Thuistezien 225 — 04.04.2021

Pierre Fournier
Hieroglyphic typefaces

Writing with pictures, how convenient is that? Unfortunately, the digital processing of Egyptian hieroglyphs is not without its difficulties. For lack of anything better, obsolete glossaries and digital tools are used, which makes the computer entry, coding and design highly problematic. The transcription of hieroglyphic texts is not efficient states Pierre Fournier – PHD design and Egyptology at the Atelier National de Recherche Typographique (ANRT). He works on a project to facilitate the typographic transcription of hieroglyphs.

In Egypt, hieroglyphic texts can be found all over the place. The walls of the historic monuments, excavated by archeologists are littered with symbols. The antique Egyptian hieroglyphs remained in use for an era of four thousand years. In this period, the structure of the writing system hardly changed. At the beginning of the nineteenth century a new scientific discipline emerged: Egyptology. Egyptology is a science based on the interaction between archaeology and philology to study the development of a civilisation. The English Egyptologist, linguist and philologist Alan Gardiner described the old-Egyptian grammar in Egyptian Grammer: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs (1927). The compiled signlist, classified by theme and shape, is considered a standard reference in the study of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Publishing is critical in the development of the scientific knowledge of Egyptology and this gave demand for a hieroglyphic font in an early stage. Though users face numerous difficulties during digital processing of hieroglyphs. There are regularly twenty different spellings for the same sign. In addition, the relevant information is voluminous and dispersed. The information on word lists, references, photographed texts, articles and books is not easily accessible. Fournier works on the development of a tool to integrate the content and to manage it. Le Vocabulaire de l’Égyptien Ancien (VÉGA) — Ancient Egyptian Vocabulary — is developed in cooperation with LabEx Archimede (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier) and Intactile Design.

Fournier designed the typographic system with a team of scientists from Montpellier. The development of his typeface for hieroglyphs is based on scientific research and epigraphic references. Each sign is a representation that can be used for the transcription of hieroglyphs in a specific scientific context. It is based on the avarage structure of a selection of hieroglyphs from various periods. The figurative writing system features open silhouettes. On the basis of the hieroglyphs of the owl, the elephant and the man in worship, Fournier shows the influence of Egyptology’s history on the hieroglyphic typefaces.

Tekst: Marienelle Andringa