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Copperplate Handwriting & English Roundhand


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#21 thang1thang2

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 02:36

Just a question, what angle do you hold the pen at? I guess you do some hairlines with the corners of the pen: I can imagine how to do it with a dip pen or a quill, but, is this possible with a fountain pen?
Thanks.
M.


For the edged or the pointed nib? As the edged nib is not supposed to be moved at all, I would take a guess and say that the nib is held at exactly 55º (as English Roundhand was written with a 55º slant) so that the upstrokes are the thinest line possible. Since it's a edged nib, there's no flex, and any fountain pen can achieve this.

As for the pointed nib, there's no angle needed to hold the pen at, just make sure that your upstrokes and downstrokes are at the 55º angle. Many flexible fountain pens are "capable" of achieving the flex needed for copperplate [ at least the flex needed for the lower case ] but your hardest trick will be finding one with a good snap-back that doesn't keep its thick line for far too long. (If the snap back isn't fast enough, letters such as an 'o' look very ugly.)

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#22 thang1thang2

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 02:40

I'm limited by what I can glean from the diagrams - which is quite helpful too.

We should continue this discussion in the thread: Copperplate Handwriting & English Roundhand since we have long gone past what this thread was intended for. I believe there is much that will be useful to others and it will be easier to find in that thread.

I will move the last few posts in this thread to the one mentioned above unless anyone has strong objections to it.

Salman


To be honest, I thought I already was reading that thread. As it is, no objections on my part. Lovely writing by all.

#23 kenfraser

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Posted 25 November 2012 - 13:35

Post removed at author's request.

Edited by smk, 26 November 2012 - 21:55.
Edited at author's request.


#24 Columba Livia

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 14:06

I've been doing a bit more writing and reading and George Bickham recommended a right oblique pen for English roundhand/Copperplate:

Make the nib of the your pen for the round & round text hands the breadth of the full stroke & that part lying next the hand something shorter and narrower
^
Young Clerk's Assistant Dover re-print, p6. So the right tine would be shorter than the left one i.e right-oblique.

Now, his directions for holding the pen:

Never turn your pen, nor alter the position of your hand [...] Hold your pen between the two forefingers extended almost straight & the thumb bending outward with the hollow downwards & the nib flat. Let your paper lie directly before you & your hand rest only on the top of the little finger. Rest your arm lightly between wrist & the elbow. Keep your body upright and your elbow almost close to your side. Rest your body on your left arm & keep your paper down with your left hand.
^
Young Clerk's Assistant Dover re-print, p4 & 5.

Here is a commentary on holding the pen from p21 & 22 the article "What's in a grip?" from the Letter Arts Review volume 21 number 1:

done with the with the hand held in the way these authors instruct, it is possible to achieve these effects with the natural and rhythmical movement of the fingers that occurs when downward movement is led by the index finger pivoting from the first joint (as would have been the case, given that the fingers were, according to Clark in the above quote, extended), and the upward movements are pushed by the springing back of the thumb. Certainly the movement has to be totally natural for the following instructions from George Bickham's The Young Clerks Assistant to make sense: "Make all your hair strokes with the corner of your pen...Never turn your pen, nor alter the position of your hand". Implicit in these instructions is that the pen for Roundhand is held at a flat angle to the writing line, and that the right hand corner of the nib is held fractionally off the surface. "But little pressure" (only that which is natural to the pivot of the fingers) is then needed to bring the full face of the pen into contact with the surface while the release of pressure as the thumb springs back up is enough to take the quill back onto the corner. (My emphasis)

So something like this:

Posted Image

Here is a 1mm right-oblique pen:

Posted Image

And here is some writing I did with it, following the instructions which Bickham gives on how to hold a pen:

Posted Image

Posted Image

Because ink flows from the corner of a quill very well and you can make a finer continuous line with it, a broad-edged quill is far better than a broad-edged steel pen for writing English Roundhand/Copperplate and won't have the flow issues. No doubt this was one of the reasons why people switched from a broad edged quill to pointed steel pens.

Elaborate but wrong theories and explanations have been invented and woven about and around English Roundhand/Copperplate and people have imagined that engravers invented it, that they modified it and so forth. We should be pleased to learn that nothing of the sort took place: the cart did not drive the horse: engravers did not invent, alter, modify or change English Roundhand/Copperplate.

