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Experiments on Reforming the Printed Letters of the Bolorgir Style

At different stages in history, the traditional forms of printed Bolorgir typefaces were modified to look modern and Western; the first and major step towards the modernisation of the Armenian typographic script was taken in the second half of the nineteenth century by the Armenian punch-cutter, printer and publisher Yovhannes Miwhêntisean (1810–1891), in Constantinople, and soon after by the Armenian printer and publisher Čanik Aramean (1820–1879), in Paris. Changes to the Armenian typographic script have had an enormous impact on the development of subsequent Armenian typefaces: Aramean’s aim to replace the forms of the Bolorgir style by introducing new Armenian typefaces, imitating European conventions, was not fully realised. While traditional Bolorgir typefaces continued to exist, ‘newly fashioned Armenian typefaces’ have gradually become integrated into Armenian culture. 

Early in the twentieth century, both traditional and upright Bolorgir styles were well established in the Armenian culture. Both were used as text typefaces in various media, particularly in newspapers, where a greater variety of weights and styles was required. This century was characterised by radical transformations in type-making and typesetting technologies: hot-metal and photocomposition, which was led by Mergenthaler Linotype and Monotype, the two major companies in the field of typography. 

The talk will bring to light the endeavours by Onnik Awetisean (1898–1974) to produce Linotype matrices of his new typeface. Despite Linotype’s refusal to develop Armenian founts for either hot-metal or phototypesetting in the 1970s – due to the lack of demand for its machines among Armenian printers – the contribution of the Armenian Diaspora in Lebanon and Cairo towards the development of Armenian typefaces for emerging phototypesetting technologies merits a place into the history of Armenian type design. This talk will aim to do justice to this contribution.

Elena Papassissa

Elena Papassissa

Elena Papassissa is particularly interested in promoting the Armenian script culture and heritage, and as a type designer, she has specialist expertise in Armenian script. She works as a senior type design, typographer, type consultant, and lecturer. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and Visual Communication and an MA in Communication and Design for Publishing from the ISIA Urbino, and an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading. She was awarded her PhD in Typography and Graphic Communication from the University of Reading in 2020.

Since 2013 she has been running her own practice: She has been collaborating with international type foundries and type designers, and graphic design studios in London. Notable clients and collaborations include Monotype, Dalton Maag, Google, Tiro Typeworks, Jeffery Keedy, Fraser Muggeridge studio, and Polimekanos. In 2014–2015 she worked as a consultant at the Monotype archives in Salfords.
Elena is a part-time member of staff of the Department of Technology and Environment at Oxford Brookes University (UK) where she is a Lecturer in Graphic Design, and an Associate Lecturer at Camberwell College of Arts (UAL).