[XeTeX] Egyptian hieroglyphs in XeTeX (Benct Philip Jonsson)

Gareth Hughes garzohugo at gmail.com
Thu Aug 27 01:21:51 CEST 2009

Robert B. Gozzoli wrote:
> Dear Benct and David
> I thank you for the discussion, but the problem is not exactly
> palaeographical, just to answer to Benct. I still need a photo or a
> facsimile in order to do palaeography. But this is also true for any
> language, unless you can reproduce ligatures, styles used for that
> period etc. If I read a Latin text in a Teubner edition, I confess I
> do not care whatever is the font, what I need is the Latin text. The
> notes will tell me about the graphic style of the manuscript, if it is
> a copy of that Irish monastery, or an Italian copy from the Laurentian
> Library. Or I have to buy a very expensive commentary do be informed
> about it.
> What I would like is just typing hieroglyphs in Unicode format, yet
> maintaining the scaling and grouping typical of the writing. I cannot
> type A1 B2 H8 C3, and having those signs one after the other. This is
> not the language I have been studying, but I should have something
> like this (Please see attached file, a text in the Museum of Berlin).
> The example is quite complicated, as it needs mirroring of the signs,
> clustering and grouping.
>  But the 1,000 plus signs are now there, and the font already exists
> too. So what is for, if there is no way to use it, apart from doing
> beautiful lines of hieros for decorating the pages?
> I partially understand that I can do something like this if I use
> Graphite, but I do not care about that, as I would like to use it in
> XeTeX.
> Of course, I can continue to use my own hieroglyphic word processor
> and paste the .eps or .tif file, but I would like to do somethimg more
> (Xe)TeX friendly with fonts.
> Any help appreciated,
> Robert

I dabbled a bit with various Egyptian writing systems a long time ago. I
know that there are decent fonts with the majority of the glyphs
available. The Unicode proposal is new, and I haven't seen any
implementation of it; there's a lot of leg work to be done. With a tool
like FontForge, you could take the extant glyphs and map them to their
correct Unicode positions. It would be desirable to do much more than
this: use the PUA to encode mirror forms and smaller combining forms. Of
course, the OpenType tables need to be written to support all these
alternatives. Then you need an input method that will work with the
font. I don't know how much of this work has already been done.

XeTeX will work well with such a font, but the heavy lifting should be
done in the font rather than by XeTeX; making XeTeX position and scale
boxes is a kludge. At the moment, the TeX solution is Serge Rosmorduc's
hieroglyph package (http://tug.ctan.org/tex-archive/fonts/hieroglyph/)
that uses a C script to process the manuel de codage to font glyphs.

Good luck with this,


Gareth Hughes

Department of Eastern Christianity
Oriental Institute
Pusey Lane

+44 (0)1865 610227

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