Perhaps one reason these myths and theories gained currency was people not knowing about and/or not using the appropriate pen-hold and positioning for English Roundhand/Copperplate and finding themselves unable to write Roundhand as it was written and therefore imagining that it was impossible.

With regard to the use of the narrow-edged nib, Joyce Irene Whalley wrote "There is no doubt that that many writing masters envied the engraver his skill, and gradually began to produce scripts which followed the style of the burin (or graver) rather than making them truly pen formed....the learner must have had the greatest difficulty in trying to make with his quill pen those shapes so easily produced on the copperplate."


There is no evidence for Whalley's claims that Roundhand was the style of the burin or that writing masters were trying to imitate engravers or whatever, and as I've demonstrated it is perfectly possible to write English Roundhand/Copperplate with a broad edge. All she is doing is repeating the same confused myths about how no one could actually write English Roundhand/copperplate which only seem credible when you don't know how it was done. I also question her objectivity on the matter of English Roundhand since she claimed that calligraphy stopped existing in the 18th century! Refer to page 243 of "The Art of Calligraphy Western Europe and America:

"Generally it may be considered that in the 18th century calligraphy ceased to exist [...] there was little concern for writing as an art let alone a fine art"

The reason for that is revealed by her claim on page 329 that "the father of the 20th century revival of calligraphy was Edward Johnston": In order to be able to give false acclaim to Johnston as the re-discoverer of calligraphy she had to pretend that it stopped existing.

Columba Livia’s heroic efforts in attempting to write Copperplate with an edged nib, only serve to reinforce my belief that this was not how the original English Roundhand style was written. It is inconceivable to me, that the 18th century Writing Masters would have attempted to write in this style with edged nibs as it would have been, at best, inaccurate and tediously slow.


You flatter me by describing my copperplate/English Roundhand written with an edged nib as "heroic", but I assure you there is nothing heroic or especially hard about it. I can also assure you that it is a very natural and speedy way to write. I can appreciate more than ever now, why this script became so popular as it combines beauty with ease of writing and speed.

Would it be possible for you to capture a video of the writing technique? I am really interested in learning how to do this.


Sorry, I don't have a video camera. :(

Edited by Columba Livia, 26 November 2012 - 14:35.


#25 smk

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 17:02

Sorry, I don't have a video camera. :(


No worries there - your explanation above has clarified a couple of things for me. I might actually be able to replicate the writing to a certain degree.

The trick seems to be the neutral position of the hand and the nib. In the neutral position the hand is supposed to be at the top of the letter i.e. the middle. All strokes fall to either the right or left of this neutral line. Sine the nib is a right-oblique and we don't turn it (I did not understand the significance of it until now) the stroke to the left of the neutral position will engage more and more of the nib while the strokes to the right of the neutral will be made automatically with the tip of the left tine (which is longer than the right). The neutral positions is hence a kind of pivot and the obliqueness of the nib ensures the difference in stroke thickness on either side.

As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I did come close to this with a right-oblique nib a couple of times but considered it a fluke as I did not understand the significance of not moving the hand or changing the angle of the nib. The Eureka moment came to me when I drew a wide oval without moving the hand or changing nib angle - like the bottom part of the E in English in your example.

I can't draw the shapes consistently since I have to concentrate extra hard to keep the nib from turning :-)

Am I on the right track?

Salman

#26 Mickey

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 17:58

This is pretty much what I described a few months ago as a means of adapting Spencerian to an edged pen. Note, that the thinnest stroke with a common right oblique, held on the conventional axis (45 degrees to the writing line), is the Spencerian 'join axis' (up stroke), i.e., 30 degrees.

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#27 smk

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 18:45

This is pretty much what I described a few months ago as a means of adapting Spencerian to an edged pen. Note, that the thinnest stroke with a common right oblique, held on the conventional axis (45 degrees to the writing line), is the Spencerian 'join axis' (up stroke), i.e., 30 degrees.


I have spent the last half an hour searching for that post. Would you happen to remember which thread it was in?

S.

#28 Mickey

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 20:46

This is pretty much what I described a few months ago as a means of adapting Spencerian to an edged pen. Note, that the thinnest stroke with a common right oblique, held on the conventional axis (45 degrees to the writing line), is the Spencerian 'join axis' (up stroke), i.e., 30 degrees.


I have spent the last half an hour searching for that post. Would you happen to remember which thread it was in?

S.


http://www.fountainp..._1#entry2472860

Post number 14.

BTW, I didn't mention this to steal any of Columba Livia's thunder, just to say that I had noticed a similarly interesting piece of geometry. Hats off to CL for a fine piece of scholarship, a very fine piece, in deed.

Edited by Mickey, 26 November 2012 - 22:37.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries


#29 kenfraser

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 21:49

"Make the nib of the your pen for the round & round text hands the breadth of the full stroke & [b]that part lying next the hand something shorter and narrower."

So the right tine would be shorter than the left one i.e right-oblique.


Columba Livia,

Bickham's statement "make the nib of your pen for the Round Text the breadth of the full stroke & that part lying next to the hand something shorter and narrower" confused me for years. I always visualised a square-cut nib. If only he had said "Right Oblique" I would probably have got there, much earlier!

It took me an hour to finally achieve a perfect compound curve, as in the minuscule n.

You are to be congratulated on your research and your findings. Especially as it goes in the face of so many opinions of respected writers over the years. I, for one, fully accept your interpretation of the historical journey from pen to engraving and back to pen again.

I have asked Salman to remove my previous posts, as they might be misleading and confusing for learners.

Having done it once, I now know that it can be done, and I'm sure that, given time, I could write Copperplate with an oblique-edged pen to the same standard as with a pointed flexible nib. However, I won't be doing this, as I'm sure that it's much more difficult to achieve perfect, consistent results with the oblique nib - at least, for me!

I am also very pleased with the vindication of the English Roundhand Writing Masters. Willington Clark has always been my favourite and it's nice to know that he actually wrote like that. Having said that, I still think that the engravers played a big part in the appearance of the finished, printed results. Every single image on every single page in The Universal Penman is absolutely perfect and I'm sure that there would have been the odd slight bump and kink to iron out - even when the writing was by masters.

However, that's by the way, and the original reason for this post remains. I am glad to have been put right, and regret having been wrong on this issue for more than 50 years! :crybaby:

Ken

Edited by caliken, 26 November 2012 - 22:14.


#30 WestLothian

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Posted 26 November 2012 - 22:30

Snap1a.jpg

After the right oblique, Alais 1680 recommends this double cut nib for general writing. This has a right hand profile with 1. short thumb cut and 2. longer fingers cut.
This geometry permits the subtle shaping of the upstroke by elongation of the fingers increasing their angle relative to the thumb.

Snap2.jpg

I am nut sure how well this would wok with a steel nib - it may be worth sacrificing an older nib to grind into this shape and find out.

Edited by WestLothian, 26 November 2012 - 22:47.


#31 Mickey

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 16:17

Snap1a.jpg

After the right oblique, Alais 1680 recommends this double cut nib for general writing. This has a right hand profile with 1. short thumb cut and 2. longer fingers cut.
This geometry permits the subtle shaping of the upstroke by elongation of the fingers increasing their angle relative to the thumb.

I am nut sure how well this would wok with a steel nib - it may be worth sacrificing an older nib to grind into this shape and find out.


Which is what I did this morning, using a pair of Esterbrook 414 probate nibs. In its original form, the 414 is a mildly flexible, small stub with a 15 degree left oblique contour. I reground one 414 I've been using the last few days and created a right-oblique of similar crispness. What I ended up with may be the ultimate casual correspondence nib for the running, roundhand enthusiast. The nib gives shading very much in the style of Copperplate / Roundhand, even without a lot of overt nib manipulating. In other words, it can be used for everyday writing at speed. The results look best if one eschews looped ascenders in favor of their italic equivalent, but other than that, very little else required. (Majuscules may take some rethinking, though.) Monoline Spencer and other business hands also look good with this sort of nib. BTW, results from the stock, l-oblique were not very attractive at all, with heavy bottomed letters, weak verticals, and thick joins.

