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the Complete Review
the complete review - history / culture

Writing Arabic

Stefan F. Moginet

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To purchase Writing Arabic

Title: Writing Arabic
Author: Stefan F. Moginet
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2008 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 107 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Writing Arabic - US
Writing Arabic - UK
Writing Arabic - Canada
Du calame à l'ordinateur - Canada
Du calame à l'ordinateur - France
  • From Script to Type
  • French title: Du calame à l'ordinateur

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Our Assessment:

(-) : visually appealing, very concise

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Writing Arabic is a richly illustrated and very quick tour of Arabic writing from the dawn of writing to the computer age.
       With many -- though rarely adequately explicated -- illustrations, Moginet shows the development of the Arabic script and the different historical passages it went through. The comparative examples found in the often striking pieces of writing that are used as illustrations are particularly useful, but with relatively little commentary Moginet too often leaves his readers to their own devices and guesses, and certainly more care could have been taken in making the peculiarities of the Arabic script clear to those unfamiliar with it; while Moginet does note that Arabic letters take on different forms depending on where they are situated in a word, this is the sort of thing that readers only familiar with Latin-style unchanging alphabet-characters probably need to be told and shown repeatedly.
       Writing Arabic is somewhat unwieldy as a reference book -- surprisingly so, given how short the volume is, but: there is no index and only a limited glossary, and what the many illustrations (several on most every page) refer to is not always readily ascertainable at first glance. Nevertheless, much information -- often very succinctly put -- can be found here, from samples of seemingly every major style and variation to useful lists of everything from the "six styles of cursive writing" to examples of the major reform-efforts.
       The artistic possibilities of the Arabic script are nicely presented (including of the stunning angular Kufic script), and the difficulties in printing and type-setting Arabic are well-explored. Moginet also notes that with the spread of computers "the greatest revolution for Arabic writing since the invention of paper" has come about, as:

     Now a single key per letter was sufficient, since the software program selected the shape of each letter according to its position in the word, with or without a vowel sign. Freed of material constraints, virtual fonts could recreate all the traditional forms of writing with a precision and quality that had been previously impossible.
       With its many illustrations, and nearly bullet-point coverage of all the major aspects of Arabic writing, Writing Arabic is a useful thin book to have in the reference library. A good if somewhat dizzying introduction and overview, many readers might find it worthwhile for the illustrations (and their variety) alone, as this is an excellent sampler of Arabic writing over the ages in such a small volume. Nevertheless, more (and clearer) explanations, especially of the illustrations, would also have been welcome.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 March 2010

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Writing Arabic: Stefan F. Moginet: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Stefan F. Moginet is a graphic and type designer.

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© 2010 the complete review

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