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Script Analysis - More investigation on density issues

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16 June 2007

Script Analysis - More investigation on density issues

I wanted to look more at my comment from a couple of posts ago :

"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.....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."

Before I did that, however, I had a quick look at something Yvianne said :

"(on relaxing). 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. Speedball nibs respond to very light pressure and have a tendency to splay out a little wider than the stated nib size."

So how much could a nib width marked on paper vary according to pressure exerted on the pen nib?

That's quite a difference! 3 mm between the heaviest pressure I could exert, and the lightest.
I used 'my normal pressure' and came up with something inbetween.

I thought there would be a difference, given differing pressure, but not that much!

Ok, so that's a factor.

You'd definitely want to measure a good range of 'broad' strokes when determining a pen width from a mss page.

Anyway. Onto looking at variations of x-height.

I had a look, a couple of posts ago, at x-height variations between 13.5 mm and 11.5 mm, and felt that as I got towards a smaller x-height, I was getting towards the denser letters.

So now I've taken it further - with even smaller x-heights.

Here is the same line of script, repeated at x-heights between 13 mm going down to 8.5 mm in 0.5 decrements.

What I did was go through each line and mark the letters with my 3mm nib angled at 45 degrees, trying to find the best fit for the nib.
And the stroke width matched the nib at around 9.5 mm or 1 cm.

This match would indicate that my x-height and nib width were finally in proportion according to the source script.

This is so way off the nib ladder, which indicated 13 or 13.5 mm.

I started to wonder if the pen angle I had selected (45 degrees) was incorrect. Crazy thought, but I was trying everything. It was the one other thing that could vary (pen width, x-height, pen angle).

I found two things, one of which makes sense, and the other not

* Checking the number of pen widths for the line of script I used, I found that it was actually 4.5 pen widths, not 5.

This doesn't suprise me. I found out ages ago that the ascender/descender and x-heights vary quite a bit between the lines on the one page (shown in

I've shown several different lines of script further below, and they vary between 4.5 and 5 pen widths. It just depends on which line you pick.

This, I can live with.

And a nib ladder with 4.5 pen widths at 45 degrees gives a 10 mm x-height, which fits my 3 mm nib. PERFECT! All in proportion. Yay!


* Pen nib ladders.

These creatures have become the bane of my life.

I've looked through Patricia Lovett's book, and all the ladders are shown with the little squares made by a pen at zero degrees, not the major angle of the hand.

But the lines drawn in the script aren't at zero degrees. The pen will be at an angle - 45 degrees for Gothic script. The x-height and the spacing between the letters is meant to be the same. But vertical lines (forming the letters, and the blank spaces between the letters) are skinnier than vertical lines drawn at zero degrees.

*stumbling block* *brain death*

So it all works out with a nib ladder with it's squares drawn at 45 degrees, to give an x-height of 10 mm, which gives stroke width on the original mss that match my 3 mm nib.

Which, apparently, is not how you are supposed to do nib ladders. *sigh*

I wonder if you can disregard the nib ladder using it only as an indication, and work with the actual script instead, as I have - to get the same density of script as shown in the original mss.


The next thought was - well, I've only been working with one line of the script and that came from the top of the page of the original mss. Michelle and Yvianne pointed out that the script increased in density further down the page.

So I had a look at other lines. I took out the first 3 lines, some from the middle, and the last line.

There's the variation between 4.5 and 5 pen widths.

I've marked all the letters up with my 3 mm nib, and they all fit nicely at 45 degrees.

So I'm happy, as long as I don't think about nib width ladders., or find out that you don't have to work from them.

Things I need to do :

* confirm the ascender/descender heights at this x-height. I'll do a quick check that they are 2 nib widths as I've found before. I haven't worked with single lines of blown up text like this before.

* quickly draw out the alphabet to check that it 'looks right' at this x-height

* I'll be able to closely compare the letter forms now I have the original letters in the same size that I'll be drawing them. So I guess it'll make sense to put together a 'source' alphabet, sized to 10 mm x-height so I can do the comparison. I've already got a lot of letters from the lines of script shown above, but not all of them.

* have a look back at what the x-height and nib width is in the original mss, remembering that I'm using a 3mm nib width pen simply so I get bigger letters and can see what I'm doing. The actual nib width is 1.4 mm - half the size.
This will also involve looking at the rest of the layout of the text block in terms of density.

george, from the SCA_S&I scribes wrote to me

"For me density is more of a Y axis thing, not X. (Y is width --- and X is height | ).

Look at the width between the vertical lines of each letter and the space between letters. In both cases, it's less than the width of the line itself. It looks to be about half a line wide in your pictures. Are you able to get that spacing correct? It's very hard mentally to think of such narrow spacing for our modern aesthetics. The space between words is closer to a whole line wide.

* draw out the alphabet using an x-height of 10 mm, adding notes as I go. Which was what I was doing before all this started.

* finish doing this script analysis rather soon! :-)

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