Resources & Images: Typography from Bengal

I have been seeing some wonderful images and resources for Bengali typography the past few days. The first of these is the blog of Rarh Studio, a design collective based in Shantiniketan, West Bengal.

The blog, called Rarh Design Magazine, documents folk and commercial design traditions from Bengal. Not only does the blog have a wonderful collection of images, it has commentary along with them to give them context, as well a part-wise history of Bengali type (only Part I of which is online right now). This first part tells the story of Charles Wilkins, a civil servant of the East India Company, who was given the responsibility of designing and creating Bengali movable type in collaboration with native smith Panchanan Karmakar by the then Governor-General of India, Warren Hastings in 1777. I’m taking the liberty of sharing an image of Wilkins’ letters from the article [it links back to the original blog post].

The article is an absolute must-read. I leave you with a verse, written in recognition of Wilkins’ contribution to typography and printing,

See patient Wilkins to the world unfold.
Whate’er discovered the Sanskrit relics hold,
But he performed a yet more noble part
He gave to Asia typographic art.

And these are images of hand lettering, calligraphy and title art from Rarh Studio’s blog:

Another resource to see Bengali lettering in title arts is this portal on Satyajit Ray. Viewing them along with the poster art brings a new perspective. The website also has separate sections about Ray’s book cover designs, as well as typography and lettering.

And, here is Frijky, a Bengali/Latin typeface by Neelakash Kshetrimayum (the website seems to be under construction at the moment), who is from the MATD class of 2010. The type specimen can be downloaded here.

Finally, there is Erin’s blog Hindi Rinny, which I hope will soon become a huge resource for typography in all Indic scripts, not just Bengali.

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Comments 4

  1. Ben Mitchell (@OhBendy) July 14, 2012

    Ah, I was just looking at that Rarh website too. Cool typograpy! 🙂

    I’m finding conflicting stories about who cut the types for the 14–18 other writing systems (Arabic, Persian, Marathi, Telugu, Burmese, Chinese): some sources (i.e. William Carey and the Serampore Books, Siddiq Khan, 1961) say it was Panchanan’s son-in-law Manohar, after they moved to the Serampore Mission Press. (The example in the image above is from the Hooghly Press, yes?)

    • Pooja July 15, 2012

      That is what I remember reading too (I think there is something in the Naik book, or in Early Indian Imprints). Have you spoken to Vaibhav about it? There is a fair chance he knows something that none of us do. Also, the folks at Rarh would be happy to help you if you need to ask them about their research material. Just let me know, and I’ll put you guys in touch.

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