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Italic Versions Of The Minuscule 's' And 'd'



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What are guidelines for use of these alternate versions of the italic minuscule 's' and 'd'? Only at the end of words? When you're feeling it?

 

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What are guidelines for use of these alternate versions of the italic minuscule 's' and 'd'? Only at the end of words? When you're feeling it?

 

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I don't know about any "guidelines," Bob, but I can tell you what I do. The cursive "s" I use in the middle of words or at the end, joined to the preceding letter from the base, never as the initial letter in a word. I do sometimes join that cursive "s" with the following letter, especially another "s." So, my own guideline would be that generally governing "safe joins." Note that one can also join an "o" to an "s" using a horizontal join from the top of the "o" to the top of the following "s." I find that rather ugly, myself. Personally, I only use horizontal joins from letters with cross-bars, i.e., t and f. But, as I said, that's personal preference.

 

I seldom use that form of the "d" in italic, but many do. I just had a look at the exemplars in Alfred Fairbank's "A Handwriting Manual," certainly as good a source as one could ask for. I find almost every possible variation. Some writers use both forms of "d" in the same document. Others use one or the other exclusively. I could not say there is any preference for "d" form depending on where in a word it falls.

 

If desired, I could provide some examples of my own usage.

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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This makes sense. I enjoy writing the cursive s, but starting with a join at the beginning of a word that isnt joined to anything before it ... that doesnt really make sense. The alternate d might be interesting at the end of a first line or to conclude a paragraph.

 

This alternate d below was flourished with restraint.

 

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"Cancelleresca" does such beautiful calligraphy!

 

Well, mine is just a doodle in comparison, but it illustrates some of the things I described in my previous post.

 

post-73460-0-87817900-1565673084_thumb.jpg

 

David

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Thank you David for these practice words. The cursive version of 's' joins so easily to preceding letters!

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I tend to logically delineate between writing in italic, and writing in cursive (italic or otherwise).

 

When I'm writing in cursive, then I don't think the entrance stroke from the baseline would look out of place on a minuscule 's' at the start of a word. When I'm just writing (or 'printing') in italic script, then the minuscule 's' would have no entrance stroke from the left, irrespective of the letter's position in the word.

 

In the exemplars in The Calligrapher's Bible by David Harris, the minuscule 's' has the diagonal entrance stroke in Cancelleresca corsiva as well as Copperplate (in both the "Italian hand" and English Roundhand).

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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Good point, Dill. My impression is that the degree of formality also plays a role in italic. More formal, fewer joins, maybe? But I'm fairly sure that certain joins are completely acceptable, even in formal italic.

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"Formal Italic" customarily means relatively upright letters - say 5º slant, no swashes and no joins. In reality, there is a spectrum of formality. The distinction between italic calligraphy, with aesthetic pretensions, and italic handwriting, with expected personal idiosyncrasies, is pertinent here, I think.

 

David

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I don't think there is much formality in cursive, but that it is rather a matter of good taste. That said, not everybody has always felt assured, and writing manuals from the very early times tend to include some rules on ligatures to help decide. Usually, the masters would chose according to their own preferences.

 

This can be seen in manuscripts e.g. Petarch's works or The Divine Comedy. They used some consistency, but you could find exceptions here and there. Those were hand copies intended to look good, some of them written by the most reputed masters.

 

As an example. most of the Operina uses a long s (the one that looks like an f without the horizontal strike. For double s (ss) it often uses ß, but sometimes it uses a combination of long and short s.

 

Now look at http://bdh.bne.es/bnesearch/CompleteSearch.do?text=&field1val=%22Petrarca%2c+Francesco%22&showYearItems=&field1Op=AND&numfields=1&exact=on&textH=&advanced=true&field1=autor&completeText=&pageSize=1&pageSizeAbrv=30&pageNumber=1 and see the very same hand (Arrighi) at actual work transcribing Petrarch's poems. You will see more consistency here and a uniformity that is hardly to appreciate in the Operina.

 

So, one would guess that it was rather a matter of preference.

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Having looked at a wide variety of 16th and 17th Century italic writing from various types of sources, I am convinced that the purpose of the document was a significant determinant of the writer's choices regarding letter forms.

 

Many of the writing manuals were not simply textbooks but were also advertisements for the author's services as an instructor or scribe. So, there is a lot of fancy, show-offy stuff - mostly in the majuscules but somewhat in the minuscules as well. The purpose, at least in part, was to demonstrate virtuosity. Then there were official documents, e.g., papal bulls, manuscript books and then there was personal correspondence.

 

Even with 20th Century teachers of italic writing, I find a remarkable difference between their formal writing in published books and articles and their italic handwriting seen in their personal correspondence. And then there is "artistic" calligraphy of the modern sort, where the traditional primary value of legibility is made secondary to some aesthetic value.

 

I am of the opinion that most of the "rules" were for relatively formal writing. For less formal purposes, other than "art calligraphy," I believe one can write as seems "right," as long as legibility and reasonable writing speed are acceptable. I may not like certain choices on aesthetic grounds, but each to his own.

 

David

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David,

your four-paragraph summary could almost be the introduction to a masters level thesis, and the remaining 84 and 1/2 pages might be repetitive. Thank you for distilling so much of your study in this.

