Jump to content
Classifieds is broken, please do not submit any new ads ×

Learning The "spanish" Hand

Recommended Posts

I know that they are in Spanish, but the demo plates are universal...


There is more than one way to write italics. Almost every country developed its own local variant better adapted to its previous insular styles. I've been looking for writing manuals (digitized originals) to study and found that the Spanish masters are available in abundance from the Spanish National Library. You can get digitized copies of most of these masters copy and instruction books for free in PDF format from 'bdh.bne.es'.


Just look for any of the masters' names in bdh.bne.es to get their instruction books:


Some sample books


Juan de Yciar, Arte subtilissima (1547)


Guiral, Arte de escribir (1550)


Francisco de Lucas, Arte de escreuir (1580)


Morante Palomares, Arte nueva de escribir (1616)


José Casanova, Arte de escrivir (1650)


Aznar Polanco, Arte de esribir (1719)


Olod, Tratado del origen y arte de escribir bien (1768)


Torío, Arte de escribir (1798)


Iturzaeta, Arte de escribir (1827)


Chapulí, Muestrario caligráfico (1880)


Alverá Delgrás, Nuevo arte (1893)


There are many more. An awful lot. Once you find one, click on "View work" on the left, below the front page image, and this will open a new window whre you can browse the book. On the new tab, click non the download link (a green down arrow) and there you will be able to download all or part of the book. For simplicity, I usually prefer to download it complete as PDF, and then browse it later at my own leisure.


I ain't sure if you'll see it in English or Spanish. If it is in Spanish, just click on PDF, then select "de este volumen" to download the whole volume (more on this later) or by default it will download only the current page, and then click the "Descargar" (Download) button.


A note is due: some books in the BNE are too long and may be split in "volumes", you can tell in the "browse" tab (the document icon): the first level is "volumes", the second is usually "chapters" and the third "pages". So, if there is more than one "first-level" entry then it means that the book is split in several volumes, you need to first move (click on the volume) to each volume and download it separately one by one.


As I say, there are an awful lot more of writing books. I mentioned before only a few of the "key" masters, but you can find a lot more. BTW, you may also find writing manuals from other countries if I remember well.


Oh! and now that I remember, you can even find a version of Petrarca's Obra poética hand copied by no less than Ludovicus Vicentinus degli Arrighi himself (the author of the Operina), so you can see his actual hand at work (spoiler: it's amazing!) -- simply google "Petrarca Arrighi mannuscrito VITR/22/3"


A few final warning words


First, you must remember that they are in Spanish. You don't need to know Spanish, though: just browse the books and look for the sample plates.


Second, you must understand they are Spanish and reflect an altogether different mind frame. On the one hand, Spaniards are not too keen on rules, they will not "draw" letters, but look for cursiveness: in most of the books you'll find "instructions" on how to write each letter step by step, and in most cases the idea is to use only a single stroke to draw it entirely (not several strokes as in most English copybooks), and if you read Spanish, you'll find many discussions on how to join letters, usually favoring those masters who teach a hand that allows joining more letters (i.e. using a single stroke for a whole word).


Yeah, I think one might say they were "lazy", but you could also say they were aiming for speed and elegance simultaneously. If you read Spanish, Francisco de Lucas advice on practice is invaluable, the best I've come so far (I ain't talking on how to draw the letters, but the generics of calligraphy practice independent of hand).


Third, Spain was a country that came from 8 centuries of intercultural coexistence: you will typically find also samples of Hebrew, Greek and maybe Arabic calligraphy. But also examples of italian italic, round hand, "gothic", castillian, aragonese, french, bastardilla (mixed, the national Spanish) hands, grifa (print italics,the hand Francesco Griffo designed for Aldo Manucio), and in more modern treatises the English hand (copperplate) as well. There will be ink recipes, and advice on how to prepare feather pens, calami, using steel nibs, ruling paper, nib tuning, whatever.


The main difference between italic and Spanish (bleep) is that the Spanish hand tends to a more slanted cursive (it started with the canonical 10 degrees of Yciar and acquired increased slant with each new master until the 45-50 degrees) which favors maximal letter joints while aiming for beauty and elegance. Spaniards tend to be practical: in many treatises you will find as a surprise that masters let the students (or even advice) set the paper slanted to the left (instead of straight) when writing, in some case (but can't remember where) even having the paper perpendicular (or almost) to the direction of writing!


So, an altogether different approach, different rules, different thinking, different stress, but possibly interesting, and, in any case, you'll find samples of many different hands and it will be difficult not to find one that appeals to you.


On the other hand.... quite some work in downloading and browsing until you get to the sample plates and decide which (if any) you like best (maybe none and you end up with a lot of time lost).


I've been thinking for a long time of preparing a "modern" recopilatory treatise of the Spanish hand, how to write it and how it has evolved over time... including the plates of each master, but never find time for it. Maybe I'll start by collecting the plates and then adding explanations... if I only found the time.

Edited by txomsy
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...
  • Replies 8
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

  • txomsy


  • amk


  • AlohaLani787


  • sidthecat



What a fabulous looking website! Thanks for posting the link. I'm looking forward to perusing the contents in depth (not just the calligraphy section).

Oh, and up at the top of the page it has various language versions of "Welcome", which I presume are the various translations available.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. Thank you so much txomsy for the in-depth introduction to this resource. I knew Yciar, but not the others. And the Arrighi Petrarch... well, what can I say? I'm looking forwards to getting to grips with it.


Now you remind me, I must try to find the resources on French 'ronde' hand in the BNF. It's fascinating how each nation evolved its own distinctive styles. 'Ronde' begins in the 17c but I'm used to seeing it on 19th and early 20th century documents - school prizes, title deeds for property, agricultural prize certificates. I've never found a writing manual for it, though... must look harder!

Too many pens, too little time!


Link to post
Share on other sites

How lucky to find your post this Sunday morning! Thank you.


I've just downloaded two choirbooks with fantastic lettering and no doubt will find many more later.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, there must be also some copy books at the French National Library. But I have not been able to identify any. It seems there are not so many calligraphy books there.


On the other hand, you can find many manuscripts, which provide interesting examples. Anyway, let's go on with it: if you are interested, you can find Champ Fleury's book "au quel est contenu lart & science de la deue & vraye proportio[n] des lettres attiques, quo[n] dit autreme[n]t lettres antiques, & vulgairement lettres romaines proportionnees selon le corps & visage humain", as well as Champ fleury's, "L'Art et science de la proportion des lettres" at the Internet Archive.


I will dig into my personal archives and see if I can find more French manuals. I seem to remember that there were several available, but have to locate them.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'll post this to the generic threads as well, but I didn't want to let it pass in this one as some of you have expressed an interest in other hands.


I just became aware of a wonderful site (no affiliation withit whatsoever) that contains links to a huge list of historical books on calligraphy from many countries, arranged by Century, Country and date:




There are links to downloadable and online books from the English, American, French, Dutch, German, Italian and Spanish masters through the ages (16th Century onwards). Van de Velde, Beauchesne, Tagliente, you name it, all of them are there with links to their works. I am still digesting the contents of this resource.


Simply amazing.



Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...