We’ve just added two separate one-day workshops with the incomparable Julian Waters the weekend of June 26–28. Come and give your lettering a lift! Members have been emailed exclusive links to register in advance; registration will open to general public on Monday, May 25th. Details and registration for all classes here.

Friday, June 26 from 6:30 to 8pm – Slide Lecture: Inspirations/Perspirations
Saturday, June 27 from 10am to 4pm – Italic: Refine & Refresh
Sunday, June 28 from 10am to 4pm – Uncial: Refine & Refresh

(Julian will also be teaching Blackletter: From Textura to Fraktur at Cooper Union on June 22-25.)

Several world-class calligraphers will be teaching in the NYC-area next month!


Spencerian with Harvest Crittenden, June 14–20 on Enders Island

The St. Michael Institute on Enders Island (near Mystic, Connecticut) presents a week of Spencerian with Master Penman Harvest Crittenden: Sunday, June 14 at 7pm through Saturday, June 20 at 1pm. Harvest was handpicked by Michael Sull to take over as Director of the Spencerian Saga, and she is every bit the expert that he is. If you’re looking to study Spencerian Script, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better instructor or a more idyllic setting in which to learn it. Tuition includes room and board and all supplies. Classes run approximately 10 to 5, Monday to Friday. Registration details here.

Type@Cooper Public Workshops

Type@Cooper is hosting three SoS favorite instructors:
Copperplate Writing with Elinor Holland, Mon–Wed, June 15–17
The Renaissance Capital in Script and Type with Ewan Clayton, Sat/Sun, June 20–21
Blackletter: From Textura to Fraktur with Julian Waters,* Mon–Thu, June 22–25
and many others!

* Please stay tuned! We’re in the process of organizing two separate one-day workshops with Julian Waters the weekend of June 27/28: tentatively a day of “Uncials” and a day of “Refining Italic.” Details will be announced as soon as they are set-in-stone.

(Artwork by Harvest Crittenden)

In 1939, just as he was about to begin a career as a graphic artist, twenty-one year old Hermann Zapf was drafted. He began keeping a series of three pocketable sketchbooks. The 71 small masterpieces within these volumes played no insignificant role in Zapf’s life, serving, in effect, as his professional portfolio immediately after the war, but they are much more than an historical footnote to a brilliant career.

Hermann Zapf treats these books as special treasures, among the many beautiful works that he and his wife Gudrun Zapf von Hesse have produced over the better part of the last century. Only a few who have had the privilege to visit him at his home have seen them. The Kelly-Winterton Press, with the cooperation of the Zapfs, takes great pride in bringing these gems of calligraphy and painting to an extended audience.

More details on the Kickstarter project page here.


Watchful Experimenting

This summer the Society is thrilled to welcome the great Yves Leterme of Bruges, Belgium to conduct a very special workshop, “Watchful Experimenting.” If you find yourself perpetually caught in the rut of a comfort zone and are tired of the same traditional layouts and letterforms, then this class jumps to the head of the line to break free and impart new, greater dimensions to your work.

Yves’ background is most impressive, having taught Latin for 25 years in his native Belgium. In the early 1990s the calligraphy bug came a-calling, and Yves immersed himself in intense study, mainly with Brody Neuenschwander. Within a decade Yves   catapulted to the forefront of internationally recognized masters, displaying an astonishing facility in both traditional letterforms and stunning gestural alphabets that virtually redefine the meaning of calligraphy. Like the Roman god Janus, who simultaneously could look to the past and the future, Yves’ work demonstrates a remarkable use of inventive and expressive forms that serve the text in refreshing and provocative ways.

He is also a fantastic teacher, as students in his sold-out classes around the world can easily attest. This writer had the privilege of studying with him in San Francisco several years ago, and I can tell you that he is one of the most thoroughly prepared and insightful instructors I have ever had in more than 35 years of taking workshops. Yves has a unique ability to bring forth things from you that you hitherto could not imagine you would do, and at the same time dazzling the class with delicious tidbits of history peppered with an infectious sense of humor.

Grab your copy of Letter Arts Review Summer 2014 for his article on the making of Litterae, a gorgeous collection of Latin epigrams rendered in a wide variety of styles accompanied by scholarly explanations of the texts. (Makes a fantastic gift to yourself!)

