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  1. #1
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    Typefaces and Thai society

    It is believed that printing technology first arrived in the Kingdom during the reign of King Narai of Ayutthaya. Since there were no Thai typefaces at the time, documents in the Thai language were published by transliterating text into Roman characters.

    The impracticality of this procedure meant that the technology fell into disuse soon after it had arrived.

    Printing was reintroduced to Siam in the reign of King Rama III by an American Baptist missionary. The first locally cast Thai typeface was made in 1841, just over 160 years ago.

    Here are 10 representative Thai typefaces, each of which is related to the socio-political and economic conditions of its time.

    BRADLEY BY D.B. BRADLEY



    Created by Dr Dan Beach Bradley, the Bradley typeface first appeared in Nang Sue Jod Mai Het (The Bangkok Recorder). Although Bradley was not the country's first typeface _ the first was believed to have been cast around 1872 in India and Burma _ it represented a major leap forward because it had a more orderly structure.

    It was also upright, unlike the earlier model in which the letters leaned backward because they were based on handwriting.

    Bradley's press published books about Christianity, modern medicine, science and astronomy. This new input had the effect of shaking up the existing Thai body of knowledge, which was based largely on tradition, lore and Buddhism.

    Bradley's works stirred great interest among the Siamese elite. After taking the throne, King Rama IV set up the Aksorn Pimpakarn Press in the Grand Palace. This published many important books and documents on national policy, including the Royal Gazette, released in 1858.

    THONG SIAM



    During the reign of King Rama V, the Wachirayana Royal Archive was set up to cull and reproduce old manuscripts, as well as publish new ones.

    The archive played a large part in stimulating several private publishing houses and the resulting whirl of activity resulted in greater classification and standardisation of the Siamese knowledge base.

    Pratithinbatr was the name of a typeface used in the magazine of the same name, published in 1889. This typeface is thinner than Bradley. It is the prototype of the one used in Phra Ratchabanyat Wa Duay Baab Yang Thong Siam (The Siamese Flag Bill). This book is extremely significant for it is the first known document to specify the flag signals used in marine navigation. Published in Germany in 1899, it was held up as a representative of the Kingdom of Siam in international forums of the time.

    FARANG SES BY ASSUMPTION PRESS



    A rise in literacy levels late in the reign of King Rama V was the direct result of the introduction of a nationwide school system. This resulted in a need for textbooks and the growth of the domestic publishing business.

    In 1913, the Assumption Press, which had already published a number of Thai-language text books, created a typeface which became known as Farang Ses or ForSor. The typeface is distinguished by the slanted end of its vertical lines and the variety in line thickness, an influence from Roman characters.

    "Farang Ses" has gone through various modifications over recent decades. In 2000, Dear Book Company adapted the typeface, changed the measurements and renamed it DB Narai. The National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec) and DB Design further developed DB Narai. The new version was renamed Kinnaree and declared a national font.

    PONG SAE BY MR SAE AND PONG MAI BY TONGSIAM



    In the reign of King Rama VI, presses and publishing firms gradually changed hands, shifting from the Siamese elite and Westerners to ordinary people. Thai and Chinese citizens launched a number of daily newspapers.

    A new generation of thicker typefaces was now in demand for headlines and advertising. The result was a large and sturdy type called Pong. This group communicated with a loud, yelling "voice", contrasting sharply with the official, composed tone suggested by its predecessors.

    The Pong school of typefaces represented the forces of change _ the emergence of a new class, new lifestyles and new trade patterns that had been brewing before the 1932 revolution, which changed the country's political regime from absolute to constitutional monarchy.

    Pong Sae and Pong Mai were the most popular typefaces used by newspapers at that time. Pong Sae, which came only in 48-point size, appeared in the Thai Num, Bangkok Karn Muang and Prachachart newspapers. Pong Mai, influenced by the Fat Face and Bedoni typefaces, was used by Suparburut daily newspaper.

    KHANA CHANG



    After World War Two, the printing business grew along with the boom in artistic and cultural activities. Intellectuals, craftspeople and artists got together and formed guilds.
    Since it was complicated and expensive to have new typefaces cast, artists and journalists overcame the inadequacy of existing display typefaces by drawing characters by hand and making them into moulds.

    This resulted in so-called "block shops" which both designed and made these hand-drawn characters. They operated separately from the press and became gathering places for painters, typeface designers and advertising professionals.

    Famous block shops included Khana Chang, Khana Hem, Silpakarm and Siam Silp.

    MONOTYPE BY THAI WATANAPHANIT



    In 1957, the Thai Watanaphanit Company, which owned one of the largest, most modern presses at that time, joined hands with the Monotype Company of England to develop a typeface suitable for the new printing technology.

