AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Nasri Khattar Collection (1934-1995)

Counting approximately 11 linear feet of archival material, this collection includes Nasri Khattar’s personal and business correspondence (with companies such as Remington Rand Inc., IBM, and Aramco among others), bibliographic information, academic activity, and material related to his professional career in the fields of Engineering and Architecture, and typography. The collection extensively documents (through patents, testimonials, articles, press clippings, and invoice bills among others). Khattar’s most noteworthy invention: the Unified Arabic Font, a project to simply and modernize the Arabic alphabet, and to put the new typographical design at the service of a new way of learning and teaching the Arabic language. This collection is an invaluable source of information for scholars interested in architecture, anthropology, design, education, language, typography, and visual culture.

 Nasri Khattar (1910 – 1998) was a Lebanese architect-typographer (he called himself a “typotect”) whose work was motivated by the Arab postcolonial project of modernity. He practiced his profession for thirty-five years in the United States; in Colombia, South America; and, Lebanon, where he pursued his early education at the American University of Beirut (AUB) with a B.B.A. awarded in 1930. In 1940, he earned an M.A. in architecture from Yale University, and was one of the last students of Frank Loyd Wright. He was the architect for the Lebanese pavilion at the N.Y. World's fair in1939. He participated in the language and script reform project initiated by the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo in the 1930s. Khattar's work focused on the Arabic script's technological and aesthetic reform; Mr. Khattar was an Arabic consultant to IBM in the fifties, architect, Arabic calligrapher, and Arabist to Arab-American Oil Company (Aramco) in New York City, 1950-1957. During this time, he made innumerable calligraphic works for both Aramco, and came up with his seminal invention, the Unified Arabic Font, which is an Arabic type system that simplifies the printing and teaching of Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, and other languages utilizing the Arabic alphabet.