Re: Devanagari

From: Jeroen Hellingman (
Date: Mon Apr 17 2000 - 16:43:48 EDT

The books mentioned are nice to get an idea of the alphabet (I have most of
the series,
still lying somewhere in a box in India), but still lack the details
required to
get the fine points right, and are sometimes plainly wrong or outdated. In
experience, the scholarly grammars and dictionaries give the best
information (which again
might be outdated, just collecting four or five is really required to get
right) --- which is why it is so difficult to get complete information.

Computers have caused considerable simplification of some scripts -- get a
of modern magazines and you will notice a lot of ligatures are no longer

For modern Devangari, Rupert and Snell's Hindi book gives a reasonable
There is a very nice three volume set called Typography of Devanagari, which
probably very hard to get -- since my library discarded its oriental
collection, I have not been
able to find it again, although I know their copy had gone to some basement
in Leiden.

Jeroen Hellingman.

>I personally love a series of small and inexpensive books, published by
>Balaji Publications, Madras (Chennai), India. The publishing started in the
>'70s, but still continues today. The books are all titled "Learn Sanskrit
>30 days - through English" (where "Sanskrit" and "English" may be
>substituted by any of the modern languages of India, including English and
>The booklets are very common in India, but also quite easily found in
>Western bookshops, especially in the UK. Avoid asking the bookshop clerks:
>they won't know. Look around and head directly to the darkest, dirtier and
>narrower corner of the shop, possibly under a staircase or near the toilet.
>That's where these little treasures are normally hidden :-)
>The language learning method used in the books is naive and inefficient, to
>say the least, but the part that deals with the alphabet is unique because
>it normally:
>- starts with a diagram showing the way letters should be traced with a pen
>(order and direction of strokes), that is not always so obvious;
>- contains a comprehensive table of all consonant conjuncts, showing all
>ligatures, half consonants, subscript consonants, etc.;
>- exposes the terminology that is actually used in India, and this may be
>invaluable to communicate with Indian customers, colleagues or bosses;
>Moreover, the books are also interesting in themselves, as examples of
>actual Indian typography and binding.
>_ Marco

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