    The Monotype system no longer needed humans to arrange the metal types. Once an operator pressed a keyboard, the machine would cast the type automatically.

    The challenge for the Monotype designer, Pira Tor Suwan, was how to design small, readable characters that did not take up much space. The task reflected the transition of the printing business into a full-fledged industry.

    The arrival of the Monotype system, however, meant the beginning of the end for the old metal-type system. Offset technology was superior both in terms of quality and speed.

    MANOPTICA BY MANOP SRISOMPORN



    While there was an increase in demand for new typefaces during the 1960s, metal type was in decline. One solution for people in the newspaper and advertising business was to resort to dry-transfer letters for displays or headlines.

    These letters didn't qualify for the term "typeface" because they couldn't be used for regular body text. But they were in use for a long period of time and served as models for the design of many new, modern typefaces.

    Manop Srisomporn designed more than 20 sets of these letters, including a style called Manoptica. It was designed to share similar characteristics to Helvetica, the most famous Roman typeface at that time.

    The Manop 5 typeface was also prominent and is seen regularly today on road signs along the country's streets, highways and expressways.

    Dry-transfer reached its peak a few years after the popular uprising on October 14, 1973, when a massive number of posters and leaflets was produced with the help of this technique.

    It had been in use for almost 15 years _ between 1973 and 1987 _ before it was replaced by photo-typesetting and digital typefaces.

    TOM LIGHT BY TONGTERM SAMERASUT



    Mass-circulation daily Thai Rath replaced its metal type system with photo-typesetting in 1976.

    Tongterm Samerasut, head of the newspaper's production department, worked with the Compugraphic Company, the producer of the new printing technology, to create new typefaces for use with the system.

    One of the newly designed typefaces was EAC Tom Light, which is distinguished by its geometric character.

    The photo-typesetting system was well received by the publishing business. Before long, those who used to make a living from the metal-type system, such as type-casters and arrangers, were replaced by compugraphic staff.

    DB ERAWAN



    The publishing and advertising business flourished along with the Thai economy in the late 1980s. Everyone needed information. Digital technology, especially desktop publishing, helped cater to that demand.

    The digital era of Thai typefaces began with the creation of the first DB font by Dear Book Company in 1987.

    The strength of the DB fonts was that they were designed by professional graphic designers Suraphol Vesaratchavej and Parinya Rojarayanond, who understood not just the nature of typefaces and printing technology but also the problems and demands of users.

    The DB set of fonts soon became highly popular. The most outstanding member is the DB Erawan, which resembles Futura Extra Bold. It is considered the thickest and weightiest font ever made.

    NATIONAL FONTS



    Digital technology made it easier to develop new fonts but also easier to reproduce or "steal" existing ones. With no copyright option available for fonts, typographical design and development has progressed slowly. Only a few new fonts have been made.

    Realising that typefaces might become profitable in the near future, Nectec developed three prototype fonts: Kinnaree, Krut and Norasee. These fonts are intended to be public property, free of copyright, available for the use of the public and private sectors. They were launched in 2001.

    - Source: Summarised from the September 2002 edition of Sarakadee magazine.
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  2. #2
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    Between the lines

    The Nation, Published on Oct 27, 2002

    The evolution of Thai printing and typography, hardly contained to the details of choosing words and fonts, uniquely conveys Thai history over the last 160 years.

    For more than 25 years, Pracha Suveeranont has been fascinated with the graceful yet unadorned look of Thai letters, and the myriad ways in which the Thai language can appear in printed form. He has observed the transition of both the technology used in typesetting - from metal types to dry transfer letters to digital technology - as well as the evolution of Thai typefaces. From the simpler fonts of the political posters of the 1970s, to the arty word fragments used in modern advertising, this professional graphic designer has seen it all.

    Five years ago he started researching the history of Thai typefaces to reveal and promote knowledge of the art form itself, as well as show the role of the printed word in Thai society.

    "There're obviously no record of this history," says Pracha. "Printing has been practised in society so commonly that we have forgotten what's behind the letters, and have only acknowledged their power to disseminate information."

    Pracha says the Thai fonts conveniently selected from a menu at computers today are largely adaptations of older typefaces. Compared to the more than 10,000 typefaces for Roman letters of various Western and other international languages, there are just a handful of Thai typefaces. According to National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) classification, there are about 400 Thai fonts. Of these, Pracha estimates that most are simply slight variations of the only 100 distinctly different styles. "Technology was far less supportive, people had to be more creative. Now that technology makes everything possible, we tend to simulate others rather than make our own designs," says Pracha.

