KOSOFSKY designs, produces, edits, composes, writes, and makes types for books in Lexington, Massachusetts, where he is a partner in The Philidor Company. His specialties are complex typographic books, advanced typography for liturgical and biblical Hebrew, and interesting image-based books, with occasional forays into music, art, and graphic design.
In 1990, Scott began work on the Harvard Hillel Sabbath Songbook, the first in what would become a long list of books on Jewish subjects, some of them classics of their genres, including A Survivors’ Haggadah, Esther’s Children: A Portrait of Iranian Jews, and Abba Kovner’s Scrolls of Testimony. In 2004, HarperCollins published Scott’s first book as sole author, The Book of Customs: A Complete Handbook for the Jewish Year, which won the 2005 National Jewish Book Award in the category of Contemporary Jewish Life. The book is an illustrated digest of Jewish life and time, liturgy and Bible, inspired by the old Yiddish customs books that were first published in the 1590s. Printing the Talmud, an illustrated volume he designed and produced for the Yeshiva University Museum, was honored as a National Jewish Book Award finalist that same year.
Scott was a coeditor (with Jonathan D. Sarna and Ellen Smith) of The Jews of Boston, published by Yale University Press, in 2005. Also that year, he produced and edited (again with Jonathan D. Sarna) the principal published works for Celebrate 350, the national consortium established to recognize the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in America.
In 2008, he began work on Mahzor Lev Shalem, the new High Holidays prayerbook for the Rabbinical Assembly. Published in 2010, it is a work that changed the landscape of American Jewish prayerbooks, both in its content and its design—a new interpretation of the Talmudic tradition of “polyphonic” channels of text across the spread. Some 295,000 copies of this 944-page book are currently in print, with more on the way. The Hebrew type, “Milon,” which Scott made for the book, marked a technological breakthrough as well as an æsthetic one. This led to his engagement by Adobe Systems as a consultant for Hebrew, and to further new developments for Hebrew type with full diacritics. It also led to his engagement by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, to produce their new machzor (with another new typeface), scheduled for 2014. Mahzor Lev Shalem will be followed by Siddur Lev Shalem for Sabbath & Festivals, which will appear in 2015.
From 2010 to 2013, Scott completed work on a set of fonts begun by his colleague Matthew Carter, based on Guillaume Le Bé’s Hebrews, made in the 1560s and used the next decade by Christophe Plantin for the great Polyglot Bible. The debut appearance of the beta digital versions was in a 2011 e-book, Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi, published by Nextbook, available for free online. The full set of types will appear in a vast publishing project, The Oxford Hebrew Bible, the first volume of which will appear in 2014. The OHB, edited by an international group of scholars led by Ronald Hendel, of University of California, Berkeley, will be the most thorough text-critical edition of the Hebrew Bible yet attempted, appearing in twenty-three print volumes, and in extensively developed versions for
tablet and the web. The electronic incarnations are being developed in conjunction with David Small, of smalldesignfirm. As a typographic work, it involves not only Hebrew with full diacritics, but also Polytonic Greek, Syriac, Paleo-Hebrew, and Coptic.
In the field of design and printing history, Scott was the instigator and editor of The SP Century:
Boston’s Society of Printers Through One Hundred Years of Change (Oak Knoll, 2006), a collection of essays honoring the centenary of America’s oldest graphic arts organization, which he served as president from 2007 to 2009. His (very) short essay on Theodore Low De Vinne’s great Century Dictionary appeared in Steven Heller’s 2011 collection I HEART Design: Remarkable Graphic Design Selected by Designers, Illustrators, and Critics. Scott is a member of the editorial board of Codex: The Journal of Letterforms.
Scott is the winner of a number of design awards, including several of the American Institute of Graphic Arts’s 50 Books/50 Covers of the Year awards and two awards in the Type Directors Club’s First International Typeface Design Competition. Other honors include the Catalogue Age Gold Award and two Paul Revere Awards from the Music Publishers Association. A 2009 MIT Press book that Scott developed and produced, Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, by photographer Christopher Payne with an essay by the neurologist Oliver Sacks, was named one of the “Ten Best Art Books of 2009” by Holland Cotter in The New York Times. It is now in its fifth printing. Another award-winner was Helvetica and the New York Subway System, by Paul Shaw, which Scott repackaged in a revised edition for The MIT Press, published in 2010. Currently in development is another heavily illustrated MIT Press book, Marketing the Moon, the story of how, after a hundred years of fantasy and science fiction literature, some 20,000 contractor firms joined together to persuade the American public to spend over four percent of the national budget to send twelve people to the moon and back. The author is Scott’s neighbor, the well-known marketing guru David Meerman Scott, who is also one of the world’s great collectors of space program material.
For eleven years, Scott served in various capacities at the Boston Public Library, as a member of its Associates board, as co-chairman of its Acquisitions Committee, and as an advisor to the annual Literary Lights event. In 2006, the Boston Globe published a feature article Scott wrote about an early-20th century incident of protest involving the library’s renowned series of murals by John Singer Sargent, Triumph of Religion, and its implications for the display of religious iconography in American public places.
Before devoting himself to books, Scott had a youthful career in music and made a Carnegie Hall recital debut in 1969, shortly before his sixteenth birthday. He studied music in Holland, as well as music and European history at Cornell University. In 1974, having already made several commercial recordings, he became the youngest winner of the Erwin Bodky Prize, the major American award in the field of early music. He was later a founder and past-president of the Boston Early Music Festival. From 2006 to 2009, Scott was appointed Visiting Scholar at Brandeis University, in the Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.
He is married to the designer Betsy Sarles and has three children.