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Script Analysis - List of Questions

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14 October 2006

Script Analysis - List of Questions

My practise at the moment consists of writing out the Gods With Snow quote out once, practising the spacing without making any marks to help me, and then I'm just starting the script analysis of the Bedford Hours.
I have questions from several different sources and was going a bit crazy in the last two practises trying to order them in my head, so I've ordered them out in a document.

This is draft only. The source of each question is noted in the footnotes.
I haven't done speed of the hand or suitable intent of the script yet. Probably some other stuff I've missed. Feel free to point out any mistakes or anything that is missing. I'd appreciate it.

I feel a bit funny writing something else up when I still have to re-write the Highlighting and Shading paper in terms of visual and physical blending, but I need this information in order to keep going in my practise, and I could do with a break before re-writing the H&S paper .....


Script Analysis - draft - a complete mess at the moment

I've received lots of wonderful comments from Kit, Meisterin Katarina Helene and Robert of Stonemarche and am in the midst of re-working this post. If you are interesting in taking a copy, it probably is better if you wait for a week - I have heaps of things I want to change, and some things got changed quickly yesterday during a phone call - and I've got a few temporary markers in here as well ...... a published working document. :-)

Before starting, determine whether the page of text you are studying is the same size as the original manuscript and if not, adjust the calculations accordingly. You will need to know how much at least one reproduction has been re-sized by, or have a reproduction at the original size, in order to determine the correct measurements.

Several different pages would be ideal, in an attempt to garner examples of all letters of the alphabet. You only need to know the re-sizing percentage of one of them.

The analysis of majuscules and other ‘higher order’ letters that appear in manuscripts are covered in the excellent paper “Analyzing a Style” authored by Mistress Rowan Perigrynne of the Lochac College of Scribes. (see the end for a complete reference). This paper also takes you through an analysis of the illumination on a manuscript page.

The Sheila Waters paper "Analyzing Letterforms and Practicing Effectively" is also excellent. It forms a chapter in her new book Foundations of Calligraphy as well as being in Letter Arts Review magazine.

I refer to Mark Drogin's "Medieval Calligraphy - It's History and Technique" for some paleographical rules - such as when special forms of letters are used. It would be a hard to determine those sort of rules just by looking at a couple of pages of the manuscript. David Harris' Art of Calligraphy and Patricia Lovett's "Calligraphy and Illumination" are also excellent for these purposes.

Considering miniscule letters only below….

***** means something to be worked on. There is also missing information not yet in here.

Text Layout

How many lines per page? 1

How many words, on average, per line? 2

How long is each line, measured using a page of the mss at it's real size? 2

Are there guidelines shown on the page? Which ones? 2 Guidelines are lines marking any or all of the following : baseline, waistline, cap line, ascender line or descender line – definition provided in Folsom

If there are baselines, is the text floating above the base line, or sitting upon it? 2 A basline is writing line, real or imagined, on which the body of the writing sits – definition provided in Folsom

Any mark of the pricked holes on the side of the page may provide a guide to the lines rules if the lines aren't there.

If it is floating above the guidelines, by how much? Record in millimetres/inches and then convert to proportions of nib width later when the nib width has been discovered 2

What is the height (or depth) of the block of script, measured using a page of the mss at it's real size?


How many columns per page 1

How many words, on average, per column 2

Is there a line or border between the columns?

If so, describe it.

How wide is the space between the columns? Record in millimetres/inches and convert to nib widths later when the nib width has been discovered. Ensure it is measured using a page of the mss at it's real size 1,2,5

Word and Line Layout

Are there line-fillers? 1

Describe them :

Do words finish at the end of lines, or wrap around to the next line? 1

Are hyphens used if the words wrap around?

What do they look like? 1

Pen Nib Width

Using a page of the mss reproduced at the real size of the mss for all of this section :-

What is the size of the pen width in millimetres/inches? (measure from a broad stroke of the O). This is handy to know when ruling up a page... 2 Need to think about this more ****

How many pen widths are there between the baseline and waistline?3,4
(This should be the same as the number of pen widths of the height of the O)
This is the x-height.

Select a pen with the appropriate nib width, and check your measurement by drawing a nib ladder on the reproduction of the mss page

How many pen widths are there between each of the baselines of the text, disregarding ascenders and descenders? What is this distance in mm/inches?1,3,4

What is the ascender height in pen widths and mm/inches?1,3,4

What is the descender height in pen widths and mm/inches?1,3,4

It may be that the x-height, ascender and descender heights frequently vary by a couple of millimetres on the page being inspected because the page was ruled by hand, and also because the original scribes made mistakes as well. Take the most common measurements.

