Beginner looking for Arabic letters


I had no idea where to ask so i decided to post here..

So, i never used a press before, and i was wondering if anyone knew where i can find a press with Arabic letter blocks.

I am pretty much clueless on the subject, but i would like to use manual press to produce some personal letters and booklets, in Arabic.
Most of my searches led to a machine named ARAB, which i think uses the Latin alphabet rather than Arabic despite the name.
so my questions:

What is a simple, table top, manual printing press, and where can i get Arabic letters ?

Thank you and have a nice weekend.


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Hello Tamim,

A good source for beginner printers is:

It has many links that you will want to follow, including one that will guide you to the right press for you. You also should search the archives here on Briar Press, since this topic comes up frequently.

Any press will print any kind of letters, since the letters (referred to as “type”) are a separate item that is placed on the press. I don’t know where you can find handset Arabic type, which is to say individual letters that you can rearrange to lay out your pages. Perhaps someone else can help you there.

You can, however, have printings plates made, which contain all of the text, and also illustrations, that you might want to print on one sheet. These plates can be made from any black-and-white image you can produce on your computer, including hand-lettered text that you can scan, though there are file specifications that you must fulfill. The plates are made either of a photopolymer material or of metal, generally either magnesium or copper. The photopolymer plates are affixed, either by magnetism or an adhesive, to a base that brings them up to the proper height for printing. The metal plates can be clamped onto a metal base, or they can be permanently mounted to a wood block.

I am a new printer myself, so I hope the information I have given you is correct. I would be interested to know more about Arabic type myself.


Thanks Barbara..

You said that i can have the plates made, but you failed to mention where exactly… surely you don’t mean here?
Anyway i would rather have the “type” so i can edit and make new text at my leisure.

Also, I am looking for something closer to home, such as in Europe. I live in Libya, and therefore the US is too far, unless it’s the Arabic “type” - am i doing this right?- we’re talking about. it’s also for this reason that i’m looking for a small one, because having a full sized monster shipped will surely strain my finances.

The Monotype corporation produced Arabic matrices for their monocasters - that might be a lead for you but I would have thought it’s a fairly specialist area. Unfortunately the metal division of Monotype folded years ago.

I remember seeing an old photo of several monocasters all lined up for export to far flung corners of the British Empire in the 1930’s - India, Pakistan, Egypt etc - you never know what might turn up with a bit of research…

Maybe you should contact suppliers who are still casting monotype…

Good luck!

Hi again Tamim,

I completely understand your inclination to seek out handset type. There is another network known as Letpress which also has valuable archives. I went there and got 156 hits when I searched on “Arabic.” Many are not what you want, but there are some leads you might follow. For example, one poster says that the Bauer type foundry in Barcelona makes Arabic type in several sizes, but that post was from 2004 so it may not be the case any more. Another says that the Sind National Type Foundry in India may have Arabic type, but that’s an old post, too. It might be worth your while to go through those posts and see what you can glean. Also, if you sign up with Letpress, you can ask that group for current information on the availability of Arabic type. The link is:

Some helpful information about the Letpress list can be found on this link from the Five Roses site that I mentioned earlier:

Hopefully someone here at Briar Press is knowledgeable about Arabic type.

Good luck, and keep us posted!


Offizin Parnassia Vättis have Arabic mats – try to contact them.
Gott grüß die Kunst

Last year I saw brand new Arabic type at the office of Fonderie Haas in Paris. Foundry quality type. They used to be in the rue Elzévir, but have recently moved. An Arab is a printing press, built in the United Kingdom. You could consider typesetting Arab in InDesign, make Photopolymer plates and print from that.

BarbHauser mentions the Sind foundry. They never replied to my inquiries, I don’t know if they’re still trading.

Sorry me again, but I completely forgot to mention the Stempel Schriftenservice in Frankfurt am Main. Mister Gerstenberger is the man there.

Barb thanks for the feedback, i’ll do some digging and let you know how it goes.
bogtrykkeren thanks for the link, i sent them an email and we’ll see if it works.
thomas, thank you for the tip. that’s the problem with some sites, they never reply. do you have a recommendation for a machine that works with photopolymer plates?

Just thought some people would find this interesting

Thomas - Can you provide more info about Fonderie Haas? I was not aware they were still casting type. I thought they were based in Switzerland, but haven’t seen any references to recent activity from this foundry.

Most of the material of Fonderie Haas is in Germany now, I mentioned earlier Rainer Gerstenberg in Frankfurt am Main. It seems that he casts everything and that they can stick either a Haas or a Stempel label on it. The Haas office in Paris is still holding stock of several founts and spacing material. Last time I spoke to the man who’s been working there for many years, he informed me that they were moving out of their premises in rue Elzevir. I have understood from him, that whenever he receives an order, that it is Gerstenberg who casts for them. Gerstenberger is connected with the Stempel Schriftenservice. I have bought recently type from them. Check out their website fot the list of mats they hold. Stempel also holds mats of Fonderie Olive, Nebiolo etc.

well i looked locally and so far found nothing… i wonder how much money am i expected to spend on this anyway?

gah.. i just found out that casting the characters alone would cost me around 2000 Euros…

Add to that the press itself, and we’re looking at something like 5000 Euros with shipping, ink, paper, and other supplies included.. that’s a rough estimate but i don’t think i’m too far.

i didn’t expect that at all.

any suggestions? i don’t feel like selling a kidney

Well I’m not sure what kind of press you were looking at but maybe you should think small to begin with - given your geographical location, a reconditioned table-top press like an Adana 5 x 8 from Caslon in the UK maybe? Then use photopolymer plates with arabic type set digitally?

Are there any private presses in Libya/Egypt/Morocco who publish limited editions? These are the kind of people you should be researching, they will know of suppliers rather than the commercial printers who may have moved onto litho or digital printing. Somewhere in North Africa is a neglected press and several cases of arabic type, they are yours if you look hard enough!

Just out of interest - here in the west we can make any word out of a combination of letters from our 26 letter alphabet; excuse my ignorance but how does it work in arabic - how many symbols do you require to perform the same action?

Good luck!

You could set Arabic on a computer, using InDesign or QuarkXpress and get photopolymer plates made. You will have a choice of typefaces to choose from. It’s probably less costly like that as well.

Hmm photopolymer plates + home-made letterpress??

i’m sure it could be done…

I am not an expert on Arabic, but from a casual glance, I’d say you’ll need a bretty large case.
28 letters, 4 different forms (Initial, Medial, Final, Isolated) thought some letters are look the same in some of them, and many can be construction with addition of short horisontal lines, so all-in-all you’d probably need a case for about 80 unique sorts.

Salam Tamim,

I just came across this post - I too am interested in finding Arabic type. From where did you source the 2000 euro quote?

Take a look at this interesting site of digital Arabic fonts (try the different links to get lists of sample fonts):

For smaller presses closer to you, you might try Caslon in the UK. I don’t have personal experience with the Adana press, but presses and parts are still available:

Please let me know if you do end up finding the type. I’m considering using photopolymer plates myself.


Hi tempogen. I spent some time in alexandria and often searched for a set of arabic type for my father. I found a few older presses, but had no luck in finding old type. I’m going to damascus in a few weeks and will look there. My arabic isn’t quite good enough to really do detective work, but i bet there are quite a few sets sitting in basements throughout the mid east and n africa. If i were you, i’d spend a week snooping around older parts of tripoli. You’re sure to find a set. if you do, please let me know by sending a private message, i’ll do the same if i find anything in damascus.