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Script Analysis - Confusion

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11 June 2007

Script Analysis - Confusion

Yvianne has been incredibly kind in helping me recently, but I'm still confused. The problem is that the letters don't look 'dense' enough (too spread out)

I'll try and lay the problem (my confusion) all out.

* Firstly, just to show it done, here's a suggestion of Yvianne's. She checked it anyway, and it was correct, but here 'tis, just to establish that it is correct that the Bedford Psalter has an x-height of 5 nib widths, and an ascender/descender height of 2 nib widths.

."I lay a straight piece of paper on my exemplar and line it up horizontally with the middle of the letters, I mark the exact width of straight stroke and color between the marks I've made on the paper I adjust the paper and next to my dark space mark one stroke width and do not color this in. I repeat going from making a dark space to light space until I have a sufficient length of evenly spaced marks. Turn the guide vertical and use it to measure the height of the body of the letters, the ascenders & descenders." (Yvianne)

* The nib width I measured on the B.P. pages was 1.4 mm. I will be working, when I work to size, with a 1.5 nib, simply coz I can't get a left handed nib with a width of 1.4 mm. So my letters will took a little different in the end anyway.

But that's irrelevant for the moment.

At the moment, I want to work with a Speedball C-2 pen, with a width of 3 mm. I want the letters to be a bit bigger in these initial stages, so I can see what I'm doing!

Just to confirm that the C-2 is of 3 mm width, there's a nib width table at

and another one in the SCA_S&I Files, both of which confirm that it's 3 mm wide. (bear with me on why I checked this)

* I drew up a nib width ladder using my Speedball.

Here's what a nib ladder should look like (from Patricia Lovett's Calligraphy and Illumination book

When I measured the x-height produced by this nib ladder I found that it was 13 or 13.5 mm. I'm not quite sure which, after a lot of staring.

When I measure the x-height used on the graph paper (where the letters weren't dense enough) I found that the x-height was SMALLER at 12.5 mm. That means, by using the nib ladder to produce the x-height, I'm going to end up with even less dense letters, coz the x-height is greater.

And now I have collapsed in a small ball of confusion.

I'm not even going to ask why the x-height is not 5 multiplied by 3 mm = 15 mm, even if I'm not sure if I've got 13mm or 13.5 mm. *sigh* (that's why I confirmed the width of the Speedball. For awhile there I was thinking it was of 2.6 mm width or something. 13 mm divided by 5 = 2.6 mm)

Back to the density issue, - there are two dimensions to affect the density of the letters. Horizontally, this is the width of the nib in the strokes, and the counterspace of the letters, which is one nib width wide.
Vertically it's the x-height (and ascender/descender height where relevant).
The nib width is staying the same - I'm using the same pen.

So, to use the nib width ladder rather than the graph paper will give me letters than are even LESS dense, when I'm trying to go more for more dense letters.

About this point I was banging my head against the wall.

When I stopped, I thought that I'd have a look at how variance in the x-height affected the density of the letters.
Yvianne talked about this in one e-mail :

Now, that's interesting. A difference of only 0.5 mm in x-height can make a discernable difference in the appearance of the letters.

*I felt that heading towards a smaller x-height (the rightmost columns) gave me a denser letter. However, this was further away from the x-height given by the nib width ladder.

I went to the original text of the Bedford Psalter, and blew up some letters to give an x-height of 13 mm, so I could see what their proportions looked like.

I chose 13, rather than 12.5 or 13.5 or whatever, arbitrarily. I just wanted to compare the source letters with my letters at a particular x-height.

The line is crooked and some of the letters are cut off towards the right, unfortunately but what is shown is at 13 mm x-height.

Now, my column from the sheet above that shows 13 mm letters should look the same as these letters.

They don't.

The letters from the source mss look like they have thicker strokes.

What these means in practical terms, I just don't know. My brain has died, and stayed dead.

All and any help would be very much appreciated in why the letters look different.

Also in why my nib ladder is so tall. Is it incorrect? Or is it correct, but I need to go for a smaller x-height simply because I want to go for the dense aspect of the script? Even at 11.5 mm x-height, I don't reckon the letters look much like the script, but I just can't pick what the difference is.

In other words, where Yvianne said
" Yesterday when I looked at your ductus, my impression was that it looked less bold and dense than the tiny bit of exemplar you have posted. In looking at other pages in the same manuscript I found calligraphy that did match the slight variation but since it appeared that you were going for the heavier aspect of the hand I took a closer look to see if I could help you achieve that. >From experience, I know that one of the things that causes this is even just a slight overage in line spacing. I made a measuring guide like the one I describe above and checked your exemplar to see if the 5 nib widths you used were correct. You are absolutely dead on with that. :-) Having that knowledge allowed me to quickly deduce that while you had the correct number of spaces in your graphed ductus, it was the grid itself that didn't match up with your nib width. "

- ok the nib ladder measurements are different from the x-height given by using on graph paper, but they don't seem to be helping me at all. How do I get there in terms on density?

Here's the page of the Bedford Psalter that I'm working from :

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Blogger Michelle said...

I'm loving all that you are doing in dissecting this hand! There are a few things I have been thinking that might help you out a bit. Are you trying to apply modern calligraphy methods to a medieval calligraphy hand? I've been working on a different hand myself (although not as thouroughly as you are this one) and have found that the things that I learn to create good modern calligraphy (or perhaps late period calligraphy) don't always apply to a 12th century scribe. I think this is one of those times when you have to just sit with a handful of nibs and keep trying different letters until you get as close to that which you are trying to achieve. And remember that medieval letters were not written with a metal speedball nib, but either a quill or a reed pen, so there is going to be thickening of the letters after a time as the quill or reed soften some. This is going to cause a variation in the size of the stroke (which if you look through lines and lines of text you will eventually recognize and also be able to see where the pen is changed or re-cut.)

I have your blog on my reader as to keep up with your progress. You are inspiring me. I just wish I had the time to be able to be as indepth as you are. Meantime I will live vicariously through your work. :) Yay for you!

Monday, June 11, 2007  

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