A two-way font that can be read forward or backward

In 1909, Scott Perky of Niagara Falls patented a font where each letter and symbol has a line of vertical symmetry. This allows you to write a word forward or backward without needing to change or reverse the characters.

In his patent filing – which is online here and is quite pleasant to read – Perky notes that his font would allow you to print a document with each line going in the opposite direction. Or to put it another way, you would read the first line from left to right, the next line from right to left, then over and over again, zigzagging along the page.

As Perky argues, this would reduce the amount of eye transit when reading, as you wouldn’t continually drag your eye across the page, going from the end of one line to the start of the next:

The invention consists of some means of printing alternate lines, whereby reading can be done from left to right and right to left continuously, and ping jump from the end of a line to the end of a line. opposite end of the next is avoided.

It is hardly necessary to hint at the strain on the eyes and the brain, which results from a lot of reading. For students, researchers and others whose lives are thrown between the books, any device that promises to make reading easier in a way that reduces optic tract fatigue, and the resulting queer headaches and brain, will appear d ‘unusual importance. the action of the brain is exerted by the eyes in movements from left to right with senseless alternating jumps from right to left, there are some drawbacks which have to do, not only with the non-relative exercise of the brain to find the beginning of the new line while remembering the connection of the text, but also with the recurring re versions of the eyeballs while jumping backwards, which can be compared in effect to the rapid flashes of light and dark alternating through a fence pale when passing at high speed.

This style of writing is actually quite old – it was a common way of inscribing the stone in ancient Greece, known as “Boustrophedon” writing, as I learned from the excellent article by Randy Ludacer on Perky Police.

Perky is right about the eye strain that comes from eye transit, but… wow, I’m not sure having to decode words back and forth would be. less tiring on the old noodle.

However, as with all inventions that are really crazy, I take my hat off.

If you want to see what the printed text looks like in this zigzag format, Ludacer took the first lines of Perky’s patent filing and defined them in Perky’s own font! Here it is :

(Going through Strange universe)

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