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Letter to Abram Kanof, MD, July 14, 1968:

 

I would consider the design of David Hebrew one of my important works. It is comprised of a series of contemporary Hebrew alphabets forming together a family. It was designed for the Intertype Corp. I am aware that to many that is a very esoteric matter, but to me it is an important area of self-expression. I attempted and I hope succeeded to fuse a sound cultural, historic foundation with a true personal present-day expression.

 

Letter to Sam Bleir (Technomark) December 2, 1980 re: redesign of David Hebrew for rub-off transfer letters. I think that Mr. Bleir noted the startled response of type designers who saw IDs redrawn David Hebrew for use as Letraset transfer letters. It was wavier, more calligraphic.

 

Dear Mr. Blier,

In answer to your letter which came (as the saying is better late than never) I have to state that only the Intertype faces for hot metal are true to my original designs, intended for letter sizes between 8 and 12 points of shaded or serifed nature. Larger sizes need corrective changes in order not to look blow ups of small letters. This applies specifically to shaded or serifed letter forms. These adjustments I made.

 

Complete letter to Mr. Soifer Oct. 3, 1972

 

Dear Mr. Soifer,

As loyal followers of Dr. Leslies lectures we have been aware of your coming and I am sure that your lecture will be of special interest to a good number of the group that usually attends.

I am very glad to provide you with some data of David Hebrew, if this will be of help to you. The design of it goes back to about 1937, it represented a family of nine. Three basic variations, standard, oblique and sans serif, each design in three weights, light, medium and bold. They all fitted together in style as well as in measurement, any two of these nine variations could be paired on Intertype matrices. From the start I had planned these alphabets for slug composition. Monotype equipment, at that time, was not in operation in Palestine and it seemed unlikely that it would be introduced in the foreseeable future. My dream was to enable every printer in the country to produce well planned and well organized printing for books and commerce, aesthetically comparable to printing with Roman type.

In 1939, while in New York, I began negotiating with the Interype Corporation, but the war postponed any decision. In 1950, I finally concluded an agreement with Intertype. This included the standard and the oblique versions, each in three weights, I then redesigned these six variations and provided the final work drawings, which were finished in 1952.

My dream of the large family, including a sans serif never materialized, only in an essay about Hebrew typefaces by Dr. Spitzer, for the Schoken-Festschrift is the full scheme shown.

Around 1954, the first sets in 12 pt. were issued and since then, many sizes have been added.

In later years, I designed some display faces for photo-composition. The titles and chapter openings in the Berman Siddur show one of these. I did not design the book, only binding, box jacket and calligraphic elements. Of another photo-lettering design, I enclose a sample.

The book The Five Megilloth and Esther I designed but I consider it a rather unfortunate production job. I had to use the Hebrew from deteriorated plates of the Soncino edition of these books which in turn had been lifted from still older plates of earlier edition. (The curse of present day photo offset that makes such ventures possible and so often tempting to publishers.)

At the present time I am involved in a Hebrew-English edition of The Psalms. The Hebrew will be David Hebrew, the book will also have 58 line drawings which I did in recent years. I hope that this will be considered a contribution to contemporary bi-lingual printing of books of quality. The edition is scheduled for 1973.

I cannot claim any more contributions to Hebrew printing, as much as I would have liked to do more work in this field.

We are looking forward to greet you here and hope that you will be able to spend sometime, perhaps an evening, with us.

With best belated wishes for the New Year and greetings from Dorothy and myself.

Sincerely,

 

P.S. Our home address is 1001 Jerome Avenue, N.Y., N.Y. 10452. The label shows the new address of my studio.

 

Notes about David Hebrew probably in response to a letter from Elaine Varady, Israel Museum which received the originals for redesign of David Hebrew for digital process (for Stempel)

 

Agnons A Stray Dog was the first book printed in my Hebrew. It was Dr. Spitzer who made this selection. The first international showing: my contribution to Liber Librorum.

1933- conception of the family of book, cursive and even stroke, each in three weights.

1934-1950 The development of preliminary variations

1951 contract with Intertype Corp

1951-1952 final drawings

1954 year of issue

 

Letter to Yehuda Miklaf (response to letter dated Dec. 24, 1990)

 

Dear Mr. Miklaf,

I always had hoped to be able to contribute to the development of Hebrew printing. In 1933 when the only available book faces were Frank Rühl and a Meruba version; while Miriam and Chayim the only commercial faces (none available in more than one weight), the idea came to me that there should be one new basic typeface, free from form corruptions that have beset Hebrew type development during the last centuries. But this new design should be so basic that it would lend itself to three variations: book face, italic and even stroke. Each of these three I began to visualize in three different weights light medium and heavy. The book face and italic version in light weight were the first to be issued by Intertype Corp. They are authentic. Jerusalem Foundrys type is not. I was never shown any sample and never okayed any. The serif-like beginnings of each letter I consider misinterpretations of my design. The hand type used for Liber Librorum which I had designed was cast without my supervision but with my full consent on the Thompson caster, a device which casts from Linotype matrices. Clark and Way a firm long out of business had enough type cast for this project but as they were not typesetters of Hebrew they gave at least some of this type to Erich Wronker, Lili Wronkers husband. Authentic Foundry type of David Hebrew does not exist. At present most of Hebrew on digital typesetting equipment is lifted, only one of these variations which I did for Stempel is authentic.

