The Art and History of Calligraphy, Book Review

Do you have Patricia Lovett’s book Calligraphy and Illumination…?  I often refer to it.  When I learned she published another book I went online cyber-Monday and bought myself a Christmas present. Her recent book The Art and History of Calligraphy, published last year by the British Library. Since the author is a British professional calligrapher and illuminator you won’t be surprised the book emphasized historic manuscripts’ lettering.  Her first chapter shows the high-value of calligraphy shown in her book. There’s a chapter on historic manuscript production including quills, vellum brushes, pigments, and gold. And a section on how the letters are made.   The last, most beautiful section traces writing through the ages. It features 50ish detailed pictures of lettering and manuscripts from the British Library’s outstanding collection.  You’ll like the pictures of enlarged few lines showing the letters’ tiny elements. There are many photos without illumination, one of writing in shell gold ink on black dyed vellum.  The book’s historic manuscripts include information or pictures on the Bosworth Psalter, the earliest surviving manuscript of the ‘New Hymnal’ from England the Lacock Cartulary with its wonderfully flourished letters a two-page spread picturing one page of the Luttrell Psalter.  Lovett’s book doesn’t stop with the Italian Renaissance but continues modernly including recent renaissance-style calligraphic art by William Morris Shiela Waters “Roundel of the Seasons” a present-day work by Stephen Raw of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem “Light By Sunlights Glance” Lovett’s book clearly describes and photographs the artistic skill creating medieval manuscripts.  I am very pleased with my cyber-Monday […]

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6 Reasons to Learn Calligraphy

I read recently that learning calligraphy refines one’s temperament. Well, mine certainly needs refining. But why should you learn calligraphy besides you feel it in your “bones” you want to do it? These are a few reasons I have. Calligraphy is not expensive to learn. It’s a silly reason if it’s your only one. It’s an important factor if you already are […]

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My First Italic Script Scroll

My first italic script scroll lettering. I have a new script I’ve done on my current scroll. It’s fun but confusing because it doesn’t seem to fit the common calligraphy rules. Sometimes you even push the pen nib, because it’s somewhat cursive. It’s italic, a late SCA period script. Italic lettering is not detailed in “Drogin“, the SCA scribes’ calligraphy Bible. Although […]

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Protective Book Curses

I’ve worked on SCA scrolls bent over my art table with my back or hands aching. And that is one page, not a quire or a book. My efforts are minimal compared to the manuscripts I emulate. Still, I wouldn’t want my work stolen or harmed. Medieval scribes, to protect their laboriously created books, penned powerful curses to prevent theft, damage or loss. These writings appear in Latin and vernacular languages, some in cultures other than Western European.Using the vilest threats imaginable scribes heaped excommunication or painful death on possible perpetrators. For stealing a book you could lose your hands or eyes, then spend eternity in the “fires of hell and brimstone.” Marc Drogin compiled the largest book curses collection, publishing them in his 1983 book Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses. His collection included curses from ancient Greece, the Babylon library, and extended to the Renaissance. A pricey book I’d love to receive as a gift. Since I don’t own it I searched for them online.   I discovered a book curse could be emphatic and short.  Hanging will do for him who steals you.   It could pile excommunication’s anathema upon the perpetrator.  May the sword of anathema slay If anyone steals this book away. British Library, Harley MS 2798, f. 235v What does a book curse do? It is similar to the FBI popup warning on your DVD movie, included by the media’s maker to frighten the foolish. It works if you believe the words cause realistic results. […]

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A 15th-century Scribal Lettering Manual

When I was looking at the Scribes of Meridies Resources and Exemplars web page I clicked on their link to a Scribal Pattern Book at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.   This is a fascinating complete scribal lettering manual on parchment by Gregorius Bock. It’s Beinecke MS 439 from 1510-1517. And the great thing is I can access this manual online from my couch. This image of the manual is from the Public Domain Review This historic scribal book has two parts. The first has multiple hand-lettered script style pages, many preceded by text lettered in that style. Most of these sections display large decorative initials with white floral designs on black grounds. But also the initial on page 1r has a swirling leafy border with red and green paint. And folio 4r includes heraldic arms. The second section includes alphabetically ordered large decorative initials. This 500-year-old imposing manual has few a stained and rubbed pages, but the great thing for me is I can easily read and study its pages myself at home. Plus! There’s a PDF of it. There’s more. The bottom of the Beinecke Digital Collections’ web page includes clickable links and images to similar manuscripts, just like an online shopping company. You can also seek their manuscripts by its search page. It’s an easily accessed notable 15th-century hand lettered complete scribal manual. Nothing’s sweeter. Related Prior Posts: Why Is The Ramsey Psalter Important To Modern Calligraphers? Wow! Scribal Research Has Changed

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10 Ways To Practice Calligraphy

To warm-up for calligraphy or test different nibs, I write the “quick brown fox…” thing.  For more practice, I have several pangrams I use or give to my students.  When I’m waiting to leave for an appointment I sometimes use a chisel point calligraphy practice marker to doodle universal strokes or specific letters I want to improve. I try to fill a whole page, but that gets boring quickly.  So what can I do to make calligraphy practice fun, enjoyable, or purposeful? Here are some ideas I found. Maybe there’s some that will work for you. I’d also like to know what you do to practice calligraphy. Please leave me ideas in the comments below. These may be done in any script you want to use. Write them in more than one script if you want.  Write a collection of words with double letters, like “ss” or “tt” etc.  Find interesting proverbs or phrases you like. Write them out with their meaning. Or do this with jokes or puns you find funny. Write a detailed review of the last book or movie you saw. Take a page from any book. Write it’s words out without any break between letters. Attempt to keep the letters consistently spaced apart. Go through the alphabet writing a short word or person’s name for each letter. To take this to the next level add flourishes to any ascenders, descenders, or the first or last letter. This one tests your mind too. Write a poem, or nursery rhyme […]

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Why Is The Ramsey Psalter Important To Modern Calligraphers?

Re-reading a modern calligraphy book, I noticed a comment about the Ramsey Psalter. I thought it was a strange place for the comment and possibly an error. So I went looking.  The Ramsey Psalter is now in the British Library. It is an Anglo-Saxon illuminated book including the Book of Psalms and other devotional material. It‘s script is the elegant English Carolingian or Caroline minuscule used between 800 and 1200 A.D. […]

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How-to Begin Left-handed Calligraphy

I am not a leftie, so I’m challenged by coaching calligraphy for people who are. Even so, interested left-hand writers want to know what to expect if they try calligraphy. What should a left-handed person learn? Left-handed calligraphers use various writing styles. They approach the text line with their hand from above and below it. They write uphill, horizontally, and downhill with results that vary from a right-handed writer in quality thick-thin stroke results. And often different from other lefties. Most calligraphy books, articles, and Youtube videos only have a small section for lefties. There’s only limited published information on how lefties hold the nib to the writing line and the angle required to make a pen stroke. What can you do about that? Where can you go for help?  Unless you find a left-handed instructor, most answers will come from within you. Since each calligraphy style has a specific nib-to-writing-line angle that controls its thick-thin stroke production, anyone using a different angle won’t make letters appear as intended. Since you approach the page from a different direction than a rightie, you must find your own best writing angle. The way you comfortably hold the pen and its nib to create the appropriate angle for your intended calligraphy style.  Also, don’t be afraid to change the way you letter from that described for right-handed students by right-handed teachers. Cramping your hand and arm for lengthy periods to get the nib to make the correct angle, as do […]

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