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I had heard that he created his own lettering system so that his words would be easily distinguishable from the actual words of the Torah. Is this just hearsay or speculation? If so, is there any reason given for why?

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    See: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashi_script – Curiouser Jul 12 '11 at 23:54
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    So, 1) Rashi didn't create "Rashi script," and 2) it was indeed used by publishers to distinguish between source texts and commentaries? If you'd encapsulate that in an answer, I'll give you the reward. – Naftuli Kay Jul 12 '11 at 23:58
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    I didn't put it in an answer because what you asked for was simply the information from a wikipedia entry. That sort of question has been rejected in the past, so I wasn't sure it was really appropriate to answer in that way. – Curiouser Jul 13 '11 at 10:12
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It is mentioned in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashi_script that it was not Rashi's script (according to he.wikipedia.org, the script is actually sefardic in origin).

According to Marvin Heller (See page 62 there), the printers used a different script to differentiate the commentaries from the main text. (Tosfos also uses "Rashi letters" as well as many other commentaries)

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    This answer is almost entirely incorrect. The printers didn't need a new script at all; "Rashi script" was the script first employed in a printed Hebrew text, and was so named because the book in which it was employed was Rashi's commentary on the Torah. That text didn't contain the Torah, only Rashi's commentary - the notion that it was "invented" in order to differentiate the two is a longstanding myth. – Shimon bM Mar 25 '14 at 5:59
  • @ShimonbM why didn't they just use block letters? – Shmuel Brin Jul 28 '14 at 0:51
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He didn't. According to a Mansucript Preparation class I attended this year, what's known as Rashi script was the font the printer used. As a side point, the script used in some Judeo-Arabic written manuscripts - particularly the Rambam's handwriting - is very similar to Rashi script.

  • Re "the font the printer used": yes, but as you note in the rest of your answer, it was based on handwriting. (So that's not really a "side point".) – msh210 Jul 14 '11 at 15:18
  • Touche. But I was talking about the Rambam, NOT Rashi. And yes, most early printers based their printed text on handwriting. – Zvi Jul 14 '11 at 19:15
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also because it takes less space, you can write more within the same page, meaning cheaper, smaller and more concise books

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    This seems to be a duplicate of this earlier answer. We try to avoid repeating other answers wholly. Is there some difference I've not picked up on? (Also, is this your own reasoning or did somebody say that about Rashi script?) – Monica Cellio Jul 27 '14 at 23:20
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I was taught that since ink and particularly parchment was at a premium, it would make sense to fit as much writing as you could onto a sheet, and as such, what we know as Rashi script was born, as it was more compact than block.

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I learned that it also used less ink than the traditional "square" script. In medieval times, when making ink was a long, expensive process using oak galls and other uncommon ingredients, it's easy to understand why a printer preferred using a font that used less ink.

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