There are a few remaining places in this unique workshop. Don’t delay — you are in for an amazing calligraphic journey! Class details and registration here.

—Barry Morentz


Friday, May 15, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm
SVA Annex, 214 E. 21st Street, Room 702A
Free and open to the public, but you must RSVP here.

What will happen to your artwork after you’re gone? Will your loved ones inherit huge tax bills? Most artists have nightmares of their work ending up in dumpsters, but few have useful inventories or appropriate wills. Artist estate consultant Robin Moore’s presentation will dispel many of your fears. She’ll share her personal experience, down-to-earth tips, and practical tools to get you started.

Robin Moore is the founder and CEO of Robin Moore Legacies LLC. Specializing in planning for legacies and creating inventory systems, Robin trains and advises artists, their families, collectors, and estate professionals. She is developing a short course on financial skills for creative professionals. Robin earned her MBA from Georgetown University. She has had a long career in communications and the arts, and manages the estate of her late husband, artist Kevin MacDonald, who died in 2006.


If you’re interested, Robin will be available to schedule private consultations.


We’ve just added some fantastic new spring/summer classes & workshops!
Details and registration here.

There’s something for everyone in the next few months…

If you’re a beginner, get your feet wet with these Copperplate classes:
Copperplate-Intensive (May) with Marcy Robinson (2 Saturdays: May 9 & 16)
Copperplate-Intensive (May/June) with Marcy Robinson (2 Saturdays: May 30 & June 6)
Copperplate-Intensive (June) with Elinor Holland (2 Sundays: June 14 & 21)
Introduction to Copperplate with Laura Di Piazza (Sat/Sun, Aug 1-2)

If you’ve taken a class in Copperplate or Storybook Script, continue with:
Pointed Pen Capitals with Elinor Holland (2 Saturdays: May 2 & 9)
Modern Storybook-II with Kathy Milici (Sunday, May 31)
Divine Flourishes with Kathy Milici (Sunday, June 28)

If you’ve taken an Italic class, you can continue with:
Italic-II with Eleanor Winters (3 Saturdays: May 16, 30 & June 6)
Gothicized Italic w/ Eleanor Winters (2 Saturdays: June 13 & 20)

If you want to go beyond the basics:
Watchful Experimenting with Yves Leterme (Sat/Sun, July 18-19)
Gold, Gold, and More Gold with Barry Morentz (Sunday, May 31)

(Artwork by Yves Leterme, X-Ray)


Peter Thornton Lecture: Layout and Design — Live!
Saturday, April 11th, 2015 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm
School of Visual Arts Annex, 214 E. 21st Street, Room 701A
Free and open to the public. Light refreshments served.

Apologies! Due to circumstances beyond our control, we must re-schedule Peter Thornton’s lecture for tomorrow (Saturday) night. Hope to see you then!

Peter’s weekend workshops are completely sold out, but everyone is welcome to come to his lecture. This evening presentation will be a very personal and practical approach to this oft thought of problem area. Beginning with a brief review of a major element in design—contrast and a method of study to affectively achieve it. There will be a demonstration during the design of a small piece of prose with commentary throughout by Peter of the many possible choices, options and decisions that can occur. The talk will be aimed at the beginning student and those that rely on the hollow strategy of hope in their design work.

Friday, March 6, 2015 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm (Lecture at 6:00 pm)
The National Arts Club, Marquis Gallery
15 Gramercy Park South (between Park Avenue and Irving Place)

Free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
Barbara’s lecture will be approximately 6:oo to 6:45 pm.
Please RSVP here so we’ll know how many to expect.

A Midas Touch: Or How I Fell in Love with Manuscript Gilding
Barbara Wolff’s illuminations at the Morgan Library tell a tale of serendipity, experimentation, adaptation and learning on the job. She will share some experiences and discoveries on Friday evening.

New York artist Barbara Wolff has exhibited at the Illustrators Club, the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, the Yeshiva University Museum, the Museum of Biblical Art, the Morgan Library and Museum. She has produced films on the techniques of manuscript illumination for the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Israel Museum, and the Morgan Library. A botanical and natural science illustrator, her work has been featured in the Time and Life Nature Library, Golden Nature Guides, for publishers Harper Collins, Doubleday, Scribners, and for institutional and corporate clients such as the New York Botanical Garden, Xerox, Ciba-Geigy.

