Author Topic: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder  (Read 31314 times)

Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2014, 05:04:48 PM »
Hi Joy, I have heard about that theory and honestly I don't find it very convincing. It sounds overly complicated. The flourishes for sure needed some paper-turning (though also less than with a pointed pen) and were sometimes made "backwards" (away from the body), or from right to left. But the actual writing itself? Why would they do that, writing backwards etc.? Engraving was the method of reproduction for the writing master's work, not the end in itself. Imho.

I just read "The Golden Thread" by calligrapher and design professor Ewan Clayton, it is a story of writing in western culture. He devotes a whole chapter to the evolution of Roundhand and describes with a lot of historical sources how it developed from the Italic hands via the Dutch writing masters then in England to the English Roundhand. He describes (and shows in a historical picture) how the quill must be cut to make the typical elegant strokes and how these end naturally with a square foot (which when done with a flexible pointed pen must be generally retouched). If you are interested, I could look this up in more detail.

Also I have one of Bickham's smaller books here ("Penmanship made easy (Young Clerks Assistant)") where he describes also in detail how to cut the quill, how to hold it and so on. Nowhere he states something about that the letters should be written / drawn backwards or anything. This was a business script, after all – meant to be written with reasonable speed in an office!
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2014, 08:01:12 PM »
Fascinating discussion Stefanie! And Joy! I enjoy reading about the history but take it less to heart when in practice. Like I have said elsewhere, there are those who are very serious about their calligraphy ... I'm not one of those people. Serious in the sense it is very important to me and I would like to teach people in an earnest manner, yes. But not serious, in the sense, you could hand me a tool and I would work with it and not get too existential about it.

I love seeing the old flourishing. I often wondered why other animals weren't featured along with the birds and deer. My favorite is the unicorns!

However, I was referring to flourishing while doing calligraphy, not off-hand flourishing and I do think it is important to make that distinction.

While the old masters were certainly that, I don't think anyone would argue we should be giving beginners quills to begin their journey. I think the oblique holder v. straight holder argument is no different. But again, whatever works for the person doing the lettering.

Essentially, I was referring to the beginner calligraphy kits being sold all over America. And it is my thought those assembling the kits include a straight holder because they don't have formal training in pointed pen calligraphy. I could be 100% wrong about that. But it seems to me the majority of artists I see doing modern calligraphy are the ones using a straight holder. And of the many Copperplate or Spencerian calligraphers I know - almost all use an oblique holder (unless left handed).  I can think of only one or two exceptions. I have never taken a pointed pen class where the instructor recommended or used a straight holder. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, I just haven't encountered it. And I really don't think the modern calligraphy alphabet slant has anything to do with it.

Just a glance at the top American books on learning copperplate will support the use of an oblique holder. Mastering Copperplate by Eleanor Winters, The Technique of Copperplate Calligraphy by Gordon Turner, The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing, Calligraphy in 24 hours by Veiko Kespersaks (strange title!) - they all recommend an oblique holder or flanged nib. The Ames Compendium doesn't make mention but also teaches a right awkward pen grip as well.

The only text I saw teaching copperplate with a straight holder was Mastering the Art of Calligraphy - a british book and I'm sorry to bluntly say the copperplate exemplar is rough with rough edges along the thicks - a sure sign of bad pen angle. (However, this is a fantastic book with several other very well done calligraphy hands. I recommend it for the other exemplars and projects.)

Anyway, does this mean an oblique holder is the right way and a straight holder is wrong. Absolutely not. Does it mean gorgeous work can't come from a straight holder. Obviously not. It just means, experience seems to demonstrate an oblique holder is an easier method to learning and executing pointed pen calligraphy, IMHO.   :)

Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2014, 08:17:50 PM »
Oh, and I wanted to add, engraving was actually the sole intent, not a reproduction method of the master's hand calligraphy. From what I understand, it is actually the other way around. Copperplate actually derives its name from the copper plate printing process.

However, the engravers did copy handwriting styles and then added flourishes. So it started off as handwriting with a quill or pen and then the engravers took it from there. It was used in printing legal documents because it was hard to forge (falsely copy). Some of the more extravagant flourishing done with the engraving tool is near impossible to be reproduced using a pointed pen. The Germans took it to the highest level of perfection!

From what I have read Engraver's always had to work in reverse (because it is a print of a mirror image). So sometimes you can see texts where the letters are accidently reversed.
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2014, 08:30:36 PM »
Sorry, here I am saying I don't pay much attention to the history and then I go on and on...

Anyway, I wanted to add... Spencerian started off as business hand writing and then with the invention of the oblique pen holder, evolved into Ornamental Script. Business Script came after Spencerian and was done with a straight holder.

« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 12:16:38 AM by Erica McPhee »
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2014, 12:43:44 AM »
I went back and studied some of that ornamental work. Studying some of the cadells and flourishes, I just can't fathom someone was able to create those with one pen stroke! And the balance of even flourishing on both left and right. It is truly astonishing.

Does anyone know if there are any master penmen/women today that can achieve this type of flourishing?
Truly, Erica
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #20 on: January 22, 2014, 01:36:50 AM »
Ah!   I'm going off to work right now, and just seeing all of this interesting conversation being carried forward!  I don't have time to say much right now, only that this time, there really was a misunderstanding about what I meant with the backwards writing.  I just meant that engraving was written backwards. It was engraved backwards on a plate.  Simply that when it came to reproducing the quillwork, the engraver would've had an easy time of it with a straight tool (Here I'm talking about the engraving tool, not the quill), not needing to turn or twist the plate in any direction, or his wrist either.  In no way do I mean that the calligraphers were writing backwards.  ;D. LOL.

http://www.bromptonprint.co.uk/page8.htm

Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2014, 01:45:32 AM »
From what I understand, it is actually the other way around. Copperplate actually derives its name from the copper plate printing process.

Yes, and roundhand and copperplate are used almost interchangeably, but they aren't exactly the same thing.   The script style known as copperplate, really is a little more oblique, and a little more jaunty than roundhand, as it is shown in Bickham's "The Universal Penman".

Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2014, 04:17:00 AM »
Hi Erica, and Joy, thanks for this ongoing very interesting discussion! Which turned in several discussions about some quite different things, and I will try not to confuse them. I would love to write more now but I also need to get to work …

Just in short:

1) I totally agree with that the oblique holder is a fantastic tool to write Copperplate and similar hands! Regardless of how it might have been written in the past.

2) Flourishing, off-hand and with calligraphy - big difference, agreed! Would maybe be worthy of a single thread ;)

3) Beginner calligraphy kits. Can't say much about that, sounds convincing what you write, Erica!

4) Still don't buy though the "Engraver's invented Copperplate Calligraphy" theory. Copperplate engraving was used years before "The Universal Penman" - I have shown one example above, could look up more … and it was used for very different hands like various Kurrent Hands, Italic (Humanistische Kursive, as we call it here, or Cancellaresca in Italy), Gothic hands etc..

Another great example is the famous "Spieghel der Schryfkonste" by Van de Velde:

http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/358328?rpp=20&pg=1&ao=on&ft=velde&pos=10

Of course in the event of reproducing the quill pen strokes they were certainly a bit "optimized" like we smooth out a line in Photoshop, but the original writing was for sure fast and done with a quill.

I am also certain that the original off-hand flourishing was done with a quill and also optimised by the engraver, not only added. I could be wrong about this, but there is a lot of historical evidence to suggest that! The name Copperplate for this hand is imho a quite late one and even not universally used. In Germany we call it "Englische Schreibschrift" (English Handwriting) or even "Anglaise" like in France. Nothing here refers to the engraving process.

I really don't have time now to go on about this … sorry. Don't get me wrong, I don't claim universal truth about this, just am convinced that the arguments supporting my conviction about this are sound.

6) Yes, this ornamental work is astonishing … don't know anybody who does this today. I guess what we see today from the past is the best of the best, and these writing masters did not much else, what I mean they were full-time scribes probably starting from a very young age. Also these books were advertising!! So they wanted to show the best they could provide, competition must have been high.

7) Joy, I am really glad that was a misunderstanding ;)

Number eight (get strange smiley with the number)) But again, about the various styles in the "Universal penman" - among them Round, Round-Text, Italian etc., none of them was called Copperplate. Or did you mean that the script in the "Penman" isn't called Copperplate? I am again not sure if I understood that right.

So, I need to get to work now!
Stefanie :: Website :: Blog :: Instagram

Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2014, 08:17:38 AM »

4) Still don't buy though the "Engraver's invented Copperplate Calligraphy" theory. Copperplate engraving was used years before "The Universal Penman" - I have shown one example above, could look up more … and it was used for very different hands like various Kurrent Hands, Italic (Humanistische Kursive, as we call it here, or Cancellaresca in Italy), Gothic hands etc..

Another great example is the famous "Spieghel der Schryfkonste" by Van de Velde:

http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/358328?rpp=20&pg=1&ao=on&ft=velde&pos=10

Of course in the event of reproducing the quill pen strokes they were certainly a bit "optimized" like we smooth out a line in Photoshop, but the original writing was for sure fast and done with a quill.

Voilà here, I think, is the misunderstanding still going...  I don't think anybody is saying that engravers invented "copperplate".  Of course the reproduction of engraving Roundhand onto a copper plate and then printing, pre-dates the term "copperplate calligraphy". 

