Civil Typeface

Civil Typeface


a typeface that came to be used in Russia in books of the civil press as a result of the reform promulgated by Peter I in 1708 (in place of the previous Old Russian typeface). The first book set in the Civil typeface was the Geometria slavenski zemlemerie (1708).

The reform consisted in the creation of a typeface based on the new Moscow handwriting of the late 17th and early 18th century (in which diplomatic correspondence was carried on and charters were written), as well as on the new typefaces in metal engravings (title pages and maps) and on Roman antique type, and a change in the composition of the alphabet and simplification of the orthography in comparison with that of Old Russian. Letters not necessary for the transmission of Russian speech, such as the Greek psi, xi, and omega, accent (stress) marks, and titlos (contractions), were eliminated from the Old Russian alphabet. New letters were introduced into the alphabet: the letter E replaced the iotized ligatureieѥ; and the letterЯ!, which was already used in the Moscow writing of the late 17th century, replaced the iotized letterѩ; in addition, the reverses, ∍ which was needed primarily to indicate initial e in words without a preceding yod, was added. Numbers were indicated by Arabic numerals instead of letters. (See Figure 1 for an example of the Civil typeface.)

Figure 1. One of the five impressions of the original Civil alphabet, which was developed in Moscow under the direction of the typefounder Mikhail Efremov, with an inscription in his own handwriting (1707)

The origin of the Civil typeface was a natural consequence of the development of enlightenment in Russia during the early 18th century. The printed Cyrillic half uncial, which was out of date even in Petrine times and was noted for its complex orthography and was encumbered with stresses and contractions, was unfit for printing scientific publications, school textbooks, and other types of secular literature. The Civil typeface introduced by Peter I is the primary source of the modern Russian typeface and is the basis for the alphabets of most of the peoples of the USSR, as well as Bulgarian, Serbian, and Mongolian writing systems.


Shitsgal. A. G. Russkii grazhdanskii shrift: 1708–1958. Moscow, 1959.

A. SHITSGAL [7–698–3)