Thursday, August 31, 2017

your turn #2

first, read this summary, which I wrote last night when I got home.

Here is our calligraphic assignment:

One page of text, the content of which I leave up to you (copy an excerpt from anything you want, a magazine, a famous letter, a page from a novel you love, etc).

a- Start with a Rustic Capital like the one you see above or below (it doesn't have to be as ornate). This is going to drive the energy of your page. Think of it first, design it, rehearse it and then execute it. It is going to take the whole left hand-side of your page. This is really part illustration part lettering.

b- The style of your lettering will be calligraphic (meaning cursive with ligature) & symmetric (meaning try not to change the letters once you adopt them), pay attention to your ligatures (the serifs that connect the lettering). Let yourself go with the "a" & "e" bows and laces, the "k" ascenders, and the "p" and "y" descenders, etc. For example,

c- Each capital after the first rustica will be smaller. Keep consistency with ascenders and descenders of capitals throughout. Don't improvise. Keep within the consistency of your text. LESS IS MORE!

d- Remember, practice your lettering's "stroke" before hand. No smudges, no mistakes.

In addition, give me a comment. Is there anything you want to talk about our "boring" class (on development of scripts during the Middle Ages)?

Please, read this at least once!

I feel I have to summarize this once again for you.

1- Script evolution changes in time, and here are the reasons: 1- Geography, language, existing culture and cultural influences from the outside and finally, history (whether war, annexation, colonization, etc).

2- Old Roman & Trajan becomes Rustica (no papyri or vellum yet) around the 5th century. Why? Nobody really knows. Why are Latin peoples more boisterous than the Nordic? Climate? Food? Language? ALL OF THE ABOVE.

I made the point to compare Romanic vs. Gothic. The south is more rounded, that's it.

3- With the advent of papyri and vellum we get: NEW ROMAN CURSIVE (miniscules). It was used from approximately the 3rd-7th century, and uses letter forms that are more recognizable to modern readers; "a", "b", "d", and "e" have taken a more familiar shape, and the other letters are proportionate to each other rather than varying wildly in size and placement on a line.

4- We also get UNCIALS (majuscules), this is the lettering of power, church, aristocracy, royalty. Uncials move all over, west, east, north. Greeks loved uncials! Byzantium loved uncials! This is around 7th-9th centuries Carolingian in the west, Byzantium in the east.

5- Then we get half-uncials. What do they do? They allow for serifs! That's tghe beginning of ascenders and descenders (remember half-uncials have nothing to do with uncials, all it means is that it's a church letter! Hymns, psalters, etc).

6- Now the half-uncial goes insular (British Isles). Actually Ireland!

 or this (much later) 11th century, miniscule:

7- From the insular we get the whole proto-gothic family:


Merovingian, basically Carolingian miniscule

 and Beneventan, basically derivation of Carolingian miniscule

In time you get this beauty. The Gothic Textura!

Mature Gothic is already the Humanist style.

Bastarda, Chancery, secretary, etc, and the rest are just variations of these styles.

what's the soul of a letter?

above, an example of Merovingian minuscule (circa 7th century), what is interesting here is that this "style" disappeared with the destruction of  the Luxeuil monastery. A reputed source has hinted that our English " &" actually derives from the luxet "et."  

petrus andronicus, the scribe, writes in his -fragmented- memoirs: "... types carry their own  souls."

what does that mean? 

as similar in appearance, as when a visigothic "t"

may look like an "a."

or when a soul shows as a twin-like in this early beneventan minuscule "a," which looks like a double cc, so common in latin syntax?

so, what's the soul of "m" like? 

an anonymous speculation from a scribe, at the marginalia of a Codex Calixtinus, reads: " the true form of m has three elements... it strives for more than "n," as it is inverse to "w" and close to the numeral "3."

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

from textura to bastarda





uppercase vs. lowercase (my preference)

 half uncials or lower case

we know the aesthetics of hanlf-uncials (minuscules) hark back to stroke & surface: quick reed pen ink trace over parchment.

parchment are pieces of papyrus "cut"  in oblogn pieces and put together. this act of cutting and piecing together are the proto-books of today (people actually carried a bunch of pieces, since sheets may slip from the bunch the next step was to saw them together in a loose bind).
lower case is a mark of brevity & legibility. 

here is the family:

french lower case (merovingian)
iberic lower case (visigothic)

italian lower case (the beneventan in southern italy)

late roman cursive

irish "insular" lowercase 

brevity means vernacular, merchant, petit-burgeois (not a bad word yet), secular, science, young. 
see how grammar is influenced by aesthetics. capital letters are places in a syntactic paragraph. later, they become codified "marks" for proper noun, proper adjective, first person pronouns and interjections. usage determines differentiation.

new roman, uncial, carolingian, old english & bastarda

New Roman
We know that uncial (a majuscule) develops from Old Roman cursive. Actually what happens is that the stroke of the letter is facilitated by vellum (i.e., an example where technology creates style) a new material (papyrus made characters more angular). The rest is a matter of following convention that is taken to be in good taste. Just like 19th century calligraphy, which was very much in vogue,

"a" is a simple loop open at the top, "b" appears to be back to front as the bow is on the left. "u" and "v" are identical and consist of a particularly insignificant little bent line. Certain letters show the particular forms that would become features of the early medieval book scripts, such as the raised "e," long s and open "g" with no closed loops. There are two forms of "n," this particular hand retaining a majuscule N in most cases.