Again, hats off to Columba Livia.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries


#32 smk

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 18:12

Snap1a.jpg

After the right oblique, Alais 1680 recommends this double cut nib for general writing. This has a right hand profile with 1. short thumb cut and 2. longer fingers cut.
This geometry permits the subtle shaping of the upstroke by elongation of the fingers increasing their angle relative to the thumb.

I am nut sure how well this would wok with a steel nib - it may be worth sacrificing an older nib to grind into this shape and find out.


Which is what I did this morning, using a pair of Esterbrook 414 probate nibs. In its original form, the 414 is a mildly flexible, small stub with a 15 degree left oblique contour. I reground one 414 I've been using the last few days and created a right-oblique of similar crispness. What I ended up with may be the ultimate casual correspondence nib for the running, roundhand enthusiast. The nib gives shading very much in the style of Copperplate / Roundhand, even without a lot of overt nib manipulating. In other words, it can be used for everyday writing at speed. The results look best if one eschews looped ascenders in favor of their italic equivalent, but other than that, very little else required. (Majuscules may take some rethinking, though.) Monoline Spencer and other business hands also look good with this sort of nib. BTW, results from the stock, l-oblique were not very attractive at all, with heavy bottomed letters, weak verticals, and thick joins.

Again, hats off to Columba Livia.


I'm not sure if I get this. How is this cut different than a regular right-oblique nib?

Salman

#33 smk

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 18:25

I am far from getting the proper hang of the technique but have produced a few good i, o and a shapes. This is enough for me to know that the minuscules can be written with a right-oblique nib.

I therefore take back my position that started this whole discussion. I will join Mickey in taking my hat off to Columba Livia for enlightening us. Thank you for figuring out what seemed impossible to me. I should have taken a cue from my favorite quote (in my signature) - I hope I wasn't in your way Columba Livia!

I am going to persevere and try to get the whole alphabet done with a right-oblique nib. I am sure there is value in preserving the original way this style of lettering was done.

I will start a 'Learning English Roundhand (aka Copperplate) with and edged nib' thread when I'm ready to get started. I will need the help in understanding the instructions in French. I will also need to get a copy of Bickham's "Young Clerk's Assistant".

Thanks again Columba Livia.

Salman

Edited by smk, 27 November 2012 - 18:28.


#34 Mickey

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 20:21

I'm not sure if I get this. How is this cut different than a regular right-oblique nib?

Salman


I'm not sure I understand this cut either, unless it is to make the right tine more flexible, allowing greater spread while not making the pen too flexible over all, or to balance the flexibility of the two tines, since one is shorter and thus potentially stiffer than other. With steel nibs, I doubt it is even necessary, though I might think differently if I'd experimented with a more flexible nib.

None the less, writing a quasi Spencerian script with a flexible r-oblique is fun.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries


#35 WestLothian

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 20:23

Here is my attempt at the Alais Shape.
Alais Shape.jpg
Nib removed from the feed
This has the right-oblique on the finger side with a narrow tine and a small-left oblique on the thumb side.
Alais Shape Ventre.jpg
View from underside.


Alais Shape Test.jpg
A very rough first test...


Alais Shape Conclusions.jpg

Edited by WestLothian, 27 November 2012 - 22:02.


#36 kenfraser

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 21:10

Implicit in these instructions is that the pen for Roundhand is held at a flat angle to the writing line, and that the right hand corner of the nib is held fractionally off the surface. "But little pressure" (only that which is natural to the pivot of the fingers) is then needed to bring the full face of the pen into contact with the surface while the release of pressure as the thumb springs back up is enough to take the quill back onto the corner.

The above quote is from Columba Livia.

As I understand it, the nib is cut so that it slopes down to the right when viewed from above. The following describes a reverse 's' shaped compound curve, from top to bottom.
The left tine is longer than the right. The pen is held in such a way, that the upward hairline is made with the left corner of the nib only, with the rest of the nib just clear of the paper. For the downstroke, slight pressure brings the whole of the nib edge in contact with the paper, thereby creating the full width downstroke. Releasing the pressure, brings the nib back up onto its left corner for the finished upward hairline.

If this is wrong, please correct me.

Ken

Edited by caliken, 27 November 2012 - 21:13.


#37 WestLothian

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 21:48

It may have already been mentioned, but I note that this technique with the stiffer nib provides down-strokes with consistent width.
There is hardly any variation in the width once full contact is established. The writing technique is different and requires practise.

