by Sergey Beatoff a.k.a. Sam_T
About Kuhlenbach Font
The current computer font based on so-called Civil (Grazhdanskiy) font was first introduced by Russian Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great) in 1807, at the same time with the Russian alphabet reform. Perhaps, it could have been rightfully called Petrovskiy (related to Peter) or Grazhdanskiy. (Grazhdanka is a well-established name in some Slavic Languages). However, the name Kuhlenbach is used in order to honour the unjustly forgotten man who had his finger in the new font creation.
This name was so firmly forgotten - sunken into oblivion, that the only trace is his surname found in some of the preserved historic documents. Kuhlenbach served as a military engineer at Peter the Great’s headquarters. The Tsar handed Kuhlenbach the sketches of the new font (which were obviously drawn by Tsar himself) and commissioned the latter to make the final designs of the letters. Later they were used in producing the first font variants for the printing press. According to the majority of researchers, some awkwardness of several letters can be attributed to the fact that Kuhlenbach had to follow the Tsar’s own handwriting in the sketches.
The font design rose to importance at the turn of the 16-17th centuries. The existing font in the Russian Empire did not meet the demands of the time any more. Peter I was undertaking revolutionary changes in many spheres of everyday life in the country. He desperately desired to catch up with the Enlightened Europe. As the 16th century Russia lacked its own contemporary font, suitable for printing secular literature, the Tsar wanted to find a compromise between an acquiring popularity Latin fashion and the old inconvenient alphabet. At that time the so-called Church Poluustav was being used in printing. After introducing the new font, the old one remained merely for printing Church literature.
The new font spread quickly and influenced not only Russian culture but the Slavic cultures in general. Virtually, all later arrivings of Cyrillic fonts became a consequent development of what was invented by Peter I and Kuhlenbach. Cyrillic fonts began to develop together with European fonts following common principles and linguistic laws.
In the font made by Kuhlenbach there was only the Cyrillic part. In the current computer font, Latin and Greek parts are added in an attempt to imagine how the letters of these languages could have looked if Kuhlenbach had been tasked to create these language parts as well. Besides, several various letters and symbols were added for the languages which the initial Cyrillic fonts lacked. These added languages are genetically connected as the Latin and Cyrillic and some other writing systems which emerged later, are based on the Greek alphabet.
Also, it is worth mentioning that the current computer font is by no means a precise scientific-historical reconstruction of the Civil font (due to the lack of opportunities of archival study), but the most possible true-to-life stylization.