April 5: Book talk on Arabic script and print at the Seminary Co-Op

CMES is partnering with the Seminary Co-op Bookstore to host Professor J.R. Osborn on Thursday, April 5, from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. Dr. Osborn will talk about his recent book "Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design." A Q&A and signing will follow.

Event information and RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/119033565531748/

About the book: Arabic script remains one of the most widely employed writing systems in the world, for Arabic and non-Arabic languages alike. Focusing on naskh—the style most commonly used across the Middle East—Letters of Light traces the evolution of Arabic script from its earliest inscriptions to digital fonts, from calligraphy to print and beyond. J. R. Osborn narrates this storied past for historians of the Islamic and Arab worlds, for students of communication and technology, and for contemporary practitioners.

The partnership of reed pen and paper during the tenth century inaugurated a golden age of Arabic writing. The shape and proportions of classical calligraphy known as al-khatt al-mansub were formalized, and variations emerged to suit different types of content. The rise of movable type quickly led to European experiments in printing Arabic texts. Ottoman Turkish printers, more sensitive than their European counterparts to the script’s nuances, adopted movable type more cautiously. Debates about “reforming” Arabic script for print technology persisted into the twentieth century.

Arabic script continues to evolve in the digital age. Programmers have adapted it to the international Unicode standard, greatly facilitating Arabic presence online and in word processing. Technology companies are investing considerable resources to facilitate support of Arabic in their products. Professional designers around the world are bringing about a renaissance in the Arabic script community as they reinterpret classical aesthetics and push new boundaries in digital form.

About the author: J.R. Osborn is a scholar and experimentalist of communication. His work explores media history, semiotics, communication technologies, and design aesthetics with a regional focus of the Middle East and Africa. Dr. Osborn is currently Assistant Professor of Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) and Co-Director of the Technology Design Studio at Georgetown University. His 2017 book Letters of Light: Arabic Script in Calligraphy, Print, and Digital Design (Harvard University Press) follows the story of Arabic script and technology, from the advent of calligraphic tradition through the implementation of the Unicode standard. In 2012, he produced and co-directed the feature documentary Glitter Dust: Finding Art in Dubai, which examines the burgeoning contemporary art scene in the United Arab Emirates. Currently, Dr. Osborn is co-authoring African Art Reframed: Dialogues and Reflections on Museum Culture.”