“Hebrew Illumination for Our Time: The Art of Barbara Wolff” will be on exhibition at the Morgan Library through May 3, 2015. After Barbara’s talk, the Morgan will be open (and free) from 7:00 to 9:00 pm. More information here.

Here are our candidates for the 2015 Board of Governors:

V. A. Barrow (*) has loved calligraphy since attending the H.S. of Fashion Industries where she majored in Fashion Design. Her introduction to her first calligraphy hand came about when she drew a Halloween costume and mused aloud about some writing to go along with it and a classmate complied with a Gothic hand. Since then V has taken classes at Stuyvesant H.S. adult education, Botanical Gardens, SVA, private classes and of course classes through SoS. She continues to take classes as often as she can.

Cynthia Dantzic (*) studied calligraphy at Yale and has been teaching at Long Island University since 1964, where she was promoted to Senior Professor. Her courses include drawing, color, painting, 2D design and calligraphy (Western and Non-Western). She has served on the board for several years as programs coordinator. Her ninth art-related book, 100 New York Calligraphers, which includes the work of a number of SoS members, is featured in Schiffer’s Spring 2015 catalog.

Judy Kastin (*) is a freelance calligrapher who previously served on the SoS Board for eighteen years. She rejoined in 2011 as workshop chair. Judy is the co-author of the last two editions of The Speedball Textbook and Lettering Arts, and author of 100 Keys to Great Calligraphy.

Eva Kokoris (*) is a freelance calligrapher and designer with an avid interest in the lettering arts. She volunteered for special events before being elected to the board in 2007 and subsequently served as president for three years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music from the Mannes College of Music and currently serves on the Board.

Adrian Morehouse was introduced to East Asian brush calligraphy in college, and he continued to practice while teaching English in a rural Japanese town. He later studied graphic and typeface design at SVA. Adrian currently works in the information technology field. His first formal introduction to Western calligraphy was at an SoS workshop a few years ago, and he has been an avid participant in classes and events ever since. Adrian believes strongly in the value of writing by hand and the lettering arts. He hopes to contribute to the work of the SoS to preserve and extend these traditions.

Barry Morentz (*) is a freelance calligrapher, bookbinder, boxmaker, and instructor residing in Manhattan where he operates a studio quite appropriately in the shadow of the New York Public Library. He has been totally involved in calligraphy for more than 37 years, and served on the Board of Governors from 1979-1991, including 8 years as Workshops Chairman, and Faculty Chairman for Innovations ’86, the SoS sponsored Conference in Hoboken. He has taught workshops throughout the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, and is directing much of his attention now to the future of calligraphy and its great legacy in Western culture.

Chi Nguyen (*) freelances and teaches calligraphy/rubber stamping for the UFT Retiree Program and privately. She has served on the board since 1998 as membership chair.

Anna Pinto (*) is a freelance calligrapher and calligraphy instructor living in Hoboken, NJ. She first served on the Board in the 80s and 90s. She also edited the Newsletter then, and came back for another 5-year stint that ended last year, mainly so she could revive the April Fool’s insert. She is grateful for the many friends and calligraphic opportunities that have come her way over the years thanks to the Society of Scribes.

Nancy Redgate Favorito (*) has been serving the board of the SoS as recording secretary since 2009. She has taken many classes and workshops over the past several years. While primarily focused on pointed pen, she is slowly expanding her skill set and is thankful for the Society of Scribes for providing opportunities to do so.

Ana Rodriguez (*) first discovered Italic via a Ken Brown calligraphy kit many years ago. Until recently, she had not received formal instruction and is grateful for having found SoS and their skilled and talented pool of instructors, affordable classes and calligraphic opportunities. Drawn to the lettering arts and aspiring to develop a strong lettering form and expand her skill-set, she will continue taking classes and work with the SoS to promote the study, teaching and practice of calligraphy.

Susan Steele’s (*) search for instruction in the art of “beautiful writing” led her to the SoS. She has been working as a calligrapher for many years and had a previous 15-year career in graphic design. SoS has provided her with a constant source of inspiration and local contacts within the calligraphy field.

(*) Denotes returning board members.