Checking the guideline measurements :

Taking the most common x-height, ascender height and descender height measured, rule out a sheet of guidelines with as many lines as counted on the original page of the mss. (This is where the measuremens in mm/inches come in useful).

The measurement between each baseline can be used to provide a rough check of the accuracy of the drawn lines.

You now have a set of guidelines that will help you practise script in the same dimensions, and construct a page using the same measurements, as the script in the original mss.

Making a ductus to use to note letter construction

Take photocopies of several pages of the manuscript and cut out at least one clear example of each letter.

Paste onto a sheet along straight lines and rule in the guidelines that you measured above (a baseline, waistline, ascender and descender heights). You might need to rule the lines individually for the letters, if it’s hard to stick the letters down exactly in place.

Make a note of the x height, ascender and descender heights somewhere on the ductus.

Make notes against the letters that have different ascender/descender heights (such as F, Long S, D and T) on the ductus..1,2

Are there any other special cases where a letter unexpectedly crosses a waistline or baseline? (For example, sometimes the H has a long last stroke, extending past the baseline) 2

Measuring the angles of the strokes

Extend the angles of the entry and exit strokes of each of the letters, most importantly the O, to the nearest part of the baseline or waistline. You can mark the extensions of the strokes on tracing paper placed over the ductus rather than marking up the ductus itself. 3

Measure the angle of each line using a protractor or Katarina Helene's Analysing Guide which has the advantage of the lines coming right up to the edge

(Click on it to enlarge and then print – Meisterin Katarina Helene has given her permission)

Look for any steepened or flattened angles, and any changes of angle designed to counteract inconsistencies of weight in the letter’s construction. 3 **********************

Make notes of any of these cases on the ductus

What is the dominant (most common) angle? ?3,4

This is pen angle of the script.

Make a note on the ductus

What are any variations of the pen angle, and in which letters?
(for example a Z often has strokes with the pen at an angle of zero or 10 degrees)?2

Make a note of any of these cases on the ductus, including a note of the different angle

Is the script a branching or foundational hand? Branching hands (like Italic and Batarde) are ones where the branch of the letter (b, h, n, r) is basically a continuation of the down stroke... in other words, the pen is NOT fully lifted off to make them. Constructed hands (like Carolingian, Humanist, Foundational) are ones where the pen is lifted off the down stroke and replaced at the top of that vertical and then the next part of the letter formed.4

At what angle do branches spring from stems of letters?3,4

At what point of the stem do these branches spring and is it consistent?2

Make notes as necessary on the ductus

Letter Width

Use the pen ladder on the card to measure the width of a N. Compare this width against the width of other letters. Widths of letters in variant scripts may differ from the widths used in the ‘standardized’ script of that type.

If the width of the same letter varies within the source examples, which is the most common width, or which width looks the best to you?

Make notes on the ductus as appropriate. You should now know the proportions of each letter – the height and the width.


Look at the negative spaces within the letters (the counterspaces). Become aware of the shapes that are formed. “Become conscious of what each corner of the nib is “drawing” by looking at the corner nearer to the inside counter, while forming each letter. This encourages greater awareness of negative shapes. If these are correct, the black lines will also be correct”

Letter and Word Spacing

Use the nib width ladder to find the spacing between the letters in a word. 3,4

What is it?

Does it vary, and when?

(Not including ligatures, which are covered below)

What is the space between the words in nib widths?

Details of the Letters

What alternative forms of letters exist (for example R, half R, S, Long S, )

What are the rules for their use? For example, in Gothic scripts, half R is used after certain letters. (Drogin et al will have this answer for scripts of a similar form of the period)

Ensure that these forms are included on the ductus, including any notes on letter height, strokes at an angle other than the dominant pen angle,

Are there particular letter forms used at the end of a line? For example, in Uncial, e with a long centre stroke was used at the end of a line. (Drogin et al will have this answer for scripts of a similar form of the period)

Include examples on the ductus if possible.

Are there any other forms of letters for particular linguistic situations? For example, double S or double F?

Include an example on the ductus

Are there any letters from A...Z that weren't used in the period of the script (eg K, J, Q)? 2

Is there an ampersand or et-ligature used?2

Include an example on the ductus

Do the letters have serifs? What do they look like?3,4
The Calligrapher's Dictionary page 111 has an illustrated list of the different serif types.