However I realize that a typeface design, if successful, becomes public domain. It becomes an image just as older styles which [THAT] we may admire or reject but by the nature of type become the input for other designers. I am only unhappy if as has happened someone lifts the design but calls it DOVID to shirk any responsibility for lifting.

 

The following is a draft for a talk at Typophiles luncheon (the invitations read: Ismar David Day March 3, 1973.) You can see two beginnings.

 

Dear friends. I dont know whether I deserve the honor of a Davids day but I want to use the opportunity to chat a little bit about my latest major work, The Psalms. A new English translation in poetry form was set in Mardersteigs Dante with Hebrew along side it and drawings accompanying the text. The two components, the Hebrew, which is David Hebrew and the drawings, which I had worked on for two years preceding the production, concern me most. So first something about the Hebrew.

When I decided to venture into type design of Hebrew characters, it was clear to me that these designs would have to be much closer to classic oriental Hebrew than the type faces that had developed in Europe. The impact that new surroundings had made on me precluded any other way of thinking. Only the technical aspects should be considered within the framework of western achievements in type design.

Dear friends. I am grateful for the honor. After I have been introduced I want to use this opportunity to elaborate some more on one of my latest works, The Psalms. The Hebrew typeface and the specific kind of drawings are the aspects that have involved me a great deal. The Hebrew developed over a period of about fifteen years in a time when only few Hebrew typefaces were available.

What I set out to do was bring basic forms closer to true old Semitic forms, to define their proportions in a way that would create a more even texture and to develop from one and the same basic form a shaded text version, an oblique version and a sans serif. Each of these in three weights light medium and bold. Each two of these nine styles would be paired on Intertype matrices. All nine variations would be aligned to each other.

When I could not resist the temptation to venture into Hebrew type design it was clear to me that these new designs would have to move much closer toward their Middle Eastern ancestors and away from those styles that had developed in Europe.

The impact and impression that new surroundings, the Judean landscape, the eastern way of life and a new social environment had made, precluded any other conception. But of course all technical aspects had to be considered within the framework of Western achievements in typographical design. I intended to go one step further than in the conception of a type family and add a sans serif to text face and oblique and I developed these three variations of one basic form conception, rendering each of these variations in three weights. Each letter of these nine variations would fit on the same matrix and line up in print on the same base line. This is always a problem that goes with designs intended for the line casting machines. In those days no one in Palestine thought of anything else. I had to come to grips also with proportions of letters and devised a division of the alphabet into three groups just one group narrow letters then the group of medium width that included all letters with only one vertical element with the and very few others and the third wide group including most letters with two full vertical elements or more. This system brought a much higher degree of evenness in structure and texture than is usual in Hebrew typography which too often suffers from spottiness.

The new forms that I developed, I tried out in newspaper ads, as display matter and on signboards, of which I designed many, during this period. I gained confidence as I observed the acceptance that was given to these new forms. After about 15 years since my start I finally prepared final drawings for Intertype. Unfortunately the three sans serif designs were not included in Intertype plans. Since then the accepted designs for the text face and its oblique companion have gained wide acceptance. While in the beginning their use was limited to commercial matters, more and more books are now set in these faces and it does not any longer seem strange to see a book like The Psalms set in my Hebrew.

That much about type.

Now about my drawings. While I admire western art I am drawn toward the oriental concept that uses symbols but never tries to imitate nature of to create illusions of realities. But these symbols are rendered so that they not only stand for objects but convey qualities of it as well as a mood and atmosphere. There is a great difference between the simplistic symbol like the red cross which you can only recognize for what it is after you have learned its meaning and the brush delineation of a blossom on a Chinese screen that can convey so much beyond the form which it symbolizes. In my work lines do not any longer define shapes but become symbols like letterforms, being straight of curved and modulated. They are grouped to form patterns to suggest and stimulate but never to define. A lot is left to the viewer. Specifically for drawings that are accompanying religious texts, it seems to me important that the viewer is not irritated by the style of attire of figures, the fashion of beards or hairstyles, but is allowed to let his imagination wander.

Of course I also like to use color. But here, too, I will not use color in a realistic fashion. Color can create texture and background. It can create tension. And if used successfully, it will complement or support my lines and strengthen their impact. So I use lines and color but mainly lines not in the framework of isms like realism, expressionism or impressionism, but to serve my own needs, to communicate my ideas, my feelings, but [ALWAYS] in the service of the book.

 

, . 14/05/2003