Notes on the Typography

The Typeface
There is an ancient Hebrew scribal tradition that has continued to the present day in which a scribe prepares a holy (“set apart”) animal skin upon which to write, mixes a holy ink, and then employs a holy style of hand-writing exclusively for the writing of holy texts. The moment I learned of this I was inspired to design a typeface for exclusive use with biblical literature.

I started by learning how to hand-write the letterforms that have evolved into our traditional book typefaces, and from there dove into the meticulous world of type design. After over three years in the making and dozens of iterations, this project is the debut of this "set apart" typeface.

It is a traditional book typeface, and as a rule should not draw undue attention to itself whilst being read. Its rhythmic and spacious quality is designed for fluid readability. I have designed accompanying italic and small capital alphabets as well. The typeface is currently untitled.

As is the case with all book typefaces, I have drawn from the theories and forms of many type designers before me. It is impossible to design a book typeface free from the influence of Nicholas Jenson. Others, such as Eric Gill, Hans Mardersteig, and especially Bram de Does & Gerritt Noordzij, have been my instructors by way of their theoretical and practical contributions to type design.

The sans serif (or "gothic") typeface is based on the essential forms of the capital letters in my book typeface, and I will be using it as the titling face throughout the volumes.

A note on the text alignment

Books are most often justified, meaning every line of text is made the same length. This is achieved by adding or subtracting space between words from line to line, and sometimes by "tracking-out" the type or squishing it closer together. We are all used to this convention, and though it can be very legible if done well, in itself it does not contribute to fluid reading. If the space between words is too great reading can become choppy, and if too narrow, the words run together. And then of course there is noticeable difference of spacing from one line to the next, creating a patchy textblock overall.

Alternatively, I have used left aligned, or left ranged text (like the text you're reading now), in which the same optimal amount of space is placed between every word so there is never push-and-pull from one line to the next, and so the native spacing (kerning) built into the typeface is never compromised. While this causes the right edge of the text block to be ragged (which in no way detracts from legibility), it actually contributes to fluid reading because there is consistent rhythm in word-spacing.

Original book typeface, very traditional in form

Original typeface, designed and "set apart" exclusively for Bibliotheca—traditional, clean and legible

As seen in The Verge article:

In addition to carefully reconsidering the overall construction and layout, Greene has also crafted a pair of custom typefaces for Bibliotheca, a simple sans serif for titles, and a more adventurous typeface for the general text. His main motivation in creating what he aptly refers to as his "original book typeface" was to mimic the reverence that's given to text in Hebrew traditions, whereby a "set apart" script is used exclusively for sacred writings. Inspired by this tradition, Greene taught himself to write traditional letterforms by hand, before streamlining the letters into a coherent, idealized typeface. The result of this work is not radically different from the norm — Greene explains "a good typeface does nothing so unruly or unique as to draw undue attention to itself" — and draws inspiration from some of the last century's most influential type designers.


"The two threads that run through ... are balanced contrast and rhythmic spacing, which are interdependent," says Greene. While the positive forms (the type itself) are carefully considered, equal consideration needs to be given to the space within and between each letter. Greene poetically describes the positive forms as "dancing to the beat of the white space" they rest in, explaining that "the space within letterforms, the space interlocking letterforms as they combine to make distinct word units, and the space between word units as they combine to make fluid lines" must each be contemplated when designing a typeface.

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