Friends! Chooms! Ayer Deck Appreciators!
The most embarrassing thing about this here newsletter is my limited field of view: topics range from Latin-based scripts to Latin-based scripts. If you speak English, German, French, Italian, or Spanish, then don’t worry, I’ve got you. But this newsletter makes out as if other languages simply don’t exist. This is wrong! And short-sighted! And...kinda mean!
That’s why I got so excited when I saw that Pooja Saxena recently started a great newsletter called I Spy with my Typographic Eye. Pooja—aka Matra Type—is a type designer and letterer specializing in Indic scripts such as Devanagari, working alongside the excellent folks at TypeTogether.
But her newsletter captures all her varied interests, curiosities, and excitements so very well, like this one here:
Last autumn, in a trunk that hadn’t been touched in years, my family found a collection of children’s books that my Dad would have read when he was about ten. They belonged to a series called Jñyānabhāratī Bāla Pocket Books (ज्ञानभारती बाल पॉकेट बुक्स).
Small and cheaply-priced, Jñyānabhāratī Bāla Pocket Books were paperbacks for children published from Lucknow starting at the fag end of the 1960s, and into the 1970s. They featured stories from a range of genres — mystery, thriller, fantasy, humour, mythology and history, among others — and equally evocative cover designs.
All these lovely book covers play with the letterforms in unpredictable ways, but this part caught my eye when Pooja shares these covers:
Notice how those title letters don’t sit on the baseline and are free-flowing, curved, and playful? Pooja writes that in Devanagari this isn’t so common:
...one can get used to seeing Devanagari text as being loosely contained between two parallel lines, like rows and rows of train tracks, if you will. So it is refreshing to see letterforms on these covers that swell and shrink to fit organic shapes, drape around undulating headlines, and treat neither the baseline nor the headline as unyielding and unbreakable.
This is interesting! And this is kinda how I see letters in Latin scripts today! I see all the characters as sitting on their neat little tracks and I don’t really explore how the text could be freed from the shackles of the baseline grid. It’s a very clear and obvious reminder to me that what I learn from other languages, other cultures, other places, can be applied to my own.
So! Go sign up to Pooja’s newsletter because I think it’s so very excellent and I’m excited for more.
See you off the baseline,