Khmer Printing Types and the Introduction of Print in Cambodia: 1877–1977

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The alphabet of the Imprimerie Nationale is comprised of about 130 sorts, classed like other Indic alphabets. Any Pali text can be composed with these; Cambodian can also be printed; however, for extended text some supplementary signs must be added.” (Féer 1879) Only one book on Pali that uses this type was found by the author so far.9 The type is only used to show the letters of the alphabet, but no actual text is printed. The second Khmer type from the Imprimerie Nationale was a 20pt upright style cut by a punchcutter named Lek in 1906 (Fig 22). In specimens it is labeled as Jrieṅ (chrieng) although it is not actually a true chrieng style, but an upright. Other chrieng typefaces had already been cut by Deberny & Cie more than ten years earlier and by 1906 were beginning to be used widely. Unfortunately, no other information is given about the model used for this type as Féer gave for the mul.10 Perhaps for the same reasons stated in Féer’s article, the decision was made to cut an upright style rather than a true slanted chrieng, but without further information we can only look at the type itself. It was used in a number of books including Georges Maspero’s Grammaire de la Langue Khmère (Fig 25). The extent of use of the Imprimerie Nationale Khmer types is difficult to establish as they may have been used in a number of publications from government documents and flyers to books and periodicals, but from a general look at available resources neither type appears very much. Fig 25. Imprimerie Nationale 20pt chrieng in Maspero’s Grammaire de la Langue Khmère. (100% top, 200% bottom)

4.3 Joseph Guesdon, The Father of Khmer Type11 Marie-Joseph Guesdon (1852–1939) was a Jesuit priest who arrived in Cambodia in 1874 where he began to learn the language and develop a love for the language and the country. Due to conflict with his Mission he left Cambodia for Hong Kong where he spent two years between 1881-1882 working on a translation of a Khmer-Latin dictionary into Khmer-French. In 1883 he returned to Cambodia and spent the next five years studying Khmer and assembling a larger Khmer-French dictionary. He returned to France in 1888 where he composed a map of Cambodia with place names in Khmer. It is not clear whether or not he had any experience with printing types at this point, but in 1892-93 he returned to Hong Kong to the Imprimerie de la Société des Missions Étrangères (aka Imprimerie de Nazareth) where he published a number of books in Khmer. The Khmer printing types used at the Imprimerie de Nazareth must have been created there and two different types are seen in later books, most notably J.B. Bernard’s Dictionnaire Cambodgien-Français from 1902 and S. Tandart’s Dictionnaire Français-Cambodgien of 1910 (Fig 24). Both types are rather crude and uneven. In the type used for Tandart’s dictionary the base forms are

Fig 24. Dictionnaire FrançaisCambodgien, S. Tandart, 1910.

9  Henry, Victor. (1904). Précis de grammaire pâlie, accompagné d’un choix de textes gradués. Paris, E. Leroux. 10  Féer died in 1902 and the specimens for the chrieng have no name other than Lek the punchcutter. 11  In the 1904 Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient Guesdon is referred to as “the ingenious inventor of Khmer typography.”


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