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Typographic Exodus

The Israeli typographer Oded Ezer has produced his own impressive and experimental rendering of the Haggadah - an ancient Jewish text of prayer and song. Working with translators and scholars, Ezer has helped create The New American Haggadah (opens in new tab) which brings to life this traditional story in a new way through its layout, type and illustration.

The book recounts the book of Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and into the desert for 40 years, before they reached the promised land. The Haggadah is at the centre of readings, prayers and songs for Jewish people each year. The history in its entirety spans thousands of years and this publication is called the New American Haggadah not because there's anything American about it; it's simply named after where it was made.

"Since the timeline is actually the heart of this special Haggadah, floating at the top of each spread, forming a stream throughout the entire book, I decided to design every single headline using the letterforms that were in use around the time of the years being represented on each spread. That can vary from ancient Hebrew to Aramaic to Medieval to Modern Hebrew; each one has specific characters and a visual language," says Ezer.

While ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Medieval lettering has inspired the typography, Ezer hasn't replicated them using traditional calligraphy. He's adapted and modernised the old lettering using new techniques, experimenting along the way. "These are free interpretations," he says. "It might be that an ancient letterform will go through what looks like a contemporary treatment. I decided to work with a different technique on every spread or two in order to give this book a more contemporary, even slightly radical look and feel."

Though he finds it hard to choose a favourite spread, he does feel that fellow typography addicts will be able to enjoy what he's created whether they are Jewish or not. And indeed it does contain a diversity of type and layouts that has been praised by Etapes and The New York Times.

Portrait photo © Raoni Maddalena

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