report on research talk at La Semaine de la Mongolie by Frank Adebiaye

Frank Adebiaye, French typographer and typeface designer, wrote a report on my research talk at La Semaine de la Mongolie in Paris on 8 May 2012.

You can read the report (in French only) on his blog and see his work on the Velvetyne Type Foundry (VTF) website.

‘Tableau des alphabets Mongols et Mandchou’
Guillaume Pauthier. 1858. ‘De l’origine et de la formation des différents systèmes d’écritures orientales et occidentales’. Paris: Imprimerie de Bourgogne et Martinet (extract from Encyclopédie Nouvelle p.588)

Twentieth anniversary Khumuun Bichig newspaper

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Khumuun Bichig, the Mongolian newspaper from the Montsame Mongolian National News Agency in Ulaanbaatar.

From the first day of its publication, on 10 May 1992, the four pages of Khumuun Bichig were set entirely in the Mongolian script and distributed throughout the country. In 2010, Khumuun Bichig‘s circulation reached 127 535 copies.

Over the past twenty years Khumuun Bichig was restyled a couple of times, but remained to be an invaluable historical and educational document that continued to support Mongolian writing and calligraphy by collaborating with renowned calligraphers and Mongolian script educators, by reporting on various events and publications about Mongolian writing, and by organizing annual calligraphy competitions. It became an indirect teaching resource by providing a learning environment to anyone interested in the Mongolian script.

On 22 August 2011, I had the privilege to visit the offices of Khumuun Bichig in Ulaanbaatar and to interview Altantsetseg Sampil, director and editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Miss Sampil showed several original copies of Khumuun Bichig from various periods, illustrating the different formats and layouts of the publication. She also introduced me to Bayarbat Khandmaa and Elbeg Andarzara, the two current editors and typesetter-designers of the contemporary digital edition. The entire interview was audio-recorded and a detailed paper on the meeting and history of Khumuun Bichig is being prepared.

At present, Khumuun Bichig is the only newspaper in Mongolia that is typeset and printed in the Mongolian script, whereas the other national newspapers are all set in Cyrillic.

It is hoped that with the President’s support for the Mongolian script, the readership of Khumuun Bichig will only increase, and that this newspaper continues to be the leading newspaper in and on Mongolian writing.

la Semaine de la Mongolie à Paris

On Tuesday 8 May, an update on the progress of this research project on Mongolian typefaces and new unreleased material will be presented at la Semaine de la Mongolie in Paris.

From 7 until 13 May, the thirteenth district of Paris is celebrating Mongolian culture in all its aspects. The symposium, which focuses on ‘Mongolian Space and Heritage’ is organized by OTASIE and includes several exhibitions, workshops, colloquiums,  lecture panels, discussion forums, film screenings and concerts. My talk will start on 8 May at 11:00 am in Les Voûtes, 19 rue des Frigos, Paris.

The entire program-brochure can be downloaded or consulted at  More information can be requested at or found at

TEDxUlaanbaatar talk

During my research trip in Mongolia, I was invited as one of the speakers to present my postdoctoral research project on Mongolian typefaces at the TEDxUlaanbaatar event in Blackbox Theater on August 20th.

The theme of the TEDx debut in Mongolia was LEGACY: honoring tradition, designing the future; and this one-day event was divided into four sessions [1]:

1 Exploring the past (an insightful look back into Mongolia’s rich and unique history; in which presenters provided a glimpse of Mongolia’s colorful tapestry of culture, arts and spirituality)

2 Honoring tradition (linking us to the present day; where speakers and artists explore the ways in which Mongolia reveres the past through science, music, photography and lifestyle).

3 Empowering progress (inspirational stories of change and changemakers behind them in present-day Mongolia; from the streets of Ulaanbaatar to the peaks of the Altai mountains, amazing people positively impacting the world around them)

4 Designing the future (visionaries and thought-leaders share their aspiration for realizing Mongolia’s potential and shaping the country’s legacy for generations to come).

TEDxUlaanbaatar was organized by Travis Hellstrom, Nick Saijrakh and Uyanga Vladimir, among others.

More information on this event can be found at the TEDxUlaanbaatar website.

My presentation, part of the ‘Exploring the past’ session, can be viewed on YouTube:

[1] In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED has created a program called TEDx. TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
The information about TEDx and the TEDxUlaanbaatar sessions is taken from the TEDxUlaanbaatar website.

Research field trip to Ulaanbaatar and other locations in Mongolia

A research field trip to examine collections, archives, libraries and museums linked to the Mongolian script, and to meet with Mongolian linguists, calligraphers, software developers, designers and academics is planned from 30 July until 25 August 2011.

A detailed report of this research field trip, with information on all the people and material consulted, will follow.

All official Mongolian state documents in Mongolian script

As of today all official state documents in Mongolia will be written in the Mongolian script. Following the decree that the President of Mongolia Elbegdorj Tsakhiagiin had issued on 6 July 2010, and which takes effect on 1 July 2011,

official documents and letters of the president, prime minister, chairman of parliament, and MPs sent to the foreign high officials, will be written in Mongolian script with a translation attached in the current language or in one of the UN’s official languages.

ID passports, birth and marriage certificates, documentation and diplomas from educational and training organizations, centers will all be written both in Mongolian and Cyrillic script.

(E. Oyundari. UB POST, Tuesday June 21, 2011)

Firmin Didot’s Mongolian fount

The punches of the first European metal printing type for the traditional Mongolian script were cut by the Parisian punchcutter, typefounder and printer Firmin Didot  (1764 – 1836), second son of François Ambroise Didot l’aîné (1730–1804). [1]

The manufacture of the typeface was requested by the French orientalist Louis-Mathieu Langlès (1763–1824), to print the Mongolian characters in the second edition of his lexicographical work on the Alphabet Tartare-Mantchou in 1787. Over the years, Langlès had collected a large library, known for its Eastern works, and was acquainted with the fine printing work of the Didot family. His collection also included “sheets of works, more or less advanced in printing”. [2] Lyrus Redding, a British writer who published his encounters with Langlés of 1816, believed these extraordinary and richly produced historical and military works, were executed primarily by Didot. [3].

Firmin Didot presumably learned the craft of cutting punches from Pierre-Louis Wafflard, the punchcutter in his father’s printing office, which Firmin succeeded to in 1789. A set of original punches of the caractères mandjous –as this type was referred to–  are preserved in the archives of the Imprimerie Nationale in Paris. The type was cast on 15 Didot point. [4]

[1] It is not certain whether other metal founts were produced in Asia earlier than Firmin Didot’s typeface.

[2] Redding, Lyrus. 1867. Personal reminiscences of eminent men. Volume 1: p 292

[3] Langlès also wrote works on Indian and Persian literature and culture.

[4] The Cabinet des poinçons of the Imprimerie Nationale in Paris also contained punches for two other Mongolian typefaces, amongst various other non-Latin founts. These were Mandjou Corps 9, cut by Firmin Didot in 1806, and Mandjou Corps 19, cut under Baron Shilling de Canstadt in St Petersburg in 1822. In 1963, the Parisian collection comprised 355 Mongolian punches and 14 woodcuts. [Also other punches for Mongolian and Uighur characters are preserved in the archives of the Imprimerie Nationale. These punches were cut by Renard in 1807, as mentioned in Le cabinet des poinçons (1963). Paul-Marie Grinevald writes in Les caractères de l’Imprimerie Nationale (1990, p 305) that their collection also preserves the punches for a fount called syro-ouïgour, which was cut in 1806 by Fouquet. These will be examined in greater depth at a later stage in the project.]