How do you type hieroglyphs, anyway?

In Cartouches, a Field Guide, I use LaserHIEROGLYPHICS from Linguist’s Software, Inc, by Philip Barton Payne. Due to the immense number of hieroglyphs listed in Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar, you need five fonts and a crazy assortment of key stroke combinations to type all the signs.

As soon as you receive the fonts from the company, you should print up the index pages and put them in a binder for easy reference. The signs are listed in what I call Gardiner order, namely according to letter and number assigned to them in the Egyptian Grammar sign list.

So, if you want to type the hippo hieroglyph, Gardiner number E25, you first select the ANIMALS font and type Option + 7 at the same time; for the reclining lion, simply type the number 6.

This is easy and fun, but it is time consuming. You’re not going to be able to touch-type with this system, although there is a font which consists of only the basic phonetic symbols, where you type N to get the water symbol, B to get the foot, etc. which is easy to do from memory.

It is impossible to neatly type hieroglyphs inside a paragraph with English, however, because the nature of the signs is that they have to be twice the size of the Latin letters in order to be read easily, and that messes up your line spacing.

The fun part is when you want to replicate a cartouche or other inscription using the typed fonts. I note on page 25 of Cartouches, that “The Egyptians liked to fill the space in a pleasing way. They wrote hieroglyphs so they would fill an imaginary rectangle.” Also, inscriptions were read right-to-left, left-to-right, or top-to-bottom. While LaserHIEROGLYPHICS will type straight lines of text right-to-left or left-to-right, to arrange the signs like the Egyptians I would use Adobe Illustrator.

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