Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Is It A Script, Hand or Font?

What's the difference between script, hand, and font?
I've heard these terms used almost interchangeably. There is a difference.
A script is a handwriting form used as a model, the writing style a calligrapher scribe has in mind to create. In general, they have names like "Uncial", "Carolingian", and "Gothic", to name a few. Researchers identify a script by collecting thousands of individual examples and analyzing them for a similar look. 
The hand is personal to the individual scribe.It's what I actually put on paper or vellum, with any imperfections. I may intend changes because I don't do a certain letter well, or they may be due to the pen I use. I may choose to tweak certain letters because I think they're prettier that way or to fill more space. Those differences make up my hand.
The word font comes from the Middle French term "fonte" meaning something that's been melted or cast. It next referred to the set of metal type used in a printing house. 

This term now applies to a digital letter system such a "Veranda", "Arial", or "Comic".  Today's digital font has numerous variations due to the many people that like designing letters.
These terms also have categories and subsets. I won't go into them all. I'll leave most of them to the paleographers. A few are important for scribes.
A majuscule script has only same height letters and no slant. It's similar to using only capital letters to write. 
A minuscule script has ascenders and descenders. (The lead-ins to a small "h", "b", and "d" are ascenders and the tail of a "g", "y", and "p" are descenders.) It's similar to writing with only lower case letters.
And an italic script is, of course, a slanted form of an otherwise straight, verticle script.
There are more terms, especially the further into writing history you go as a calligrapher. Even the term calligraphy, meaning beautiful writing, didn't show up until 1604, according to Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary.