Resources on History of Script

aliceyang's picture

Hello all! I'm pretty new to the world of type, and I want to get into hand-drawn lettering. It's been suggested that I study the history and evolution of scripts, from how they descended from italics and the flexible reed pen, to how swashes change over the centuries. I'm currently reading "The History and Technique of Lettering" by Alexander Nesbitt, which I'm really enjoying. However, the book covers a ton of information in a fairly short amount of pages, and there are some ares which I'd like to explore in depth. One being the history of Dutch writing master Jan van den Velde.

I've been searching the web, but so far I haven't found any books that go in depth on scripts, so I come to you. Does anyone know of any good resources to look into? Also, does anyone know where I can find a copy of "Spieghel der schrijfkonste, in den welcken ghesien worden veelderhande gheschrifften met hare fondementen ende onderrichtinghe"?

Thanks!

hrant's picture

First decide whether you'd like to focus on type or lettering. Although they certainly inform each other, they're also fundamentally different.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

The history of writing systems is covered in many books, including older ones that have fallen into the public domain. There are also books on the history of writing itself as well.

Thus, there is "The Origin and Progress of Writing", from 1784; one of several online copies is here:

https://archive.org/details/cu31924029487141

which may serve to get you started.

aliceyang's picture

I'd like to focus on lettering and create letterforms (two masters I really admire are Doyald Young and Herb Lubalin) but since I'm just beginning I wanted to have some knowledge on its history, which I understood to be mostly derived from type.

hrant's picture

Actually lettering certainly came first, and it's only recently that lettering has started basing itself on fonts (because metal type did not lend itself to such a repurposing).

hhp

aliceyang's picture

You're right, I had a brain fart moment there.

I guess my question now is, do you know of any resources (preferably books) that visually describe the evolution of lettering? Any books on the techniques of hand lettering (not calligraphy) would also be greatly appreciated!

hrant's picture

Let me alert my Twitter followers.

hhp

Stephen Coles's picture

A History of Lettering: Creative Experiment and Letter Identity, Nicolete Gray

It's long out of print so not cheap, but not outrageous. Could be exactly what you want as it's like a more academic version of Nesbitt. I am impressed by its depth.

See also her more well known Lettering as Drawing which is a standard reference for teachers like Paul Shaw and the late great Michael Harvey.

aliceyang's picture

Thanks for the recommendations Stephen, I'll definitely look into them.

I noticed you're from Oakland—are you teaching any classes in the area? Or know of any good typography/design programs? I'm moving to San Francisco soon and have a few weeks off, and would really like to spending that time learning (I come from a computer science background). Thanks!

Stephen Coles's picture

I am not teaching anything local, but I strongly recommend this Sumner Stone workshop if you’re here at the end of May.

quadibloc's picture

Still, although calligraphy, lettering, and handwriting long precede type, fairly quickly type became so dominant that writing hands ended up taking their inspiration from typefaces instead of typefaces taking their inspiration from writing hands, I would suspect.

However, there was a thread here where evidence that Baskerville and/or Bodoni got their inspiration from writing hands which preceded them was discussed.

hrant's picture

Dude, since KABK typefaces have become increasingly calligraphic, everywhere. Coz it's sexy. But, don't marry the sexiest person you know.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

I take it you're not just referring to the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten, but to a specific event that took place there - at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague.

hrant's picture

I guess the "event" was Gerrit Noordzij, whose combination of talent, dedication, charisma and medievalism spawned this generation of disciples of the broad-nib-pen-held-with-the-right-hand type design.

hhp

quadibloc's picture

Well, typography can indeed be defined as writing with characters that have been made in advance. But then, so can typing.

I think that while it is limiting to insist that all typography should look like calligraphy, it's still a fruitful source of inspiration. I believe that ductus is an aid to legibility and readability, and that unlimited creative freedom without constraint can often leave people not knowing where to start, or creating things so extravagant that they are not found useful.

However, new ideas have to start somewhere, and so a first try that is not a success can inspire someone in the future to something that does work.

Rather than being wishy-washy, I think I'm trying to make a definite point here: there is a definite place for both the traditionalist and the experimental schools of type design; both are needed.

Syndicate content Syndicate content