    Based on his research, Pracha has found 10 major Thai typefaces that were invented and represented the faces of Thai society when they were developed.

    Its story begins in the reign of King Rama III, when Siam was beginning to be confronted by new Western technology and ideas. In 1839, American missionaries including Dan Beach Bradley came to Siam and established the first presses in the Kingdom. Bradley also invented the first Thai typeface, a simplified design based on Thai handwriting. Bradley produced books and newspapers carrying new ideas like Christianity, modern medicine, science, and astronomy. The radical ideas, and methods in which they were dispersed, shook up the existing Thai body of language that was generally based on tradition, lore, and Buddhism.

    In the reign of King Rama V, the Wachrayana Royal Archives were set up to gather and reproduce old manuscripts, as well as publish new ones. Greater classification and standardisation of the Siamese knowledge base resulted. The language was also standardised and spread to dependent states of the Kingdom. Thong Siam - a new typeface with thinner lines and easier readability than Bradley's typeface - was invented, and famously used in Phra Rachabanyat Wa Duay Baab Yang Thong Siam (The Siamese Flag Bill Book), a collection of agreements in trade and navigation between Siam and foreign countries, which helped cement the identity of Siam as a nation-state.

    As such, typesetting and publishing played a role in helping secure Siamese independence in an era when Britain, France, and other European countries were colonising most of Southeast Asia and much of the world.

    More widespread education also became a priority at this time, triggering the need for textbooks and the growth of Siamese publishing. New typefaces were invented, including Farang Ses or For Sor, which has retained its popularity for 70 years.

    In the reign of King Rama VI, presses and publishing firms gradually changed hands, shifting from the Siamese elite and Westerners to ordinary people. Thai and Chinese citizens launched a number of daily newspapers. New typefaces were in demand in response to the need for headlines and advertising to attract people's attention and classify the relative importance of information. A large and bold typeface, Pong, was invented to communicate the printed equivalent of screaming.

    After World War II, printing businesses flourished, catering to the needs of the education, entertainment, cultural and other fields. There was a constant demand for exciting new typefaces for headlines. Artists drew characters by hand to make specific headlines such as Kana Chang typeface. Block shops were set up to produce such work and became gathering places for artists, designers, and advertising professionals.

    In the 1950s, the country began rapidly industrialising the publishing business. The Thai Watanaphanit Company replaced a metal type system of which types were cast and arranged by people with the new keyboard-based monotype printing system. And new typeface of small but readable Monotype was in need to help save space.

    Meanwhile, new typefaces were still in high demand for headlines. More than 20 sets of dry transfer letters were developed to cater the need. The renowned style is Mapotica which shares characteristics to Helvetica font. Dry transfer technique was popularly used to produce a massive number of posters and leaflets a few years after the uprising on October 14, 1973.

    In 1976, the mass circulation daily Thai Rath replaced its metal type system with new photo typesetting technology in which letters were shot on film. Photo typesetting soon took off as the new standard in the printing business, and computer graphics staff replaced type casters and arrangers, resulting in a large number of job losses.

    In the 1980s, the Thai economy flourished, increasing demand for publishing and advertising, and spurring the development of digital technology and desktop publishing.

    The digital technology explosion led to expanded opportunities for ordinary people to make and produce their own fonts and publications. The increased freedom led to a more complex world of typography in some cases, the inevitable copyright disputes. In response, NECTEC launched three prototype fonts in 2001 - Kinnaree, Krut and Norasee - as public property to help prevent future controversies.

    "History shows us their origins, and the social conditions that push them from one form to another," says Pracha. "We can see social dimensions hidden in those typefaces apart from their artistic quality. A computer makes things easier, where we concentrate only on their form. We don't realise their real values, and the rights of people who created them unless we realise how they got here."

    To provide holistic knowledge of the history of Thai typefaces, Pracha and his colleague Chatchai Samerkam present the exhibition Ten Thai Typefaces and Thai Society at the Jamjuree Art Gallery, Chulalongkorn University. It's open daily to 9pm until October 31. For details, call 02-218-3709.

    Piyaporn Wongruang

    the Nation
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  3. #3
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    Re: History of thai fonts

    Sanskrit influence on Thai language

    Ever since my first tour of Thailand over a decade ago, I have developed an interest in the above matter. The several subsequent tours enhanced my interest. I noted that my own language in Sri Lanka - Sinhala or Sinhalese - is comparable, too. So, I did a bit of research on this theme. I belong to the so-called Sinhala race, so called because legend has it that the race has its origin in a sinha (lion).