We look forward to serving in the next year, and want to remind everyone that help is always needed! If you’d like to join us, or attend one of our bi-monthly board meetings, please contact us at info@societyofscribes.org

Our Spring Classes & Workshops have just been posted. More details here.

Special members-only pre-registration begins February 4th; registration links will be posted for general public on February 5th at noon.

But that’s not all! Coming soon (dates still to be confirmed)…
Italic-2 with Eleanor Winters (3 Saturdays: May 16, 30 & June 6)
Copperplate Capitals with Elinor Holland (2 Saturdays: May 2 & 9)
Modern Storybook-2 with Kathy Milici (Sunday, May 31)
Copperplate-Intensive (May/June) with Marcy Robinson (2 Saturdays: May 30 & June 6)
And more, including Yves Leterme the week of  July 19th!

(Artwork above: Katherine Malmsten’s Backgrounds/Foreground on May 16-17, 2015)

Eleanor Winters recently spent four weeks in Singapore, teaching a series of calligraphy workshops, organized by Joanne Lim of the Letter J Supply Co (a design and event company).  This was a return engagement, after having taught there for three weeks in July 2014. Her classes in July were followed by a week of workshops in Hong Kong.

This second series consisted of 17 days of teaching, including 4 Introduction to Copperplate classes, 2 Intermediate Copperplate (Variations and Flourishing) workshops, and several Introduction to Calligraphy and Intro to the Broad-Edged Pen workshops. With very little prior opportunity to study traditional classical letterforms, the response was huge; all the classes booked up quickly and the students were energetic and enthusiastic.  The biggest response — including waiting lists and disappointed Singaporeans — was for Copperplate, which seems to be gaining great popularity over there. Eleanor reports that she is making a big effort to stimulate interest in the broad-edged pen and is optimistic that it will eventually rival the pointed pen in popularity!

We are happy to have Eleanor back in New York City and teaching Italic-1 & Italic-2 for the Society of Scribes this spring!

Here’s a special preview of our (tentative!) spring workshop schedule…  It’s not quite “set-in-stone” yet, so please be aware that all dates/classes are still subject to change until they are officially posted on our Classes/Workshops page. Introductory classes (on-going throughout the spring) will be listed at that time, too.

February 22 – Barry Morentz
Gold, Gold and More Gold (Half-Day Mini-Class)

February 28 – Anna Pinto
Writing with Gouache and Color Mixing

March 14/15 – Jacqueline Sullivan
Lively and Luscious Layers: Writing and Painting with Acrylics

March 28/29 – Paul Shaw

April 11 – Peter Thornton, The Ruling Pen
April 12 – Peter Thornton, Pencil Roman Capitals

May 2/3 – Risa Gettler
Visigothic Versals

May 16/17 – Katherine Malmsten

Coming in July 2015 – Yves Leterme

All dates/classes are still subject to change! Our final Spring Schedule will be posted and registration will begin around late January/early February. Current members will get a 24-hour advance registration period.

(Artwork by Jacqueline Sullivan)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Members’ Show Opening Reception at 6pm; Lecture/Demonstration from 7-8pm
The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South

Free and open to the public; guests are welcome.

We are so fortunate to have London-based calligrapher extraordinaire Paul Antonio in New York City this week! After a very successful sold-out weekend workshop, he’ll be speaking on paleography — the study of ancient/historical handwriting — and how it can influence and enhance our work today. Come see this year’s Annual Members’ Show, enjoy refreshments, and stay for an interesting and engaging program!

Linear Language: Annual Members’ Open Exhibition
November 3  — extended! — through November 29, 2014
National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South

The National Arts Club is free and open to the public Monday – Friday from 10 to 5.
Our show in the Trask Gallery has been extended another week through November 29.

Featuring artwork by Alice, Linda Abrams, Paul Antonio, Karen Charatan, Maureen Chen, Aileen Crow, Cynthia Dantzic, Rebecca Farber, Wendy Fung, Jill Greenbaum, Noa Guy, Margaret Harber, Elinor Holland/Aysha Venjara, Susan Honig, Judy Kastin, Ernest Krysty, Barry Morentz, Masayo Nai, Anna Pinto, Sheila Richter, Laurie Sayres, Emily Brown Shields, Julio Vega, Kathy Wallace, Holly Woodward, Jia Xuan Zhang. To download an index of the show’s artists and artwork, please click here.

