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Arabic Hot Metal

The Origins of the Mechanisation of Arabic Typography

In: Philological Encounters
Author:
Titus Nemeth
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Abstract

This article investigates the beginnings of Arabic typographic composition with typesetting machinery. It discusses different claims in literature of the first instance of mechanical composition and juxtaposes them with findings from original research in archives of typesetting machinery manufacturers active at the beginning of the twentieth century. Based on this evidence, it suggests a new account of the development and use of the first Arabic casting machine. The article raises geographical and socio-cultural aspects that provided the circumstances for this development and re-situates it from the Middle East to the United States. It identifies the manufacturer of the first Arabic composition machine and type founts, as well as the customer who initiated and contributed to its development. It then considers how the Arabic Linotype was likely conceived in a collaboration between the customer and the manufacturer, pooling cultural and technical expertise for this pioneering effort. Finally, the article discusses the resulting type fount and considers its characteristics from a technical and a typographic-aesthetic perspective, illustrating some of the effects mechanisation had on Arabic typography.

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