Greek Uncial? circa. 800 aD
Perhaps developing in second half of the third century, the uncial script gains popularity during the fourth century. Significantly a large number of the extant uncial texts were Christian manuscripts. Uncial would supplant the rustic capitals as the most popular script from the fifth century.

Carolingian minuscules 10th century aD.

Old English, insular miniscule, 12th century. This document is a charter or writ of Henry I confirming lands and privileges to the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury

Derived from both Gothic Textura and cursive hands, this particular example of Bastarda is quite formal and precise, and although the letters sometimes touch within the words, it is not cursive as each is written separately. It looks like a book hand, although in this instance it is used on a very formal and elaborate document.

Though print technology could not be confined to any particular use, the entertainment value of graphic art gained an audience

Casper von Regensburg, My heart Doth Small, 1485

what do you do with a Book of Hours?

Book of Hours, Paris, 1410
books of hours were devotional books of prayer used by individuals at home rather than in church. the books served as personal religious guides, with calendars of feast days, popular psalms, and, at their heart, a set of daily prayers to the Virgin tied to the hours of the day. the image of the Annunciation accompanies the psalms and prayers for terce, which were said at 9am. 

some of these books were carried as such:

they often contained a very large number of illustrations -both because they were pleasing to look at, and also because their messages could be understood by children and those whose ability to read was limited. the images also provided an opportunity for spiritual reflection and prayer for salvation. 

above, the 1496 famous illustrations for the Dance of Death, showing that all classes of society were subject to the inevitable command to walk with death. other illustrations concern themselves with secular subjects, representing with realism the occupations and sports of everyday life. 

Decretals of Gregory IX, 1241

see how this super dense page can serve as a site of communication and exchange.

the differences in red and blue mean that these texts were written at different times. 

Decretals (decree) were written by the Pope and bishops that stated Church laws. These decretals were taught in medieval universities, particularly Bologna and Paris, the commentaries were possibly added during the lectures.

Bound in eighteenth-century French sheep. Covers with blind double-rule border, spine in seven compartments with six raised bands, decoratively tooled in gilt in a floral design in six compartments and with a burgundy morocco gilt lettering label in the remaining compartment, board edges decoratively tooled in gilt, marbled end-papers (French curl, or snail, pattern).

The binding is rubbed and worn, the joints are tender and starting to split at head and tail, there is worming in the top and bottom spine compartments, and a few small stains to the top edge. This manuscript shows signs of considerable use over several centuries, with occasional staining and soiling. There is minor worming at the beginning and end occasionally affecting a letter or two.

What is interesting here is design as self-design. In other words see it as a kind of DIY of legalese.

See more here.

throughout the middle ages the codex wins

codex Manesse Ulrich von Singenberg

between the second century and fourth century, the codex had replaced the scroll. the book was no longer a continuous roll, but a collection of sheets attached at the back. 

advantages: random access over sequential access, codex is compact, its pages can be written on both sides. a codex could hold twice as much text as a scroll.

the codex is equally easy to rest on a table, which permits the reader to take notes while he or she is reading. the codex form improved with the separation of words, capital letters, and punctuation, which permitted silent reading. tables of contents and indices facilitated direct access to information. this form was so effective that it is still the standard book form, over 1500 years after its appearance. then paper would progressively replace parchment. Cheaper to produce, it allowed a greater diffusion of books. 

For an interesting visual history of books, click here

miniscule beauty from the 7th century ad

The use. . . of a script more compact in the body and needing less time to write, may have been decided upon in view of the plans to proceed with a State educational project, the greatest ever undertaken in the West, or perhaps anywhere at any time in the the Roman Empire. For such an enterprise the employment of an accelerated script would become an interest of State, or, to be accurate, of State and Church (Morison, Politics and Script... Barker ed. [1972] 143).
which proves that decisions of style are a serious matter of state.

a script is a model of letterforms, a hand is the actual handwriting

lettera imperiale, Giovanantonio Tagliente (1523)

the "lettera imperiale" provides evidence of the so-called "chancery" script well into the Renaissance.

Handwriting is not displaced but becomes more specialized.

why do some medieval texts seem to baroque and complicated? they become less susceptible to forgery.