Speaker at ATypI – Paris 2023

Back in May, I gave a presentation on ‘Experiments on reforming the printed letters of the Bolorgir style’ at the sixty-sixth annual conference organised by ATypI (Association Typographique Internationale), an international organisation dedicated to typography and typeface design. The ATypI conference was held at the Sorbonne University in Paris 9-14 May 2023.



At different stages in history, the traditional forms of printed Bolorgir typefaces were modified to look modern and Western; the first and major step towards the modernisation of the Armenian typographic script was taken in the second half of the nineteenth century by the Armenian punch-cutter, printer and publisher Yovhannes Miwhêntisean (1810–1891), in Constantinople, and soon after by the Armenian printer and publisher Čanik Aramean (1820–1879), in Paris. Changes to the Armenian typographic script have had an enormous impact on the development of subsequent Armenian typefaces: Aramean’s aim to replace the forms of the Bolorgir style by introducing new Armenian typefaces, imitating European conventions, was not fully realised. While traditional Bolorgir typefaces continued to exist, ‘newly fashioned Armenian typefaces’ have gradually become integrated into Armenian culture.

Early in the twentieth century, both traditional and upright Bolorgir styles were well established in the Armenian culture. Both were used as text typefaces in various media, particularly in newspapers, where a greater variety of weights and styles was required. This century was characterised by radical transformations in type-making and typesetting technologies: hot-metal and photocomposition, which was led by Mergenthaler Linotype and Monotype, the two major companies in the field of typography.

The talk will bring to light the endeavours by Onnik Awetisean (1898–1974) to produce Linotype matrices of his new typeface. Despite Linotype’s refusal to develop Armenian founts for either hot-metal or phototypesetting in the 1970s – due to the lack of demand for its machines among Armenian printers – the contribution of the Armenian Diaspora in Lebanon and Cairo towards the development of Armenian typefaces for emerging phototypesetting technologies merits a place into the history of Armenian type design. This talk will aim to do justice to this contribution.

The recording of my presentation is available on Youtube