How might the serifs be formed using the pen (Drogin et al will provide help on this)2

Are the strokes a consistent width? For example, in Roman Rustic script, verticals were formed with a thicker base by twisting the pen as the pen travelled downwards 7

In the case of Gothic Textura Quadrata script (and maybe others ***), are the stems (verticals) of the letters directly below the diamonds/quadrants on the top and bottom, or offset slightly to one side? 7

Are the ends of ascenders/descenders fishtailed, dipped or have some other particular finishing feature?2 Picture *****

Are there hairlines? Flourishes? Consistent or ‘freehand’ ? On which letters? 2

Is the pen angle ever manipulated (d)? How, and in which letters?3,4 (d) Pen Manipulation is the varying of the pen angle or pressure while making a stroke or letter. This can also include using only a corner or one half of the nib. Definition provided in the Calligrapher’s Dictionary, Rose Folsom

(need to expand on this *****)

Is there any letter construction that consists of compound strokes?
Compound letters are letters like versals or Roman letters – components of the letter built up of multiple lines. For example, built up diamonds/quadrants on the stems of letters in Gothic Textura Quadrata script2,4

Are there any other 'distinctive features' of the letters? 2

" Some hands use variations of letters to better fit ascenders &
descenders into a shared space, to get more letters on a single
line, to even out a right margin or for added decoration. Some
hands also have slight variants of letters used in ligatures and
they pop up occasionally as single letters (probably because the
scribe lost focus). Those all make sense but for when random
letter variations where there is no apparent reason .... I've
heard some theorize that it was because the scribes were using
minor mistakes to protest what they were writing. I'd have to
agree that secular scribes could have done that. I hesitate when
it comes to thinking that a religious cleric who was copying the
letters but didn't have a clue about what he was writing, would
purposely alter the gospel as a form of protest. My guess is the
scribe was copying the manuscript letter by letter and copied not
only the letter but the hand used on the original piece."

"The density or heaviness of a hand is easier to see in whole words, lines or passages. It's really hard to see in individual letters. It has to do with the white space within a letter as well as the space between letters.... and it is all relative to the width of your pen strokes. The term we use around here to describe the opposite of heavy is wispy. That's when there is too much white space."

" relax. I was referring to the
amount of pressure your hand has on the pen. It can play a great
deal into how the calligraphy appears on the page. A heavy hand
(regardless of the reason, be it pain, confidence, rushed, watery
ink, ...etc) can cause your strokes to be wider than the size
printed on your nib. A feather light touch OTOH may not allow
enough ink to reach the tip of the nib so it cannot spread out
the full width of it... this would produce a thinner stroke.

That's why I recommended not going strictly by measurements but
by the look of the hand you're producing. "

Maitresse Yvianne de Castel d'Avignon, OL.

The Ductus

What is the stroke sequence for forming each letter? (Where do the pen lifts occur?) 3,4

What is the direction of each stroke? (Normally left to right, top to bottom with minimum backtracking)3

What about the thin strokes? 3 Fix this ****

Mark the ductus up with the stroke sequence and direction of each letter 2

Do strokes overlap with the strokes with which they join?3,4 At what point and angles, (if not already described in the question on branching strokes) and by how much?

Make notes as necessary on the ductus.

Are there ligatures used - this will depend on the period the script is from. For example, DE, DO, DA sharing a central stem.2
Mark Drogin et al will give the rules for the letters for the standard scripts of the same period.

What punctuation is used? 2

Include examples on the ductus

Are there any changes you would make to the layout of the text, the word or letter spacing, or any details of the letters themselves in order to improve legibility to the modern eye?2,6

Sources :

1 “Analysing a Style”, Mistress Rowan Perigrynne, Lochac College of Scribes

2 Elmsley Rose

3 Sheila Waters, “” – Foundations of Calligraphy article series, Part 10, Letter Arts Review - Volume 14, Number 4


Foundations of Calligraphy (book) at John Neal's Bookstore

4 Meisterin Katarina Helene von Schönborn, OL, email to Elmsley Rose

5 Kit M.

6 Robert of Stonemarche

7 Drogin, Marc, “Medieval Calligraphy – It’s History and Technique”, Dover, U.S.A., 1980

8 Johnston, Edward, “Writing and Lettering and Illuminating”, Pitman House Ltd, 1906


Folsom, Rose - The Calligrapher's Dictionary, Thames and Hudson 1990

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Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

Go on guys - somebody say something! Already 27 hits and I'm feeling all lonely

Monday, October 16, 2006  
Anonymous Beard5(Robert of Stonemarche) said...

Good write up. I've been doing something similar with different hands, most recently Roman Rustic.

You might want to add a section for spacing between letters and words. In Roman Rustic, for example, the model I used had a little less than one nib width between letters, and no spacing between words (textura continua(sp?))