    Sanskrit is sthe oldest of the 3 languages, having originated in India some 3500 years ago. It has had a tremendous impact not only on all Asian languages but also on European languages, according to an Europeon scholar.

    Sanskrit word 'pura' meaning city/town

    In Sri Lanka, there is a large number of such cities including Anuradhapura, the oldest capital city with over 2000 years of history. You find the same suffix in Kualalumpur, Singapore (anglicanised version of Sinhapura), Barobadur in Indonesia having a Buddhsit temple in ancient times, remaining still the world's largest, in hundreds of cities in India like Bilaspur. A few Thai examples are Saraburi, Kanchanaburi, Phetchaburi, which I have visited.

    Songkran

    Known in Sri Lanka as the New Year, it is the grandest annual festival in both countries. The transition from old year to New Year is known in Sri Lanka as sankranthi. This is a pure Sanskrit word.

    Given below are some examples

    Thai Sanskrit Sinhala

    Phasa Bhasa Bhasa
    Phumi(sastra) Bhumu(sastra) Bhugola(vidya)
    Bhumi(bol) Bhumi(pala) Bhumi(pala)
    Vidyalaya Vidyalaya Vidyalaya
    Maha Maha Maha
    Rathri Rathri Rathri
    Sawadee Swasthi Swasthi
    Ahjan Acharya Acharya
    Rekkhakanit Rekha Ganith Rekha Ganithaya
    Kanitasat Ganitha Sastra Ganithaya
    Lekkanit Ganith Ganithaya
    Horasaht Hora Sastra Hora Satra
    Wehlah Vela Velava
    Soon Soonya Soonya
    Sinlabpin Silpam Silpaya
    Wittayagohn Viddai Vijja
    Roop Roopam Roopaya
    Gahwee Kavya Kavi
    Kosanoh Goshana Ghosha
    Bowrisoot Parisudda Parisudda/Pirisidu
    Kroo Guru Guru
    Boo-cha Puja Puja
    Naja Naga Nagaya/Naya
    Garoonat Karuna Karunawa
    Sahn-dith-pahp Shanthi Shanthiya
    Sammakohm Sangama Sangamaya
    Lohk Loka Lokaya
    Seuksah Siksha Siksha
    Rokh Roga Rogaya
    Beedha Pitru Piya
    Naruhk Naraka Narakaya
    Ah-hahn Ahara Aharaya
    Sahme Swamy Swamiya
    Groht Krodha Mahasamoot Mahasamudra
    I can give many more examples. And I find similar relation to Pali, too. I will publish this note in newspapers in my country so that understanding between the two countries may be improved.
    Last edited by senaratne; 18-06-08 at 02:09 AM.

  4. #4
    PhuengBee Guest

    Re: History of thai fonts

    Quote Originally Posted by senaratne View Post
    Sanskrit influence on Thai language

    ....Sanskrit is sthe oldest of the 3 languages, having originated in India some 3500 years ago. It has had a tremendous impact not only on all Asian languages but also on European languages, according to an Europeon scholar.
    I have a minor objection concerning the "impact" of Sanskrit on European languages.

    Provided that the European scholars you refer to are personalities such as Sir William Jones or Franz Bopp, the theory they developed, based on similarities of old languages such as classic Greek, Persian, Latin, Sanskrit is summarised with the term Indoeuropean language family. This theory does not claim that Sanskrit did influence Latin or classic Greek has had an impact on Sanskrit (although Alexander The Great had visited in these times India - with some "impact").

    Rather, the theory claims that they have all the same mother, Proto-Indoeuropean.

    And it is no doubt that Sanskrit (as well as Pali) had a major impact on Thai, one of the Tai-Kadai languages with the common mother --- Proto-Tai.

    I hope you understand why I disagree to see the "impact" of Sanskrit on European languages as something comperable with the impact of Sanskrit on Thai.

    Btw I have not understood which transcription/transliteration system you used for writing Thai names in Latin. At least, it does not appear to be Royal Thai General System nor IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration) either. Since you may have applied potentially for the Sanskrit and Sinhala terms either IAST or Harvard-Kyoto, I would like to recommend to you to apply both on the Thai and Indian terms the same transliteration system since this makes more fun for you. Why I make this remark:

    To use an example which I just have seen here under discussion:

    ó The name of the new Airport at Bangkok. In Thai phonemics it is

    ó, ó– [–ѹ, –ѹ–]
    , – [, –, –]


    As geographic terms should be "romanized" according to their "pronounciation" - i.e. Thai phonemics - a Suwannaphum should be used for romanizing the term on a Thai road sign.