 

In Sheila Waters’ book, there is a page of various italic samples. I have been drawn to the work of Niccolò de' Niccoli, because it feels like a letter written to a colleague, not too perfect but so elegant and original. It doesn’t feel as though he is working to sell services so much as writing forms because he likes them that way. What a wonderful way to proceed!

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David,

your four-paragraph summary could almost be the introduction to a masters level thesis, and the remaining 84 and 1/2 pages might be repetitive. Thank you for distilling so much of your study in this.

 

In Sheila Waters’ book, there is a page of various italic samples. I have been drawn to the work of Niccolò de' Niccoli, because it feels like a letter written to a colleague, not too perfect but so elegant and original. It doesn’t feel as though he is working to sell services so much as writing forms because he likes them that way. What a wonderful way to proceed!

Thanks for your kind words.

 

Niccolò was not a professional copyist, unlike his younger friend, Poggio Bracciolini. Along with Poggio, he was a searcher for medieval copies of classical Greek and Roman works (which they thought to be, in fact, ancient themselves!). He would sit (typically in a monastery library) and copy old manuscripts but send them to Poggio for copying for clients. His handwriting, which, as you must know, is felt to be the origin of cursive italic, was personal and informal, as you remarked.

 

Happy writing!

 

David

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David, I did not realize the non-professional history for Niccolò de' Niccoli, but that makes perfect sense. Thank you. Do you have a favorite history of paleography with details like these?

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David, I did not realize the non-professional history for Niccolò de' Niccoli, but that makes perfect sense. Thank you. Do you have a favorite history of paleography with details like these?

 

If I had to recommend one book, it would be "Development of Humanistic Script," by B.L. Ullman. Edizioni Di Storia E Letteratura, Rome, 1960. This is an oft-cited reference in other books about the history of modern writing.

 

David

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Inky.Fingers

Thank you David and Bobje.

 

Written by hand is hard enough for some of us. Written legitibly is another. IMHO the connection lines should be such that it does not make the writing less legible. Diagonal connection should be super thin and horizontal connection be less than half pen width. Perhaps... I am reading too much of Edward Johnston...

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Thank you David and Inky!

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The early Italian writing master's retained some of the conventions used in the gothic scripts that pre-dated the humanistic book hands, for example the long S's in _IF's wonderful examples. The ligatures were also a gothic innovation. The s to t ligature seemed to endure after the c to t one mostly disappeared.

 

post-73460-0-26449300-1567389082_thumb.jpg

 

Oops. Forgot to close my quotes for "conjoined letters."

 

David

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Ligatures are but a form of speeding writing by not having to raise the pen from the paper. This is a seemingly trivial saving, but it is, nevertheless. By the law of minimal effort, we all tend to favor anything that may result in an energy saving.

 

What I want to say is that I doubt that this (ligatures and letter forms) is something invented by anyone in particular, but something that any and all scribes will discover and perpetuate by themselves sooner or later, consciously or not. Actually, it is "proper" writing that requires a strong discipline.

 

Regarding ligatures, you can find a lot of them (as abbreviations) as they were used in old Latin (prior to any scripts) in pages 105 and following of "Delle abbreviature nella paleografia latina" which you can freely access in Google books (pages 115+ in the PDF e-book).

 

One can see ligatures, joins, or whatever (I prefer not to make distinctions as from my point of view they all represent the same underlying principle) in insular scripts (e.g. http://guindo.pntic.mec.es/jmag0042/LATIN_PALEOGRAPHY.pdf), Latin and even cursive Greek. Certainly, ideographic-based (cuneiform, hieroglyphs) writing is less prone to it, but even so, I'd venture that cursive versions would most likely include them (e.g., likely the hieratic, and certainly the demotic and coptic scripts).

 

There is a trade-off to counterbalance: fast writing would tend to reduce contrast in letter forms, making communication more difficult. That is why one would have e.g. various forms of cursive 's', and also what made -and still does- the distinction between a good and bad scribe. A great calligrapher may aim for maximal readability and avoid any shortcoming. A good scribe would add enough "simplifications/shortcuts" to speed up writing with minimal compromise in reading. A bad scribe would add so many variants that the text would be undecipherable to anyone but himself or the initiated.

 

I always found it curious that around 1500, special edicts had to be issued by the Spanish kings to ban illegible writings by specialized workers: amanuenses charging by the line would spread the script to write (and charge) more and notaries would make illegible scribbles to ensure a notary would also be needed (and paid) just to read them.

 

 

There are a few letter forms for which we still have variants (s, r, a,...). That we can all still read any variant is (IMMHO) something to cherish and cultivate, lest we return to the age of insular scripts, which is why I don't favor one over the other and use try to use all current alternatives (some times, using one over the other "just feels right").

 

For a calligrapher, I think that consistency and -even more important- aesthetics (the 'calli" -quality/beauty- part in calligraphy) should probably be more important than specific forms. I'd say, just use the one that better contributes to what you're writing (e.g. longS at the beginning of words vs. ligatedS after "ligature-prone" letters or minusculeS after non-ligature prone letters).

Edited by txomsy
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