Ken, I agree with your interpretation of the instructions for the preparation of the nib. The goose feather may be more forgiving than steel.
The slight thumb-side corner provides upstrokes with no paper catching and the whole of the nib surface can be polished to glide.

#38 Columba Livia

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 02:06

Implicit in these instructions is that the pen for Roundhand is held at a flat angle to the writing line, and that the right hand corner of the nib is held fractionally off the surface. "But little pressure" (only that which is natural to the pivot of the fingers) is then needed to bring the full face of the pen into contact with the surface while the release of pressure as the thumb springs back up is enough to take the quill back onto the corner.

The above quote is from Columba Livia.


Oh, I didn't mean to give the impression that I said that. I was quoting from the "What's in a Grip?" article in the Letter Arts Review volume 21 number 1, which was written by Peter Gilderdale (He also wrote "The Copperplate Myth"). I bolded that part of what he wrote because I thought it seemed particularly important.

What happened was, I saw that there were two articles in two copies of the Letter Arts Review with articles by Peter Gilderdale dealing with "The Copperplate Myth" and "Whats in a grip? A study of historical pen holds" and since those interested me I bought those two issues, read the articles and eventually tried writing with a broad edged nib. It is Peter Gilderdale who deserves the credit here.

Having said that, I still think that the engravers played a big part in the appearance of the finished, printed results. Every single image on every single page in The Universal Penman is absolutely perfect and I'm sure that there would have been the odd slight bump and kink to iron out - even when the writing was by masters.


I believe you are correct and that there must been been touching up since the early 17th century writing master Martin Billingsley (He taught Charles I to write) said, in his book "The Pens Excellency", that engravers could do that:

"Certaine I am, there is no man living can write so exactly, but that even in the writing of fixe lines, hee himself shall be conscious to himselfe of some imperfections, which, by directions to the Graver (being a good Worke-man and carefull) may bee easily helped and made perfect for imitation".

http://www.english.c...ley/simple.html

By "fixe lines", from what he writes elsewhere in the book I believe he means writing slowly and carefully between ruled lines, taking your pen off the paper frequently and using the best implements.

Also, pure speculation but I think it could have been possible that, for example, some drawings in the Universal Penman were done on separate pieces of paper and cut and pasted, both with glue and graver or just by the engraver. The ability to put together on the same page work done separately surely would have been very useful when doing such a large project.

Having done it once, I now know that it can be done, and I'm sure that, given time, I could write Copperplate with an oblique-edged pen to the same standard as with a pointed flexible nib. However, I won't be doing this, as I'm sure that it's much more difficult to achieve perfect, consistent results with the oblique nib - at least, for me!


I'm certainly not going to make a habit of using a broad-edged nib for copperplate myself. It's interesting to try at least.

I therefore take back my position that started this whole discussion. I will join Mickey in taking my hat off to Columba Livia for enlightening us. Thank you for figuring out what seemed impossible to me. I should have taken a cue from my favorite quote (in my signature) - I hope I wasn't in your way Columba Livia!


As I said, it was Peter Gilderdale who did the research. I read it and tried it out.

No problems with people being in my way. :)

#39 Mickey

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 05:44

I'm certainly not going to make a habit of using a broad-edged nib for copperplate myself.


Neither am I, but I am interested in the possibility of writing in a related style without having to pull an inkwell out of my pocket. I recently ordered a small (c. .5mm), flexible, right-oblique Nakaya Naka-ai. Until it arrives (April, if I'm lucky), I'll being using dip r-obliques in my efforts to develop an easy, running Roundhand / Spencerian type script for it. Preliminary experiments aren't half bad. I'll post some examples when I get to the point where it's only 1/4 bad.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries


#40 HDoug

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 07:44

Iʻve followed along this thread but havenʻt said anything because I have no particular interest in Copperplate or Roundhand. Nothing against the styles, I appreciate them and the classic and contemporary practitioners/artists. But I am butting in here because I just had to have the Gilderdale article, "Whatʻs in a Grip?" I looked it up and that issue of Letter Arts Review (as well as all the other back issues) is available at John Neal Bookseller on this page.

That is all, carry on gentlemen.

Doug






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