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Rimmer’s Syllabic font

October 26, 2011

This is Jim Rimmer’s sample page of the Cree Syllabic font which he developed and cast as a metal font in 2006. Rimmer modified the original shapes of the syllabary to take on a calligraphic character.

I was able to buy this page which was found in a box in Jim’s workshop after he died. I knew that he had been working on this project and regret that I did not visit him to hear his story of how he became interested in this font.

Cree syllabics are comprised of shapes that are for the most part identical to the Moon Sytem for the blind first publicized in 1843 in England. The system is most likely derived from a form of shorthand that was prevalent in England before Pitman Shorthand became the standard system in the 1830’s.  At the same time that the Pitman system gained popularity, James Evans, a Methodist minister, adapted this  shorthand for writing Cree.

Evans found that it was difficult to teach reading and writing to a nomadic population with the Roman alphabet, but the shorthand system caught on quickly among a nomadic population without formal training. Evans printed a hymnbook in Cree and soon native Cree speakers were using the system to write letters to each other. This was truly case of the Cree resisting the alphabet and adopting an alternative system. it is typically assumed that it is the syllabic character of the script that caused it to be adopted so easily. Perhaps also the basic geometric shapes contributed to it adoption, as they are well suited for writing with rough materials.

In the 1860’s William Mason printed a complete Cree Bible translation, the first complete Bible translation into a First Nations language in Canada. The translation was recognized as a collaborative effort between Mason, his wife Sophia, a native Cree, and Henry Steinhauer and John Sinclair, also  Cree.

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 26, 2011 4:21 am

    An impressive, nay amazing purchase, and one that you must treasure. But still, I can’t help but wonder — what happens next, after he finishes cooking his buffalo?

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