Friday, December 30, 2011

A primitive guide to safrut from Boston, 1763.

Here's a great page in Stephen Sewall's 1763 Hebrew Grammar (patterned, according to the subtitle, on Mr. Israel Lyons' Hebrew grammar). It attempts to teach the rudiments of Hebrew writing, even giving instruction for the best way to cut the pen nib.


  1. "and the pen golden in such a manner, that the perpendicularstrokes may be made fine, and the horizontal ones broad;"

    is he talking about a type of calligraphy, western calligraphy perhaps?

  2. I'm not sure what you mean. He's talking about an ideal way to write Hebrew. Not safrut, that was just to catch people's attention. Since this was 1763 and every literate person knew how to cut a nib (for writing the Latin alphabet), you can see that his instructions are specifically tailored for writing Hebrew letters.

  3. I saw cutting the nib, and holding the pen, and my mind told me calligraphy. I guess these things were standard in pre-ballpoint pens era.

  4. Interesting that the English typeface does not feature those crazy long "s's" that look like "f's." I guess this was not uniformly the style back then, even though the long "s" did typically linger a few more decades.

  5. This is a printing from the early 19th century, 1808 or so, rather than the original edition.

    This was a fun post:



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