likely that there was no single pro­to­type and that the struc­ture of the Civil Type was not based on one par­tic­u­lar ro­man font. The sketches were a kind of ec­lect­ic mix­ture of the dif­fer­ent ro­man faces avail­able in Peter’s time (from late Dutch old-style ro­man to Ro­main du Roi). As a res­ult, the Civil Type be­came very dis­tinct­ive, but in fact its dis­tinc­tion was just the styl­ised trap­pings of the ro­man style, an im­it­a­tion of it.

Read more…

Further Readings
Sources
If you like this site and find it useful, help us to make it better by giving feedback, suggesting improvements or by donation.

Donate