Ancient Iranian Font Project

Avesta Fonts

Pahlavi Fonts

Contact Us

Pahlavi Fonts

Pahlavi presents a special challenge to the fontographer because its enormous body of ligatures creates a nearly limitless character set. In a long-term collaboration, Emily West and William Malandra began to experiment with alternate schemes for duplicating written Pahlavi. We chose to break up the ligatures and represent the script graphically, rather than phonetically. This results in a font that behaves somewhat like a typesetting program, even allowing the user some flexibility as to how he will represent certain letter combinations. Though many of the key assignments might not seem intuitive, or even logical at first, they form a comprehensive whole, and the result is a flexible system for rendering Pahlavi. Complete instructions for use appear below. We have named our primary font "Khusro" after the Sassanian king Khusro I. A second font, Ardashir, is a slightly modified version of Khusro for use in academic citations and footnotes.

NOTE: Khusro and Shapur fonts were updated Oct 29, 2020 to work better when embedding in PDFs.

This is a sample text demonstrating the font's capabilities, taken from the beginning of Book VII of the Pahlavi Denkard.

The samples you see below are displayed here as scanned images, and therefore do not reflect the fontsí actual screen or print quality.

How to Download Fonts

Click on the "Download" links below each description. A "Save as..." dialog box should appear. At this point it is easiest to save the font directly to your Fonts folder (on an ordinary Windows computer this will be located on the C drive inside the "Windows" folder, i.e. C:\Windows\fonts). If you are trying to download an extra copy, or an upgrade, however, it may be best to save it first to the desktop and then move it to where you want it later. Once the font has been copied to your Fonts folder, it will usually become available for use in a few minutes, though sometimes it is necessary to restart the computer first.

Download Khusro

Download Ardashir

New Fonts: Shapur and Bahram

As part of our ongoing commitment to improving the fonts' usability, we have reconfigured the keyboard for the typeface used in Khusro and Ardashir. The re-organized versions are now called Shapur and Bahram. Please give them a try and let us know what you think.

Download Shapur

Download Bahram

Instructions for Using Khusro and Ardashir

In our fonts, simple letters, as they appear outside of ligatures, are generally represented by their closest phonetic value:

A few ligatures and ideograms which cannot be broken down or easily attached to other strokes are assigned to various keys:

A few letters and combinations with no other obvious home have been assigned to alt+# keys. To access these letters, with Khusro or Ardhashir as your selected font, hold down the alt key, and strike the given 4-number sequence. They are located at:

alt + 0161, 0162, 0163, 0164, 0165, 0166, 0202, 0203, 0204

The rest of the keyboard is made up of whole letters and ligature pieces designed to attach to one another. Individually, most are meaningless, but when combined with their fellows they can reproduce most of the ligatures that make up cursive Pahlavi. Because they must attach seamlessly to one another, each of the partial characters must overlap into the space of the character with which it must join. In the tables below, an * indicates the side(s) on which a join automatically occurs. Many keystrokes produce joins on both sides, and are thus listed in several categories. Below are suggested key-strokes used to form ligatures. However, one may want to experiment.

Characters which join left-to-right:

Characters which join right-to-left:

This category includes all ligatures that make their joins at the midline. This is a more complex set, because the joining characters are designed to attach to the "inert" characters, rather than to other join-producing characters. The set of joining characters for Group A is listed at the top, with the Group A characters below:

Characters that join right-to-left, with nearly the same set of inert characters, but with a few additions and subtractions:

Khusro also includes all common Pahlavi diacritics, and even has the ability to write the name "Ahriman" (the name of the Zoroastrian "Devil", which traditionally must always be written upside down) with one keystroke in either of its two spellings:

Occasionally a user will need to place a ligature-generating character in a position in which a ligature is not desired. In order to prevent the ligature from forming, a small space may be inserted with the underline key (_). Complete keyboard map for Khusro/Ardashir