Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Art of Calligraphy by David Harris


The Art of Calligraphy: 
a Practical Guide to the Skills and Techniques
by David Harris
Out of Print - ISBN-13: 978-1564588494 - Search Online for a PDF copy.
This is my favorite calligraphy book. It somehow manages to be both concise and detailed, beautiful and functional, informative and entertaining. It combines a stunning visual layout and images of period examples with a unique ductus for a large number of scripts, all while including a surprising amount of history. I particularly like that Harris provides both calligraphic family tree that maps the development of different scripts over time and a quick reference chart that compares all the scripts in the book on one page.

Sadly, this book is out of print and becoming harder to find. I attempted to contact both the author and publisher last year to ask if they have plans for a second edition or reprint, and received no response. If you wish a physical copy, act quickly. You can still find gently used copies for sale at reasonable prices for the time being. Otherwise, there are questionably-legal ways of getting a digital copy online. If you get yourself a free copy this way, and the book does become available again, please buy it to support the author.

If you are just starting calligraphy and are looking for information on how to start using a calligraphy pen for the first time, you will likely be a little frustrated with Harris. While he does have a short section discussing tools, there's nothing on how to use them. This book assumes to assume you already know how to use a calligraphy pen. If I could talk Harris and the publisher into developing a second edition, I would ask them to add a chapter on writing slope setup and how to use and become proficient with a calligraphy pen.

That all said, this is still my go-to calligraphy book for inspiration and when I need a refresher on how to form specific letters or scripts.
Alexandre's Rating:
Images of Period Examples
Historic & Paleographic Knowledge
Ductus/Instructions on Historic Scripts
Accessibility to Novice Calligraphers
Techniques for Left-Handed Calligraphers

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Ian the Green - Award of the Purple Fret - a.s. xlix



Project:Award of the Purple Fret for Ian the Green
Latin Translation:Master Steffan ap Kennydd
Scroll:Lord Alexandre Saint Pierre
Paper:9" x 12" Parchment made by David de Rosier-Blanc (his Etsy store)
Script:Proto Gothic
Pens:Hand cut goose quills, pointed metal nib.
Inks:Ian the Green's Iron Gall; John Neal's Walnut Crystal; Winsor & Newton's Crimson, Blue, Green & Yellow inks; Purple Gouache; Garlic Juice.
Inspirations:Early 13th century English law treatise - Balliol College MS. 350, f46r
Opusculum de ratione spere - Bodleian Library MS. Digby 83, f58r
Facta et dicta memorabilia - Burney 212, f1 (found at the Puzzle Initial Index)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Estrella War Gift Scroll - a.s. xlix


Project:Estrella War Gift Scroll; from the East to the Outlands
Words:Theodora Bryennissa called Treannah
Scroll:Lord Alexandre Saint Pierre
Paper:8" x 10" 230 gsm cream colored Pergamenata
Script:Fraktur
Pens:Hand cut goose quill with 1mm tip, pointed metal nibs.
Inks:Ian the Green's Iron Gall, Winsor & Newton's Scarlett, Minatum Ink
Inspiration:Drei Register Arithmetischer ahnfeng zur Practic by Andreas Reinhard, 1599

Monday, January 19, 2015

Aildreda de Tamworth - Laurel Writ - a.s. xlix


Project:Writ for the Order of the Laurel for Aildreda de Tamworth
Words:Master Lucien de Pontivy
Latin Translation:Master Steffan ap Kennydd
Scroll:Lord Alexandre Saint Pierre
Paper:8" x 10" Parchment made by David de Rosier-Blanc (his Etsy store)
Script:Proto Gothic
Pens:Hand cut goose quills. Tips are 1.0mm, ~0.7mm and ~0.5mm wide.
Inks:Ian the Green's Iron Gall, Winsor & Newton's Scarlett
Inspiration:Codex Buranus

Friday, December 5, 2014

Foundations of Calligraphy by Sheila Waters

Foundations of Calligraphyby Sheila Waters
Alexandre's Rating:
ISBN-13: 978-0966530513 - John Neal Bookseller (or bundled with "Historical Scripts" by Stan Knight)
Images of Period Examples
Historic & Paleographic Knowledge
Ductus/Instructions on Historic Scripts
Accessibility to Novice Calligraphers
Techniques for Left-Handed Calligraphers
N/A
This book would be an excellent addition to the library of any serious student of calligraphy who wants to improve their skills. Waters does a superb job of teaching how to be an analytical calligrapher: both in how to examine a hand to learn how to reproduce it, as well as common mistakes in the formation of different scripts and how to prevent them.

This is a skills focused book that is written with the beginner/intermediate calligrapher in mind. The chapters are ordered such that they help guide a novice calligrapher, generally starting with easier scripts and progressing to more difficult. It is dense, and will probably provide more benefit to someone who is comfortable with the pen and a couple alphabets already.

While she includes some decent notes on the history of the scripts, you'll have to look elsewhere for detailed history and high quality extant examples of medieval calligraphy. The focus of this book is on the skills, knowledge, and techniques needed to become a better calligrapher.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Sabine de Kerbriant - Laurel Writ - a.s. xlix


Project:Writ for the Order of the Laurel for Sabine de Kerbriant
Words:Dame Brunissende Dragonnette
Paper:Natural 230 GSM Pergamenata
Script:Early Gothic
Pen:Hiro Rond #4 & #5
Ink:Sumi Bokuju, Windsor & Newton Crimson and Blue
Inspiration:Recycled Vellum Book Cover from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Calligraphy: A Course in Hand Lettering by Maryanne Grebenstein


Calligraphy: A Course in Hand Letteringby Maryanne Grebenstein
Alexandre's Rating:
ISBN-13: 978-0823005536 - Amazon
Images of Period Examples
Historic & Paleographic Knowledge
Ductus/Instructions on Historic Scripts
Accessibility to Novice Calligraphers
Techniques for Left-Handed Calligraphers
N/A
If you want a detailed history of calligraphy, look elsewhere. If you want a beginner-friendly book that uses a different technique (tracing!) to get you started quickly putting pen to paper, this is a great choice. While it only covers 4 period hands and one modern teaching hand, it does so in a very accessible way. It also includes a great deal of information on tools and techniques a new calligrapher will need, and transparent guideline sheets to match each of the 5 hands it teaches. Please note: you will need a 2mm wide calligraphy pen and translucent tracing vellum to use the book as intended.

I would have preferred to see the scripts presented in a different order: Foundational (a modern teaching hand), followed by Carolingian, Italic, Uncial then finally Gothic. But this is a minor thing, especially considering the instructional method. There's also nothing stopping you from practicing the scripts in that order instead.

The real strength of this book is that it allows students to jump very quickly into making letters. By comparing your letters to the example you are tracing you can immediately see what you did right, and what you didn't. If you are new to calligraphy, and frustrated or intimidated by creating letters freehand, this book offers a great alternative way to get started.