Opening Reception on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 from 6 to 8pm
Featuring a lecture/demonstration on paleography by UK-based calligrapher Paul Antonio.

Submissions: All current members are invited to submit pieces for hanging on Sunday, November 2. Download our 2014 Entry Form — with all details and dates included — by clicking here. (You can type right on the form!) All pieces must be framed and contain some form of hand-lettering. Label details are due by 5pm October 28; pieces must be mailed or hand-delivered by 9:30am November 2.

Society of Scribes Annual Holiday Fair!
Free Admission

Sunday, November 16, 2014 from 11am to 4pm
The Brotherhood Synagogue, 28 Gramercy Park South (between 3rd Ave/Irving Pl)

Join us for the event of the year, celebrating calligraphy and the special bond that we share over our love of hand-lettering! This year’s Fair will feature both new and traditional attractions: * Paper & Ink Arts on-site calligraphy boutique * Marbled artwork by Katherine Radcliffe * Instructor demonstrations * NEW! Props Photo Booth from 12 – 3pm * Raffle * The SoS Scriptorium with Karen Gorst from 12 – 3pm * Vintage 1890s Warren’s Pens * NEW! Vonnegut, the writing Robot from Bond * NEW! Uppercase Magazine #23 The Calligraphy & Lettering Issue * NEW! Dasherie Magazine * NEW! Yoropen Z3 Prototype * NEW! The SoS Kibitz Café (serving coffee/tea/cocoa and assorted pastries) * and lots more to see and do!

Silent Auction! Featuring one-of-a-kind artwork by Paul Antonio, Luca Barcellona, Tim Botts, Christopher Calderhead/Anna Pinto, and Barbara Calzolari.

SoS Scriptorium – 2nd Floor! From noon to 3 pm. Featuring Japanese Bookbinding, Uncial & Blackletter Calligraphy, and Traditional Filigree & Mudejar Ornamentation (Islamic line pattern work used in Spain for Jewish, Christian & Islamic manuscripts).

Calligraphy Demonstrations!
All Day (11:00 to 4:00)
Alice, Karen Charatan & Rebecca Farber – Pilot Parallel Pens
Cynthia Dantzic – Braille
Nathalie Marinoff – (AM) Zentangles & (PM) Gold
Jim Zhang – Chinese
AM (11:00 to 1:30)
Laura Di Piazza – Copperplate & Ruling Pen
Jerise Fogel – Greek & Hebrew
PM (1:30 to 4:00)
Jill Greenbaum – Zentangles
Elinor Holland – Arabic & Copperplate
Judy Kastin – Brush Markers
Barry Morentz – Gothicized Italic & Monograms
Paul Shaw – Rotunda

Raffles! Featuring many items generously donated by the Deluca family from Nan Deluca’s studio.

Volunteers Needed! Please volunteer, we still need your help to make the Holiday Fair happen. Email us: info@societyofscribes.org

(Holiday Fair 2014 by Kathy Milici)

“Calligraphy in Visual Communication,” A Slide Lecture by Luca Barcellona
Monday, October 27, 2014 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Rose Auditorium, 41 Cooper Square (Third Avenue between 6th/7th Avenues)

When you say the word calligraphy, you’ll get various reactions: those who practice it have a different and personal idea of this artform, while most think of it as something far from actual visual communication.

In an illustrated slide lecture, Luca Barcellona will analyze some of his artistic and commercial works, showing how calligraphy can be used in many fields of graphic design and communication, interacting with new technologies — and at the same time, giving his own views on this ancient craft that’s experiencing a new revival today: it can be difficult to recognize its real value without knowing its history and practitioners.

Writing is in constant evolution. Contemporary calligraphers are deciding today the future of hand lettering, which is not clear at all. Will it disappear or will it co-exist with digital devices? The answer is completely in our hands.

This lecture is presented in cooperation with Type@Cooper and is free and open to the public. Please register here. We’re expecting a full house, so come early for good seats. Limited copies of Luca’s book, Take Your Pleasure Seriously, will be available for purchase.