    On Thai road signs, however, you can see the "romanization" Suvarnabhumi. This is not "romanization according pronounciation" but application of (simplyfied) IAST on the Sanskrit (but not Pali) term. The reason:

    (. ; . )

    The latter is the ethymological entry from a Thai-Thai dictionary which you can find everywhere.

    Simply apply IAST on Thai letters, Devanāgarī (देवनागरी) and siṃhala at the same time and the result will become even more convincing, and also more interesting for you.

    Very last remark: In Thai schoolbooks you'll find almost always a section about ѡѹʡĵ and ѡú (litterally Sanskrit- and Pali-letters). Meant is not THE Sanskrit- or Pali- writing system (which does not exist [Sanskrit is usually/traditionally written in Devanāgarī, and in Thailand in Thai letters in most instances). Rather, meant is a specific Thai letter set for writing the languages Sanskrit and Pali with Thai letters. These are 2 distinct and reduced letter sets. E.g., sara ae is part neither of ѡѹʡĵ orѡú. occours only in ѡѹʡĵ and ѡ but not ѡú ... so that one could argue that is needed only to write Sanskrit-terms, or Sanskrit loanwords within Thai (language) but not Pali etc.
    Last edited by PhuengBee; 22-06-08 at 09:00 PM.

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    Re: History of thai fonts

    I thank PhuengBee for the reply. What I meant by Sanskrit influence on European languages is not influence on classical languages such as Latin but on present day European languages. Without going into details, let me mention that the English physicist - yes, physicist! - who is a Sanskrit scholar and who translated Mahabharat into English is of that view. For example, see the similarities of 'divine', 'bovine' and 'cow', for eample with Sanskrit Dev, Gava, repectively. Thank you again, PhuengBee.

  6. #6
    PhuengBee Guest

    Re: History of thai fonts

    Quote Originally Posted by senaratne View Post
    What I meant by Sanskrit influence on European languages is not influence on classical languages such as Latin but on present day European languages.
    I have no real doubt that e.g. Sanskrit and e.g. Latin could be the daughters of the same mother. But isn't it - a least slightly, just for reasons of history and distance/vicinity - more likely that terms like 'divine', 'bovine' and 'cow' have latin mothers or germanic fathers?

    'divine', 'bovine' and 'cow'.

    divinus (lat.) = divine
    deus (lat.) = god
    bos, bovis = cattle (= caput, latin)
    Quod licet Jovi non licet tibi bovi (what is allowed to the god Jupiter may not be allowed to you [ox])
    be_ouf (french) = beef/cattle
    koe (dutch) kuh (ger.) = cow

    That the given names by the mothers do not differ so much by the given names of the aunts isn't such a surprise?!

    Forgot:

    mai ek one (engl.) uneo (lat.) een (dutch)
    mai to two (engl.) duo (lat.) twee (dutch)
    mai tri three (engl.) tres (lat.) drie (dutch)
    mai chatawa four (engl.) quattuor (lat.) vier (dutch)

    renders me to count easier in "sanskrit" than in Thai (nueng, song, sam, si) ... but would not claim on this observation that Dutch had impact on Thai.
    Last edited by PhuengBee; 01-07-08 at 05:49 AM.

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    Re: History of thai fonts

    I just don't get the relation here:
    bos, bovis = cattle (= caput, latin)

    What has to do "caput" (latin > head) with cattle?

    And
    Quot licet Jovi non licet tibi bovi (what is allowed to the god Jupiter may not be allowed to you [ox])

    I've heard only Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi (what is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to cow/ox)...
    Last edited by Riga; 01-07-08 at 05:36 AM.

  8. #8
    PhuengBee Guest

    Re: History of thai fonts

    Quote Originally Posted by Riga View Post
    I just don't get the relation here:
    bos, bovis = cattle (= caput, latin)

    What has to do "caput" (latin > head) with cattle?


    I've heard only Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi (what is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to cow/ox)...
    Ask some English/British people. Cattle = caput = movable property (capital, capitalis) in contrast to deer (wild, non property animal).

    The rest: I learned it with tibi. So what?

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    Re: History of thai fonts

    PhuengBee, are you Puttino?

    Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or an idiot from any direction.

  10. #10
    PhuengBee Guest

    Re: History of thai fonts

    Marie, are u Jesus, Jehova, or Maria? I'M PhuengBee. If you don't like the name call me Sauce Hollandaise, or flighing Dutch bitch. What this means? Are you Puttino? Are you Puttana? Puttina? Or are you Puttano na ha?

    In doubt, I'm sauce hollandaise.
    Last edited by PhuengBee; 02-07-08 at 06:03 AM.

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