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Design for the Ages: Murty Classical Library Design and Typography

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Murty Classical Library Covers

With striking designs steeped in the history of the Indic book, elegant interiors that accommodate poetry, prose, and myriad languages, and beautiful typography informed by age-old bilingual texts, street signs, and currency, Murty Classical Library of India books are true design classics. As part of our mission, we offer scholarly or educational use of Murty typefaces, which can be downloaded below for free.

Author - Editorial Staff

Date - 26 November 2023

Time to read - 4 min

Cover Design

The Murty Classical Library series logo and jacket design were selected in an international design competition. The winning concept by Andrea A. Stranger was chosen for its grace, spirit, and timelessness. The elephant as a symbol has historic significance in both Indian and Western cultures. The pattern and the vibrant palette is characteristic of South Asia and complements the elegant Western typography.

Murty Classical Library Stack Of Books
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Paperback Series

We also publish a series of English translation-only short paperbacks based on the original Murty classic volumes. Gabriele Wilson designs the paperback covers.  

641a28e1a6893001b06b56bb 61dc441c28ec53749170390e 61bce3e20b825b0698a32d77 Mir Comp 1600px Min
641a28e045baae73ab3a2c5f 61dc4424dd322122cbc0be37 61ccdc9a71ed1bdd0fccc8d4 Mcli001 Shah Us Pb Only Comp 1600px Min
641a28e0ac3aeea89a5e9c51 633d938ce9a8ed31155740d7 Nanak 9 22
Nanak Poems Of The First Buddhist Women
Tulsidas The Sea Of Separation
Timmana Theft Of A Tree P 800
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Book Design

Murty Classical Library of India volumes are designed by Rathna Ramanathan and Guglielmo Rossi of M9Design. The design is based on research on the history of the Indic book, including palm leaf and birch-bark manuscripts and early printed books. Inspired by polyphonic classical music, the layout highlights the unique nature of each classical text while adjusting to the needs of each Indic script. Following the intellectual mission of facing-page translations, the page spread is designed so text and translation reflect each other rather than allowing one to decide the other’s fate. The series design is based on the idea of “unity in diversity,” celebrating the individuality of each language while bringing them together within a single, cohesive visual identity.

Story Of Manu Interior Spread
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Typography

To use these fonts, please review and abide by the end-user license agreement.

Bangla

Bangla text is set in the Murty Bangla typeface, commissioned by Harvard University Press and designed by John Hudson and Fiona Ross of Tiro Typeworks. The design follows the manuscript tradition of letterform construction reintroduced to typography by Linotype Bengali in the late 1970s, but in a less condensed form with lower stroke contrast. Its proportions and overall texture are closer to those of metal types previously employed by the leading Kolkata publishing house, Ananda Bazar Patrika. The design of Murty Bangla is intended to provide excellent readability to the informed scholar and the contemporary younger reader alike.

Bharatchandra Ray
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Hindi

Hindi text is set in the Murty Hindi typeface, specially commissioned for the purpose by Harvard University Press and designed by John Hudson and Fiona Ross of Tiro Typeworks. The proportions and styling of the characters are in keeping with the typographic tradition established by the renowned Nirnaya Sagar Press, yet with a deliberate reduction of the typically high degree of stroke modulation. The result is a robust, modern design with clean lines and generously proportioned counters, which ensures optimum readability at both text and footnote sizes.

Surdas
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Kannada

Kannada text is set in the Murty Kannada typeface, commissioned by Harvard University Press and designed by John Hudson and Fiona Ross of Tiro Typeworks. The design takes inspiration from a range of sources—the crisp, open counters of the eighteenth-century types of the renowned Basel Mission Press; the styling of ligatures in the 1930s Kannada types offered by the Gujarat Type Foundry; and the dynamic stroke angles of unattributed types found in a twentieth-century Kannada Reader. Murty Kannada avoids the extreme high-contrast style of earlier designs and adheres to contemporary patterns of Kannada stroke modulation to ensure good readability for all sizes.

Raghavanka
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Panjabi

Panjabi text is set in the Murty Gurmukhi typeface, specially commissioned for the purpose by Harvard University Press and designed by John Hudson and Fiona Ross of Tiro Typeworks. This original design reintroduces traditional stroke modulation patterns that are apparent in manuscript letterforms but which have been lacking in conventional Panjabi typography to date. The design consciously recalls forms found in the manuscript Prayer Book of Rani Jindan (British Library Panjabi MS D4).

Bullhe Shah
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Persian

Persian text is set in Nassim, an award-winning typeface designed by Titus Nemeth of TN Typography that has proven its versatility in complex typographic situations and has become particularly popular for Persian language setting. Fitting to its use in a new edition of classical literature, the type’s contemporary design is combined with elements derived from Islamic manuscript practice to make for a pleasant reading experience with sophistication in the details.

Abul Fazl
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Sanskrit

Sanskrit text is set in the Murty Sanskrit typeface, specially commissioned for the purpose by Harvard University Press and designed by John Hudson and Fiona Ross of Tiro Typeworks. The proportions and styling of the characters are in keeping with the typographic tradition established by the renowned Nirnaya Sagar Press, yet with a deliberate reduction of the typically high degree of stroke modulation. The result is a robust, modern typeface that includes Sanskrit-specific type forms and conjuncts.

Bharavi
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Telugu

Telugu text is set in the Murty Telugu typeface, specially commissioned for the purpose by Harvard University Press and designed by John Hudson and Fiona Ross of Tiro Typeworks. The type is inspired by those of the Swatantra Type Foundry in the shaping of the counters and the relatively high degree of stroke modulation for Telugu letterforms. Following the manuscript tradition, subscript letters are larger than in many fonts, making them more legible in text.

Allasani Peddana