It makes more sense to see how the terms get muddled when we take for granted that we're talking about all pointed pen styles!  In fact English Roundhand is not a pointed pen style at all-- it was written with a thin and flexible, but squared-off quill. 

The look of the script changed and evolved over many many years, especially also when pointed tips began to be used.  The term "Copperplate script" used to refer to the calligraphy itself (and not simply the reproduction method) was not used until the 1930s!! By then it appeared in a compendium called "The English Writing-Masters and Their Copy-Books 1570-1800".  So already it has to be clear-- there is a lot of change an evolution which happened during those years. 

Over time the look of the script changed quite a lot.    Because of the smoothing "photoshop" effects that were possible through the engraving process (like you mentioned, Estefa), and the adoption of pointed pens, and many other style changes along the way, there actually developed a style of script which tried to emulate those perfect engravings.  The script was definitely based on English Roundhand, but featured a more elliptical oval work with enough difference in terms of slant and high ligatures (which kind of spring up quickly and more steeply) , that these styles began to be called "Engraver's Script" and "Engrosser's Script", both also called "Copperplate Script".

Unlike Roundhand, they were definitely not a handwriting style, written swiftly.  They are formed very slowly and carefully.  The progenitor hand for Engrosser's, Engraver's, and Copperplate script IS Roundhand, which confusingly is also called "Copperplate"...  though it wasn't called that at all in its own day.  This gets confusing, right?  This is why sometimes the term "copperplate calligraphy" is avoided altogether.  It is simply easier to speak about English Roundhand and Engrosser's or Engraver's scripts to be different things completely.  Or just accept that they can both be called Copperplate, but it will make conversations like this one a bit muddled! 


Hopefully it's clear that when people say "Copperplate Script", they are not always talking about the same thing!  This history of this script begins with English Roundhand --> Gets engraved onto "Copper Plates" --> Begins to inspire calligraphers by the perfection of the engraving process --> Influences changes to the script as its written on the paper --> Brings about an innovation in the style and the type of quill point --> Begins to be called "Copperplate Script" in its own right.  Equally called Engraver's and Engrosser's Script. 

And again, there's another video of Paul Antonio talking about these details somewhere on Vimeo.  He explains it all from the Historical perspective as well, and he makes sure to be precise about just what an imprecise term "copperplate script" is, though he does use it himself (to talk about Roundhand).  And he does write Roundhand with a squared-off quill sometimes, but otherwise he modifies the style and writes with a pointed pen.  So everything is always being adapted!   

Whew...  But oh my gosh, it is all so interesting. 

Oh, one more thing-- here are two examples of "Copperplate" lettering-- the first is English Roundhand (here written with the squared-off tip), and the second is Engrosser's Script (written with a pointed pen). 

What is taught these days as Copperplate usually more closely resembles Engrosser's than Roundhand, because of the way the ligatures sit on the baseline.  Roundhand is, effectively, more "round".  The spacing between the letters is different.  Engrosser's script looks like it's sucking in its belly, by contrast!  And incidentally, this style is more what leads into Spencerian and other rapid business scripts, later, which favor the steep ligatures.

I really appreciate your attention to details, Estefa!  It's so cool to be able to geek-out about this technical, historical stuff.  :D

« Last Edit: January 22, 2014, 08:27:14 AM by FrenchBlue Joy »

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2014, 11:10:06 AM »
You have both very eloquently explained what I was trying to say in very layman terms.

Stefanie what you say here: "Still don't buy though the "Engraver's invented Copperplate Calligraphy" theory. Copperplate engraving was used years before "The Universal Penman" - I have shown one example above, could look up more … and it was used for very different hands like various Kurrent Hands, Italic (Humanistische Kursive, as we call it here, or Cancellaresca in Italy), Gothic hands etc."

is exactly what I am saying (although I expressed it rather poorly). The Engravers didn't invent copperplate calligraphy. They were engraving with various hands as both you and Joy mention. But it is because of their engravings on copper plates that it came to generalized as "Copperplate."

Joy, this says it in a nutshell: " This history of this script begins with English Roundhand --> Gets engraved onto "Copper Plates" --> Begins to inspire calligraphers by the perfection of the engraving process --> Influences changes to the script as its written on the paper --> Brings about an innovation in the style and the type of quill point --> Begins to be called "Copperplate Script" in its own right. "

However, you can see why I don't get involved in the historical issues of calligraphy. While I find it fascinating, I don't have the finesse to be offended by the use of the term Copperplate to generally describe Engrosser's Script, Engraver's Script, or Roundhand. The distinction in modern time and to the masses is confusing and drives a divide. Two things I try to avoid at all costs.
Truly, Erica
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Offline FrenchBlue Joy

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2014, 12:24:29 PM »

However, you can see why I don't get involved in the historical issues of calligraphy. While I find it fascinating, I don't have the finesse to be offended by the use of the term Copperplate to generally describe Engrosser's Script, Engraver's Script, or Roundhand. The distinction in modern time and to the masses is confusing and drives a divide. Two things I try to avoid at all costs.

