Rashi Font: A Study in Honor of Rashi’s Yahrzeit

The 29th of Tammuz marks the 914th yahrzeit of one of the most prolific commentators in Jewish history, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, more commonly known as Rashi.

In honor of the yahrzeit we  decided to take a look at how Rashi font has evolved and what how Koren Publishers is restoring the original Rashi font in the 21st century. modern ways.

Traditional Rashi script is a distinct, cursive-esque Hebrew letter. The typeface (which was not used by Rashi himself) is based on a 15th century Sephardic semi-cursive typeface. In the case of the Hebrew press, Ashkenazi tradition prevailed and square or block letters were used for Biblical works. Secondary religious texts, such as rabbinic commentaries, were, however, commonly set with a semi-cursive form of Sephardic origin, ultimately standardized as the Rashi typeface that we know today.

Eliyahu_Koren-380

How does this relate to Koren font? As noted in a previous post, Eliyahu Koren was a master graphic designer and typographer in his own right. In order to develop a unique font for the Tanakh, Koren consulted with other typographers,  Hebrew grammarians, and even optometrists. The goal was to develop the most easy-to-read and accurate Hebrew font available. After his edition of Tanakh was published in 1962, Eliyahu Koren went on to develop a unique font for the siddur as well. As with the Bible, Jewish prayer, should have its own distinct font.

Rashi font example

The newly digitized Rashi font as seen in Koren’s editions of Tanakh and even the  Noé Edition Koren Talmud Bavli has slightly different versions of each and every letter depending on the position of the letter and which nikkud [vowels] are being used. Let’s look at the word “HaMahaneh” – do you see any differences in the letters?

.jpgNow have a look at the “hey” at the beginning and the end of the word. The front ‘leg’ of the hey is shorter than the last letter. This makes room for the ‘nun’ that comes before it, and at the same time resembles the authentic look of the Rashi script in original medieval manuscripts:-צבע

'ו די קלבריה שנת 1475.

The first dated Hebrew book was Rashi’s commentary on the Torah, printed in 1475 in Reggio di Calabria. There are some letters that are longer, resembling real handwriting. Koren’s Rashi script strives to restore this look.

As in handwriting today, letters can look different depending on their positioning in a word. Take the letter ‘tav’ for which Eliyahu Koren created four different types:

Taf Rashi

The reasoning behind these different versions was to allow for adjacent letters to fit together in an aesthetic sense, and, so it would look more like natural handwriting. Our graphic designers incorporated this guiding principles into the digitized font, which can be seen here in the word “Nitpayasta”  (‘you reconciled [with me]’, as seen in Rashi on Genesis 33:10):

-צבע

The tav at the end swings around, resembling how one might write a letter at the end of a script word. The result is a Rashi font that is easier on the eyes, facilitates one’s ability to read the text, and restores a more accurate presentation of how Rashi script looked when it was first published in the 15th century.

There are many more examples of the nuances in the Koren Rashi font, but you’ll have to search for yourself!  For one day only (Thursday August 1st …mark you calendars!) , get 40% off all editions of the Koren Humash Rashi and the Humash HaMevoar, an all-Hebrew edition on the Humash with Rabbi Steinsaltz’s commentary.

 

HaTanakh HaMevoarבלי מבצע

HaTanakh HaMevoar – 5 volume Humash 

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Koren Humash Rashi

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