Recommended Reading: Decodeunicode

Stefan Imhoff

By chance, I recently came across a book that is a buy recommendation for anyone interested in typography and characters. The book is 656 pages thick, contains all of the current 109,242 digital characters of the Unicode character set and weighs almost 2 kilograms.

decodeunicode: Die Schriftzeichen der Welt
decodeunicode: Die Schriftzeichen der Welt

I came into contact with Unicode very early, because I love the Japanese language very much. When I redesigned my martial arts website for the second time in 2000, I introduced a lexicon of Japanese martial arts terms with a set of graphics for Japanese characters. But this was not to maintain and so I already published a new version of my lexicon with Unicode in 2002. At that time, the spread of Unicode was still somewhere between 0 and 1%, but I’ve been defying some of my visitors’ protests. Anyone who wanted to see the characters was forced to install the optional character set from the Windows CD. Today, according to an evaluation by Google almost 50% of all websites are encoded in Unicode.

The current Unicode version 2.0 supports theoretical 1,114,112 characters, of which only 109,242 are currently included. The present, very thick book offers those interested a fantastic insight into the writings of this world. The first chapter deals with Unicode, its creation, structure and structure of the code tables, the recording method for new characters, the different types of words and sounds, typography in politics, keyboard layouts, minority fonts and modern input e. g. via the iPhone.

On the following hundreds of pages, all characters are listed, each with their code, language name, and font used. The appendix contains detailed statistics on the genesis, sources, period of creation, status, region, languages, type of writing, typeface and number of people who use them. There are also the languages that are not yet included, but where space was given, eg. For example, the Aztec pictograms, various African languages, some previously undeciphered, historical languages or even fantasy languages, such as the developed by J. R. R. Tolkien Cirth. The book is equipped with two colored bookmarks (blue / green), so you can always switch between the characters and the detailed explanation in the appendix.

Especially nice is that about every 5-10 pages a colored double page is inserted, on which the authors introduce particularly beautiful or interesting characters. This book shows the creativity and beauty of the writings of many, diverse peoples, and is wonderfully suited to simply leafing through them again and again.

The Website

On the official website you can find a digital version in English language, which allows searching, browsing and exploring the world of Unicode, even if you haven’t the matching font on your computer. There is also a 2½ hour long movie showing all characters.

The Book