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Script Analysis - Float, Ascender and Descender Heights (Backhouse)

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30 October 2006

Script Analysis - Float, Ascender and Descender Heights (Backhouse)

This is the image from Backhouse's Illuminated Page, at the size of the actual manuscript :

By "drawn" baselines I mean the baselines already marked on the mss page in light brown.

I highlighted the drawn baselines in aqua blue, and then drew in the "real" baseline and the waistline (above and below the letters, since the script floats some distance above the existing baseline) in purple.
You'll need to click on the image above to see any of this.

Then I found a pen with a nib width of 2 mm. My Brause was very very close (maybe a tiny bit small).
I did a few nib ladders, and found the 4 of them fitted between each baseline and waistline, so fitting the x-height. (as per
So far so good.

Most of the lines of script are floating above the drawn baseline. Measuring, this was usually 3 mm. However, the lines of text above the historiated initial and the first line next to the initial dont't float but are attached to the drawn baseline. I've marked where the float begins on the page.
Regardless of float, the distance between each set of drawn baselines is 1.5 cm all the way down the page (ie the non-floaters have extra space between the invisible ascender line and the baseline of the line above, making up for the space between the actual and drawn baselines in the other lines)

I'll have to look at other pages of the mss to see what happens with them. I know that they have historiated initials placed at various distances down the page, so I'll see later if this non-floating happens in the same way near the initial each time.

I found that I didn't need to draw in ascender and descender lines. The tops and bottoms of the letters (such as b,d,f,g,l, etc) were hitting the drawn baselines above or below them respectively. So the descender line of one set of lines is the ascender line of the next set of lines, which is the drawn baseline.

I simplified things a bit when I said that letters were hitting the ascender/descender lines :-

I found that the letters that touch the ascender line (eg b,d,l, Long S, f ) they either
* just touched the ascender line, or
* finished just above them, or
* finished below them.
Also with the letters with verticals that touch the descender lines (eg p, q) they either
* just hit the descender line, or
* finished just below the descender line.

I *think* that the right approach is to pick one of these (just hitting the line, for example) and to be consistent.

I measured the distance from the waistline to the ascender line to be 3 mm, and
the distance from the baseline to the descender line to be 3 mm, on average. (variation of 0.5 mm, and up to 1 mm in one case).

I then had a look at the various letters. The Backhouse page has all of them except a W and I think I've just gone blind in finding one, since there must be some. I looked at all of the examples of each letter I could find.

A lot of the letters (a,c,e etc) sit nicely between the baseline and waistline. I've only commented of those to which this was an exception.

I'll refer to the situation that I described above where the ascending/descending vertical finishes at different places at or near the ascender/descender line as the "general case"

B : general case
D variation 1 : top left corner finished 2 mm above waistline
D variations 2 and 3 : top left corner finished 1.5 mm above waistline
F : crossbar 0.5 mm below waistline. Ascender height general case.
G. general case for the right most curving bottom corner, which is the bottom-most point
H : (now this is more interesting)
First vertical stroke (the leftmost) is general case.
The second vertical stroke (on the right) just crosses the baseline, with the curved bottom of it extending 1 mm below the baseline.
A hairline extends this vertical, and reaches to 1.5 mm BELOW the descender line
J : the vertical stroke extends to 1.5 mm below the baseline. The hairline extends to 1.5 mm BELOW the descender line, like the H.
L : general case
P : general case
Q : general case
S : The flourish on top of the S finishes 1 mm below the ascender line
Long S : general case
T : cross bar 0.5 mm below the waistline, same as the F (I'm used to it being on the waistline)
The top of the T finishes just 1 mm above the waistline.
X : Hairline right down to the next waistline
Y : Another interesting letter. The "v" part of the y forms a very acute triangle, with the point of it reaching down to only 0.5 mm above the descender line (when that point of the 'v' sits on the baseline). The hairline finishing the Y ends all the way down at the waistline of the next set of lines below.
Z : The bottom right most stroke finishes 1 mm above the descender line. The hairline extends the bottom of the Z 1 mm down beyond the descender line.

The next thing to do is to repeat all of the above using other pages from the mss, and compare.

I have already cut out examples of each letter from photocopies of the mss and pasted them onto a page even tho according to the Script Analysis Doc this isn't done for another couple of steps. (I was braindead and looking for something I could do)
By doing this, I discovered that there were 3 variations of the D (and 2 versions of the A). The variations of the D turned out to have different ascender measurements.
At the moment in the Script Analysis doc, it says to look at the variations in height of individual letters at this stage. I think it'd be better to look at just the ascender and descender heights (and the floating) at this stage, and delay looking at any special cases of letter height until each individual letter is being looked at. (Although I'll look at them on other pages of the mss since I've started doing it now)
Part of getting the script analysis doc right is working through it, of course.

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