I also checked the nib width of each letter. for example, I was 1 nib width wide, L was 2 widths. A, was 4 etc.

I loved your write up of Textura Quadrata, realizing that the spacing was of the vertical lines, not the diamonds on top/bottom has made a huge difference in how I'm doing the Psalms project.

Monday, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

oh, mega cool! That you wrote, and that my mumblings have helped you!

Did you mean something in addition to
"What is the proportion of the counterspace of the letters to the pen width? Does this ever vary?"

"What is the proportion of the spacing between words to the pen width?3,4"
in the section "Letter and Word Spacing". ?

I could put in a "What is the proportion of counter space to inter-letter spacing" to compare the two, since I've just asked those two questions, but if that info is needed, the two figures are already there.
Or did you mean someting else?

Thankyou so much

Monday, October 16, 2006  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

oh, also - I'll put in something more on nib widths of individual letters.
I've got "look for steepened angles.. thick diagonals.. changles of angles.." under "The Width of the Pen Nib Used". They would also come under "Compound Letters" in the next section .... but the issue could be expanded - especially if some of the scripts are that sneaky and variable as the Roman Rustic you mention
I have done other scripts, but have been in Gothic Textura Quad mode for so long it's hard to think of other scripts and their perculiarities

Monday, October 16, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is wonderful to see so well compiled online and looks very much like a list I have been putting together myself but with far more 'elegant and correct' language.

I love marking up old manuscripts *cough* oh, I should say Photocopies huh *grin* and finding all the peculiarities and then recreating them. What a thrill. Glad to be among others who are doing the same, with much greater proficiency and dedication than I. You are an inspiration! Bravo.

Jennifer Trethewy
Kingdom of Atenveldt

Tuesday, October 17, 2006  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

Jennifer Trethewy

Wow! What a sweetie! *puuuuuuurrrr*

Do you have any questions you could add to my list? (You'll get to be superscript number 5!)

It's not me being elegant. I'm only superscript 2. All the rest are copies. So Katarina Helene and Sheila Waters are elegant too!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

Robert of Stonemarche,

Having read a bit of your LJ, I'm sure you'll appreciate what I got when I googled on "textura continua".

"A Technique to Measure Firmness in Potato Tissue during Frying"

second entry listed.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006  
Anonymous Beard5(Robert of Stonemarche) said...

Oh, that's good, potato texture...I probably mangled a spelling or two, it might be textua continua, continuo, something like that.

I have a number of different calligraphy books scattered around here. The one that I'm using most, right now, is "The historical Source Book for Scribes" by Michelle P Brown. Where they do a lot of the text analysis for me. They check the verticals and pen angle and that kind of thing. What they *don't* do, though, is say how *wide* each letter is, and what the spacing is between letters.

I'm not so much worried about spacing within a letter, ("O" for example) because if I have how wide the letter as a whole is, and how tall, in pen nibs, then the inside will take care of itself. The spacing between letters, generally, is one nib width, except for the uncials, which varied considerably.

What I found works well for the uncial family is drawing circles that fill the text space(except for m, w, and sometimes n)and if I draw each letter within those circles, the spacing looks remarkably good. Spacing between words seemed to be one letter (circle) width. more or less. (exceptions, of course, abound)

But for how to check the nib width, simply mark on a card the nib widths that you use for analyzing height, and turn it on its side. I then recorded each letter that I could find in the example I was using. and then marked it on the practice sheet. It worked very well for Roman Rustic, I'll be doing the same, soon, for Anglo-Saxon miniscule (icky project coming soon)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006  
Anonymous Beard5(Robert of Stonemarche) said...

Oh, I meant to mention, on Roman Rustic...I have nothing to back this up, except for a feeling. But, I think the original examples were written with a brush, and the thickened bases were an effect of pushing down to end the stroke and then sweeping into the serif.

An alternate way to get a similar effect with pen, is to apply a little more pressure at the base of the stroke, it should "blob" out a little more ink. It seems to work mostly well. is my first scroll in Roman Rustic. The border design is Byzantine. The text block should be narrower than it is, however, I got more text for the scroll than I wanted, and the wordsmith was adamant that no word be omitted.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006  
Blogger Elmsley Rose said...

Robert of Stonemarch :

Drogin says the thickened bases were formed coz of a pen rotation while forming the veritcal.
"...then pull downwards while twisting the point clockwise to end with it at from 60 degrees to 45 degrees..horizontal strokes and curved strokes are made with the point at 45 degrees"
Just looked this up - don't know Rustic myself - is that your answer (sorry it doesn't match your theory)

Shall add a note in my list :-)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006  

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