Most of the letters are written inside the
boundaries of the line, but some letters go below or above the line. (Note that
in he square script Lamed is the only one going above. (Hassidic tale says,
that's because Lamed
calls you to Learn/!לְמַד)
Most oftenly the the final versions of letters in
the handwriting script are longer. That gave another name to the final form of
the letters: in Yiddish they are called lange Khof, lange Nun, and
so on (lange is Yiddish for long; with the exception of the
final mem, which was called in Yiddish shloss mem - a
closed/locked mem.) Other letters (Tet, Lamed, final Fei, both Tzadi, in some
handwritings - also Alef and Vav) extend above the line.
A 16th-century depiction of
There are two other types of script (rather
fonts) used in traditional books.
Rashi script "
Rashi script, named after the Rabbi Shlomo
Itzkhaki (Solomon (son) of Isaac,
abbreviated as: ")
- famed as the author of the first comprehensive commentaries on the Talmud,
Torah and Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The script is mainly used in rabbinical
literature, mainly to write the commentaries of Rashi himself. This script is
considered to be the prototype of the handwriting script.
A sample of Stam inscription, inscripting Shma Israel for a Mezuzah (Beit Yosef version of Stam.)
STaM Script "
Also called a Sofer script. The name of
the STaM script comes from the words Sefarim, Tefillin,
and Mezuzot,, ,
i.e., Books (traditional books, like Torah scrolls or Esther Scroll, or other
books being read in synagogues; a regular book can be printed with any script,
of course), Tfillin and Mezuzot
. The texts which are not just traditional, but have a ritual meaning, and
should be written in a proper way with a proper script on specially prepared
parchment. The script includes special "crowns" (תגין,
the letters. There are three or so types of this Script: Beit Yosef, Ari,
Also, through the ages some calligraphic
techniques were developed to either make the text to look more beautiful, to
save space on the page, or to
integrate the text into the ornament. Most
popular and famous is the Alef-Lamed ligature (U+FB4F), è äð.
A "longer" letter Hei
The Ancient Hebrew Script
Known as ancient Hebrew script (Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew,
Western-Semitic.) Historical/archeological findings track it down to 16-19
centuries BCE; most probably it was invented by the neighbours of Israelites -
the Phoenicians. The Jews stopped to widely use it around 5th century BCE. The
Samaritans use a variation of this script till today. Also, some time it is used
in Israel, when they want to bring an illustration of an ancient heritage. The
last historical usage of this script was in Bar-Kokhba coins, minted in 2nd
This modern 1 shekel coin repicts an
coin from 6-4 centuries BCE. The back side
of the coin contains an inscription יהד,
with ancient Hebrew script (and according to
the ancient orthography rules; today we'd
write it as יהודה.) The picture is taken
from the web site of
The Bank of Israel.