Niki Sioki

University of Nicosia, Cyprus


Neighbours on paper: multilingual documents and multi-script printing in late 19th and early 20th century Cyprus


The introduction of printing in Cyprus coincided with the beginning of the British occupation, when they assumed responsibility for the administration of the island from the Ottomans in 1878. Thereafter, all printed documents had to address a multilingual audience that used English, Greek, and Ottoman Turkish. The latter changed in the early 1930s, when Latin replaced the Arabic script. For the main communities of Greek Orthodox Christians and the Turkish Moslems, language was ‘an essential pillar of their identity’. This paper focuses on documents that configured the landscape of visual communication in Cyprus through their multi‐script (Latin, Greek, Arabic) typography. They are of two different types: (a) multilingual administrative documents that mediated the power relations that underlay British rule and (b) advertisements that promoted products and services to a multi‐lingual market. The analysis of the documents provides insights into the practice of multi‐script printing; i.e. the technical resources (printing methods and available types), the skills of printers, and the typographic conventions applied on multi‐script documents. Together with archival evidence these documents become mirrors of political convictions, social norms, and commercial transactions. Nowadays, globalization requires communication systems to support multiple languages with efficiency; similarly, in Cyprus at the turn of the twentieth century, print documents had to efficiently accommodate the co‐existence of different typographic cultures side-by-side. In this talk, Cyprus is used as a case study for multi‐script printing practices in the wider area of the Eastern Mediterranean basin (‘the Levant’) during the end of the 19th, and the first decades of the 20th century.


Niki Sioki holds a PhD in Typography and Graphic Communication from the University of Reading, UK. Her research concentrates on the history of book design and production, with a particular focus on the printing history of Greek reading primers, the history of Greek graphic design and print culture in Cyprus. Niki is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus, where she teaches typography, print and digital publishing, and design research. She is a regular member of learned societies and professional associations which promote the historical study of books and printing.

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