In addition to proofreading, the printing itself has historically been a hindrance when posting content in less commonly printed languages in the United States. Technical constraints have long been a barrier, as the inclusion of non-English writing often depended on what was technically possible and affordable at the time of design and publication.
When Nguyen started writing cookbooks, the designers of Ten Speed Press, one of the country’s largest cookbook publishers, had to enter the diacritics manually. It was easy to make mistakes, and when her first cookbook came out in 2006, there weren’t many fonts other than Times New Roman and Arial available to the author and publisher.
Ten Speed’s senior art director Betsy Stromberg said by email: “We basically have to create a little design of the character if it doesn’t exist in the font itself.” In most cases, the designer will then paste the character into the text as an image, adjusting it to make sure it doesn’t look out of place.
“Another 10 years ago, it was a little harder to find cool typefaces that contained a lot of foreign language characters,” Stromberg explained. “So it kind of affected the design when you’re stuck between a few almost default typefaces. ”
When writer and scholar Darra Goldstein published her first Russian cookbook—A Taste of Russia: A Cookbook About Russian Hospitality (Ten speed press)–in 1983, she was only able to present names of Russian recipes like kholodets, meat in asp, in transliteration, using Roman characters to recreate words based on Cyrillic.
“I’m pretty sure it was too expensive to define the type in Cyrillic, so I agreed to have the transliteration instead,” Goldstein said. When the book came out, Cyrillic was also “complicated to produce in word processing programs on early desktop computers.” For the second edition, published in 1999, she declared: “I really wanted Cyrillic there, just because for me it’s so beautiful to watch. In Goldstein’s most recent book, Beyond the North Wind: Russia in Recipes and Traditions (also at ten speeds), for which Stromberg worked on the design of the book, Cyrillic is in red. “Honestly, that’s what jumps out at you! Goldstein said.
For Goldstein, the emergence of the iMac was a game-changer. The computer made it easier for her to switch between fonts and between English and other scripts, allowing her to include Cyrillic wherever she wanted. The transliterations have not completely disappeared, however; in Beyond the north wind, they simply live in the notes that precede the ingredient lists and recipe instructions. That way, “people can tell what the Russian word is,” Goldstein said. “So that it is not completely foreign.”