:)  I don't think much finesse is required to be defensive and offended about this kind of stuff!  Rather the opposite.  You make a very good point--  a divide is quite easy to create, if it's not clear how terms are being used.  Insofar as terminology is clear, the history can be really interesting and edifying.  It's important to look at history as a continuum, though.  Nothing is black and white, East and West, Old World and New World.  The flow of ideas and technique and inspiration does not run in only one direction. 

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #26 on: January 22, 2014, 12:37:24 PM »
Good points as always Joy! I used the wrong word. Perhaps "sophistication" would be a better choice!  :D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video
« Reply #27 on: January 23, 2014, 05:01:48 AM »
I am really sorry, it seems I misread this a bit, again - most of what I wrote in my last post was about this one phrase from you, Erica:

Oh, and I wanted to add, engraving was actually the sole intent, not a reproduction method of the master's hand calligraphy. From what I understand, it is actually the other way around. Copperplate actually derives its name from the copper plate printing process.

I thought you were refering to the "Copperplate myth", as explained here under "Contemporary resurgence".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_calligraphy

Again, sorry. It seems we all more or less agree here about the story of our beloved script ;). You both clarified a lot of points that I only touched on the surface.

And yes, I am aware that Engrosser's / Engraver's is really a variant of pointed pen style (to call it that carefully …) that is indeed more drawn than written (and directly related to engraved exemplars). I guess what most of us today do (or learn) is a mixture, stylistically. I also think these terms / labels are quite confusing, also the "Copperplate" in Eleanor Winter's book for example is different from that in other theaching material, and so on … and many of them claim to possess the "right" Copperplate look – hmm. Maybe the writing really is much more important than the labels!

I wholeheartedly agree that it is not worth to really "fight" about all this! Especially on the internet, where you can't answer at once, can't see the faces of the people you are having a conversation with – I have seen discussions take a real nasty term in some forums, which is why up until now I nearly never posted in any. I think this can become unnecessarily hurtful. Which is why I like this forum so much – it resonates with a friendly, welcoming key tone (can you say that? It is a german expression maybe).

I just downloaded some time ago from Iampeth "The Madarasz Book":

http://www.iampeth.com/books/madarasz_book/madarasz_page69.html

Here Mr. Madarasz explains in the last few pages how he writes his stunning, dramatic version of roundhand (with speed! Nothing slow here). He doesn't seem to be a big fan of Engraver's although I think his style very much looks like it!! And it's really funny to read – but I guess you know it already. What I also find so strange and amusing is that what we think of today as a quite romatic, feminine style which to a huge extent is used for weddings was supposed to be the ideal script for INSURANCE POLICIES! (I know that especially Mr. Madarasz style is not very "romantic" – I am speaking here again more generally of Copperplate-ish pointed pen styles ;))
Stefanie :: Website :: Blog :: Instagram

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #28 on: January 23, 2014, 08:50:07 AM »
I *loathe* Wikipedia. (Just FYI).  ;D

Sorry, off topic! I love your posts, Stefanie. So full of information. And how ironic is that about the calligraphy for insurance policies we now use for wedding invitations!

I remember "watching" some rather serious penmen go round and round about the history of calligraphy, script variants, etc. with some really mean comments thrown in along the way. Just a turn off to me. I love lettering and to me, it soured the experience.

So we all agree! It's all good!  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Estefa

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Re: Paul Antonio video - Oblique v. straight holder
« Reply #29 on: January 23, 2014, 09:25:44 AM »
I *loathe* Wikipedia. (Just FYI).  ;D

Ups – couldn't know that – and I know that it is not a totally reliable source … just this time I thought it sort of summed up nicely what I had read elsewhere ;)

Sorry, off topic! I love your posts, Stefanie. So full of information. And how ironic is that about the calligraphy for insurance policies we now use for wedding invitations!

Thank you!! I love yours too. I admire that you have such an easy approach to calligraphy (I mean that in a positive way). I tend to read too much (who would have guessed that) about what I do, generally, and so sometimes forget to really work on my lettering, and it can be hindering to see too much, or to have too much theoretical ballast.

I remember "watching" some rather serious penmen go round and round about the history of calligraphy, script variants, etc. with some really mean comments thrown in along the way. Just a turn off to me. I love lettering and to me, it soured the experience.

I know what you mean - that sounds similar to the debate I read. Totally not pleasent.

So we all agree! It's all good!  ;D

;)
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