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Lagoon

This typeface began as a research project which investigated the possibilities for the creation of revival typefaces for the Armenian alphabet, based on the best traditions and craft skills exemplified in rare Armenian books and manuscripts. Examples of fine printing from library collections were photographed and examined in order to design a text type for present day computer keyboarding which is based on the best of Armenian classical traditions and which will contribute to the resources available to Armenian graphic designers and, with the inclusion of Latin characters, aid Armenian-Western communication across the diaspora.


Since the Unicode standard was published in 1990, and recognized by ISO (International Standardisation Organization) it has become the most widely-used character encoding system – being the native character set for Windows 2000 and Mac OSX. It is also the default character set for the world wide web (www). This typeface is largely made possible because of this standard and because of OpenType® – the cross-platform font file format developed jointly by Adobe and Microsoft in the late 1990s and which uses the Unicode® system for encoding characters (‘glyphs’). The two main benefits of the OpenType format are its cross-platform compatibility (the same font file works on Macintosh and Windows computers), and its ability to support expanded character sets and layout features – essential for different languages/scripts. When using up-to-date and appropriate software, the font itself contains the information for the manipulation of the glyphs to create the correct ligatures, special characters etc. which may be needed, using the ‘glyph substitution’ or the ‘glyph positioning’ features of the font.


The type selected as the model for this revival was one used in Venice in 1810 and created at the monastery of the Mechitarist monks in Venice, who have been specialists in Armenian printing for hundreds of years. The book studied was ‘Liakatar vark ew vkayabanut'win srboc'’ – (Complete lives 

of saints) by M. Awgerian – which would have been printed with the hand set metal type created on 

the island of San Lazzaro in the Venetian Lagoon – hence the new type’s name. It aims to capture 

the spirit of the letterforms whilst making modifications in line with modern type users’ expectations.


Often, Armenian digital types are designed to match the forms of Latin type characters and ‘Latinized’, by uprighting the forms; truncating ascenders and descenders and raising the x-height – but in this case the Latin characters in the OpenType font have been designed to blend in with the traditional Armenian proportions which are based on cursive forms – also incorporating some of the quirky shapes from the original model. Faithfully following the original created difficulties of ‘clashing’ characters, particularly those with long descenders, so the font contains over 100 alternative characters in the Armenian part, which will normally substitute automatically where necessary 

(see the technical information).


The sloping lower case characters and upright capitals are traditional in Armenian – capitals are used less in the Armenian language. Later issues of the type will incorporate alternative, sloping capitals which can be used as a more conventional, (in Latin) alternative choice. The standard word space used in the font is something of a compromise between the normal narrow space in Latin keyboarding and the wider space used in Armenian setting.


Three new unicode characters for the Armenian unicode range were added recently: the Armenian dram (currency) symbol; the eternity symbol; and the index number symbol. These were added to 

the font which will be one of the first OpenType fonts to incorporate these newly unicoded characters.


The Armenian alphabet is a phonetic alphabet (ie. each character represents a sound, both vowels and consonants) which was originally devised in the 5th century by a monk, Mesrob Mashtots (St. Mesrob, c.361–440) who is said to have seen the letters in a vision from God. This alphabet was adopted in 406 AD by an edict of the Armenian King, and most letters have remained fundamentally unchanged since then. So, due to this, the Armenian alphabet is fundamental to Armenian religion, language, literature and culture. 


This typeface was designed by Carolyn Puzzovio in 2007 with a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK.