9th International Type Design Competition
for non-Latin typefaces


From history

Armenian people are among those few peoples who have their own written language and original alphabet. Armenian written language was created in V century (405-406) by Mesrop Mashtots. Basic criteria for creating Armenian letters for Mesrop Mashtots was the idea of creating the Alphabet in which each sound would have a corresponding letter.

Wordbuilding in the Armenian language was based on 36 phonetic symbols. Astonishing is the fact, that even then Mashtots foresaw all requirements to the modern font. He created not only a beautiful and original but also readable alphabet.

Distinguishing features of the Armenian alphabet are simplicity, legibility structural unity of the picture, perfect proportions and readability of the letters. Unfortunately Mesrop Mashtots’s manuscripts weren’t preserved. About the letters of those days we can judge by the inscriptions on stones and architectural monuments. One of those monuments is Catholicos Komitas’s inscription on the wall of Hripsime Temple dated from 618.

This type of Armenian written language, which existed before manuscripts, was called “Mesropian Erkatagir”. The letters were capital with straight shaping and only few of them had right side slant. Another font is “Boloradzev Ercatagir” distinguishing feature of which is round shaping of the letters.

This kind of the written language was used till XII century. Beginning from IX century up to now many manuscripts have been preserved. In XII century appeared many manuscripts written in “Ercatagir”. Later “Boloragir was used everywhere distinguishing feature of which was the addition of small letters, that made the font easy for fast writing.

Manuscript Art prospered from XII to XIV centuries especially in Kylikian Armenia.

The first printed book was published by Hakob Meghapart in Venice in 1512. It was called “Urbatagirk”. In 1512-1513 Hakob Meghapart published 4 other books: “Pataragatetr”,”Parzatumar”, “Aghtark” and “Tagharan”. The other famous book-printer was Abgar Tokhatetsy, who published his first book in Venice in 1565. It was called “Pokrik “Kerakanutyun” or “Aibbenaran”. He had published 7 more books by 1569.

Armenian book-printer Hovhannes Terzntsy with great difficulties and privations published his “Saghmosaran” in Venice in 1598.

In XVII century Armenian book printing appeared and developed in some other countries owing to Armenian Communities. In 1616 the book “Saghomos i David” was printed by Karmatian in Lvov. In the 30 of XVII century, the spiritual leader of Nor Jugha (Iran) Khachatur Kesaretsy tried to implement printing, without having any skills and experience in that domain.

Jugha publishing house was constructed by using household stuff. The priest being naturally gifted realized what was needed and people surrounding him, sculptured letters, press and even made paper right there then printed.

Though that printing had some defects, it was made with the hands and mind of an Armenian without any support and instructions of specialists.

As a result, in 1641 they managed to release a book, called “Harrants vark” with 700 pages. Hovhannes of Ankuratsi was prominent in Venice, that’s why the Italians called him Giovanni Molino.

In 1642 he released the books called “Psalm of David”, and the next year “Jesus the son”. In 1655 Armenian bishop sent his secretary Matevos Tsaretsy to Europe to found a publishing house there. Tsaretsy left for Italy, but not having any support and success there, left for Holland, Amsterdam, where he found more favourable conditions. He was in poor financial condition. He could hardly found a publishing house, and ordered to mould set of Armenian letters . That order was carried out by a famous letter moulder Christopher Van Dick, in Elsevier publishing house. Tsaretsy undertook the Bible publication but couldn’t manage to release it. He published the book “Jesus the son” in 1660. In 1661 he died. Before his death he exhorted Yerevan trader Avetis to run the publishing house and continue his work.

Not having any skills in it, he turned to his brother Voskan, the priest for help. Before Voskan’s arrival, the books called “Psalms” and “Hzamagirk” were released.

Finally, Voskan Yerevantsi, having already got the title of a bishop, arrived in Amsterdam in 1664 and undertook the Bible publication.

In 1666 the first Bible in Armenian was published. It was composed of 1464 pages, with the size of 21x26 cm.

There were two publishing houses in Venice at the end of XVII century.

One of them was Hamazaspyan–Saratyan publishing house. The books called “Pataragatetr” and “Tshashots girk” were published there too.

In 1687 Khoja Gulnasar Aguletsy founded his own publishing house and released the book called “Parzabanutyun saghmosats”.

In Armenia the first publishing house was founded in Echmiadzin in 1771.