Illuminating the Word: The Saint John’s Bible
Knights of Columbus Museum, One State Street, New Haven CT
Sunday, October 12, 2014 at around 12:30pm (taking 10:04am train from Grand Central)

The St. John’s Bible (68 heavenly original manuscript pages!) will be on exhibit through November 2 at the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, CT. If you go, here’s a tip from Anna Pinto: “I would recommend starting with the room to the left when you go in (called The Studio) that has tools and techniques. There are pictures of Sally Mae Joseph gilding, and then you’ll find that same spread she’s working on in the picture in one of the other rooms, finished… Spectacular! There’s also a 25-minute introductory film about the Bible in another room… Enjoy!”

If you can’t make it in person (and make no mistake: there is no comparison!), the KoC Museum website has a very nice virtual tour here.

Join us for a semi-organized “Field Trip” to see the St. John’s Bible this weekend! Everyone will be responsible for their own train ticket, or driving to New Haven:

(a) Taking the Train: Buy your own Metro North ticket and meet at Grand Central, center information booth under the big clock at 9:45am.
We will take the 10:04am train and arrive New Haven at 12:05pm.
Roundtrip Fare is $32.50 (Seniors $21.50).
The Museum is roughly 3 blocks away from New Haven Union Station: Turn right when you walk out of the station, and walk about 5 minutes until you reach a traffic light under the overpass. The Museum is the tan-colored building across the street.

(b) Driving: Meet us at the KoC Museum at One State Street in New Haven around 12:30pm.
The museum has free admission and free parking. Hours are 10 to 5 daily.

Afterwards, we’ll have a late lunch together in New Haven at a restaurant TBD.
Please RSVP here.

Pictured: On May 9, 2011 Donald Jackson writes “Amen,” the final word in The Saint John’s Bible (courtesy of Donald Jackson’s Scriptorium, Wales)

Over one hundred scribes gathered to celebrate the Society’s 40th Anniversary at the Grolier Club last Friday night with founding member Alice Koeth. Everyone enjoyed an entertaining, inspiring, and artful conversation between Alice and moderator Jerry Kelly: we learned about the early days of the Society, Alice’s travels and teaching career, her work for The Morgan Library and Steuben Glass. We were especially happy to see founding member Emily Brown Shields, longtime member Jeanyee Wong, Linda Dannhauser Setzer, Amy Chapman — founding member Abigail Chapman’s daughter, who flew in from Michigan — and so many others, without whom the Society would not be going 40 years strong.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone!

(Photography © Grayson Dantzic; Calligraphy by Alice)

This year the Society of Scribes is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It was founded by a small group of practicing scribes who wished to share their enthusiasm for calligraphy with a wider public by offering workshops and lectures on the history of the lettering and book arts. Following Donald Jackson’s landmark lectures in New York City, SoS offered a dazzling array of workshops and seminars in almost every historical script imaginable.

Renaissance Italic, Roman Capitals, Bookhand, and Carolingian headed the list of classes that newcomers flocked to. Shortly thereafter members were introduced to a rich palette of luscious, exotic Blackletter alphabets, along with the more eccentric regional hands such as Luxeuil and Beneventan Minuscule. By the early 80s pointed pen alphabets began to make their mark, attracting other members who were content to work in a more contemporary mode, while others were thrilled to journey through time to study and put to use long-forgotten scripts.

Recent years have witnessed an unprecedented interest and super-charged enthusiasm for pointed pen in all its variations. This is a welcome development in the light of increasing technology which has caused some to declare an end to the age of handwriting. What makes it more pleasing is the fact that in most guilds and at the national conferences there appears to be an increase in the younger generation exploring our art.

But it also seems that with a few exceptions, such as Blackletter variants in the hands of a Julian Waters or Luca Barcellona, interest in the historical scripts has waned considerably since the halcyon days of the 70s and 80s. This is a shame, because familiarity with these alphabets goes a long way to creating interesting, arresting designs that attract a reader’s attention and lead to a desire to know more about these scripts. And when called upon to write out a text from a particular historical period it may be more appropriate to render the text in a style of writing peculiar to that time, or at least with a modernized version as Sheila Waters so brilliantly executed Carolingian in Dylan Thomas’ Under Milkwood. I can recall passing the Morgan Pierpont Library and seeing with delight Alice’s blazing, authoritative banners heralding a particular exhibition, sometimes in a scintillating Batarde, sometimes in a majestic Uncial, always conveying the right flavor.

