Several dozen backers of our recent Kickstarter campaign were rewarded with Endangered Alphabets mugs–that is, mugs bearing the phrase “Endangered Alphabets,” plus the same phrase in Baybayin, one of the pre-Spanish scripts used in the Philippines, plus the tiny word “Morrow.”
Nobody actually wrote to ask me what the “Morrow” was all about, but surely you must have wondered. So, to put your apparent lack of curiosity to rest, here’s the Morrow in question: Paul Morrow of Winnipeg, creator of one of the most successful endangered-language fonts in the world.
The full story can be found in my book Endangered Alphabets (which can be ordered HERE), but for now I’m just going to give you a synopsis and an update. Paul studied a number of manuscripts and early print documents featuring Baybayin, which was originally carved in bamboo with the point of a knife–hence its wavy quality–and came up with a synthesis that is now available as a downloadable font. (The mugs, too, can be ordered. Until I’ve got the PayPal button up, just email me at email@example.com.)
What makes this story utterly remarkable is that in 2011 the national government decided to add the word “Pilipino” to its banknotes, using Paul’s Baybayin font. Paul is typically modest about the whole business.
“I imagine the basic idea of putting baybayin on the bills was either discussed by the planners or perhaps someone in one of the two design houses that were hired for the project suggested it. My speculation is that a graphic designer just looked for a free font on the Internet and found mine. So, although I’m happy they picked mine, it’s not like I had the honour of being commissioned for the job. Also, that font is a popular choice – and as I am fond of repeating, some baybayin enthusiasts call that font the ‘Times New Roman’ of baybayin writing.”
Still, it represents an extraordinary breakthrough: an alphabet that four years ago I was told repeatedly was extinct is now literally backed by its nation’s currency.
P.S. Don’t forget to click HERE to support Alissa Stern’s campaign to save Balinese.