It seems to me that the printed copies we see today are nearly impossible to
replicate with square cut quills.
In The Young Clerk's Assistant
, Bickham says: "Make all your body strokes with the full & all hair strokes with the corner of your pen". He does not provide an illustration, but people were already using the corner of broad cut nibs for hairlines in the 17th century and here is something (from 1680) by Jean-Baptise Alais De Beaulieu showing such a thing:
Unlike metal pens, quills can write very long lines with the corners of nibs. Here is part of a page of calligraphy (not engraved: broad edged quill and iron gall ink) also by Beaulieu, which is in a collection at Bibliotheque historique de la ville de Paris (BHVP):
Here is a line from a page of calligraphy by Louis Barbedor, done in 1640 and also in the BHVP collection:
This sort of writing is, as should be obvious, what eventually evolved into English Roundhand; the sort of writing you see engraved in the universal penman et al. Those scans above are from Claude Mediavilla's book Histoire de la calligraphie Francais
and they are no outliers or exceptions to the rule of fine penmanship which was reproduced by engravers as the many examples in that book show.
This comes right back to what the engraver said: "Many who are ignorent concieve mighty things of Engraven copybooks and that no written copy can ever be so correct as that which is engraven". And it is obvious that by "correct" he means accurate or alike.
In an attempt to emulate the engraved lettering, the use of a flexible nib was adopted.
The writing master George Shelley provided an image in The Second Part of Natural Writing
(pub. 1714) of the cuts needed to write the hands then in use and a pointed flexible nib is not illustrated or mentioned. In fact, the quill cut for roundhand, round text and Italian is number 4, the one in the middle and it is a straight broad nib:
The only time you will find pointed quill nibbing illustrated or mentioned is for flourishing and decorations. A plate from Diderot's Encylopedia (1770s) illustrates the use of it for flourishes:
Not only has it not been "debunked" - it's no myth.
Do you have any specific criticisms to make of what is written in "The Copperplate Myth" or is that a contradiction alone?
The only purpose of describing Edward Johnson as an "amateur" in this context, can only be to denigrate him. Fortunately, Johnson's place in history as an innovator / teacher / calligrapher is secure.
The only purpose of claiming that the calligraphers of the 17th and 18th centuries were unable to write what they had engraved (or engraved themselves) is to denigrate them, their skills and their art by making it a production of the engraver and them into cheats and liars who peddled work that was impossible to actually write. Fortunately, their place in history as innovators, teachers and calligraphers is secure.
When viewed in the proper historical context, it is obvious that Johnston was an amateur. I refer you to This article
which is an examination of the popularity of ilumination, illuminated adresses et al from 1848 and up till WW1. Johnston's manual was one of many and it is quite clear from the evidence there that these manuals and these were books aimed at a petty-bourgeois audience for leisure activities.
It is hard to discern exactly what wider influence Edward Johnston has had outside of a narrow and exclusionary strand of calligraphy which is riddled with false narratives and myths intended to make him look more important than he was and to exclude and denigrate calligraphy which attracted the ire of Johnston and his students (which seems to be pretty much everything after the invention of the printing press).
Typical examples of these myths and false narratives include the claims that no one could teach him calligraphy when he went to London, that everyone had forgotten about the broad edged pen, that no one knew how medieval scribes wrote, that there was a great decline in the quality of calligraphy and handwriting till Edward Johnston came along etc etc.
Such myths and legends are the province of amateurism. Not really sure how he innovated either given that what he "rediscovered" was already known. It will never cease to amaze me how people can claim with a straight face that he rediscovered the broad edged nib or whatever and trust books and sources which make such claims. It'd be like me going around saying I rediscovered the chair.
Edited by Columba Livia, 19 November 2012 - 13:33.