Sunday, February 5, 2017

How to Select a Calligraphy Guide Book

I've collected numerous calligraphy manuals over the years, searching for tips and tricks to improve my lettering. As an SCA scribe, my book criteria differ from calligraphy books for modern works. Here are my preferences.
Traditional Calligraphy Guides
  • The book should focus on the nib-lettering technique I want to learn. For most of us in the SCA that is lettering with a broad-nib pen, rather than a pointed nib. I have enough projects to letter without learning a Spencerian script.
  • The scripts included should be those we commonly use. While your choices may be different, my option list includes: Roman, Half Uncial, Uncial, Caroline minuscule, Foundation hand, Insular majuscule, Protogothic minuscule, Gothic textura quadrata, Gothic quadrata prescisus, Lombardic capitals, Secretary hand, Secretary capitals, Frakture minuscule, Frakture capitals and Cadels.
  • The book should focus on basic, formal lettering strokes rather than stylized art forms.
  • The more facsimile reproduced images included the better. If the image is actual size and I have a pen nib that matches it I can practice using my lightbox and tracing over the letters, especially the serifs.
  • The pen angle, nib width count, and ductus should be clearly shown for each calligraphy style.
  • The more period photographs the better.
These criteria cut out books which detail using a brush or oblique pen and cursive or artist designed letter styles. 

If you don't already have these books, they are widely recommended for today's SCA scribes:
For its size, I also like The Calligrapher's Bible by David Harris. ISBN-13: 978-0764156151 It has the broad-nib styles I use and shows their ductus and pen angle. Its 7"x 8" spiral size allows me to use it open by my work space. But it does not have photographs. Its historic information is appropriate, but not detailed. Still it is handy and may be a book you want to add later.