This term SoS is offering a most unusual, rather esoteric script, Visigothic Versals, the alphabet of 8th and 9th century Spain. At first glance one is struck by the strange, slightly weird, sometimes wacky forms. Upon closer scrutiny, however, one comes to see the incredible imagination and exuberance of this alphabet, and how winsomely they have been applied by the instructor Risa Gettler in her childrens’ books. Indeed, in that context they convey a child-like innocence that imparts a greater liveliness than the texts might otherwise have had if they were written in, say, Italic or Bookhand. An unfamiliar script may also slow the reader’s pace, resulting in a greater concentration on the words and the text’s meaning. This actually happened to me several years ago, when I was commissioned to write out the opening lines of the St John’s Gospel. The client chose a highly personal, quite eccentric version of Gothicized Italic, stating that the elaborate forms caused him to slow his reading speed and to focus on the content. And remember Edward Johnston’s admonition to his students to “think about the words.”

No less a compelling reason to study antique scripts is that they provide building blocks for the creation of new and unique, personalized versions of familiar alphabets. Once you have attained the understanding and ability to execute traditional styles, you may then start to experiment with various elements of different scripts and synthesize them into something new and exotic. So, for example, you may apply one of the quirkier elements of a Visigiothic Versal to the solid structure of a Roman or Uncial form, and develop something quite unexpected and attractive. This brings us into the realm of calligraphic playing, a time no less valuable than concentrated, disciplined study. So, for example, examining a truly bizarre lettering style, Luxeuil Minuscule, the precursor of Carolingian, that looks rather like a plate of spaghetti randomly tossed into the air, has a verve and texture that can be applied to quickly rendered gestural strokes resulting in an unusual and visually arresting composition. This is not to imply that the process is always easy or a guaranteed success, but it does expand the field of creativity.

Way back in the 90s a wave of expressionist, abstract calligraphy began to seduce scribes and other practitioners of the broad-edged pen. For all the razzle-dazzle it was often apparent who had a solid foundation and understanding of classic letterforms — and who did not. Not even the most bravura strokes and bold applications of color could mask the weaknesses and flaws in these designs, but those who knew their traditional forms understood how to break the rules and succeed in creating something new and dramatic.

So, the next time you attend a cocktail party whip out a marker and write the guests’ names in Schwabacher Fraktur or Merovingian Minuscule. Not only will you delight and fascinate your friends, but you may wind up with a contract for the next remake of 10,000 BC.

—Article by Barry Morentz; Visigothic Versals by Risa Gettler

Looking forward to celebrating 40 years and seeing members — old and new — at The Grolier Club tonight! Hope you can join us for a festive evening and conversation with founding member Alice Koeth and moderator Jerry Kelly. (Invitation designed by Anna Pinto.)

Letter Design & the Influence of the Pen: Calligraphy into Type and Back Again
A Workshop with Julian Waters
September 27 @ 8:30am – September 28 @ 4:30pm
Type Directors Club, 347 W. 36th Street, Suite 603, New York City 10018

Hey Members! Still a few spots left in this upcoming TDC workshop with Julian Waters…

This course will look at the parallel worlds of type and calligraphy (hand pen lettering), how they have influenced each other over the centuries and are again today. From Gutenberg to Jenson to Aldus, 15th & 16th century early type was heavily influenced by pen lettering of the age, and over the centuries some of the best calligraphers have been involved with typeface production, from Schöffer, Arrighi, Neudørffer to Gill, Trump, Zapf, and on up to today.

In this spirit, learn fundamental underlying proportions of classical capitals, pen written and early types including Textura, Roman and Italic. Fleshing them out with the broad edged pen reveals how the tool can naturally distribute and modulate weights throughout the shapes. This can open up possibilities for letter design not possible by drawing outlines alone. We can use the pen to analyze and learn more about pen related types, how axis relates to pen angle, how the broad edged pen line differs from the pressured pen swelled line and what types are influenced by either – eg Venetian vs Modern etc. We will go back and forth between written and drawn lettering, and focus on the optical balance of the volumes inside and between forms. Harmony of spacing is inseparable from the linear shapes.

More information and registration here.