Author Topic: “Learn American Calligraphy: The Complete Book of Lettering, History, and Design  (Read 620 times)

Offline Erica McPhee

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Learn American Calligraphy: The Complete Book of Lettering, History, and Design
by Margaret Shepherd

Anyone who started calligraphy back in the 1980s and 90s will certainly be familiar with calligrapher Margaret Shepherd. Her books were some of the only ones on the library shelves and she introduced many, many learners to Italic, Gothic, and Celtic hands to name just a few. Lucky for us, Margaret has just released a new book called Learn American Calligraphy - an eclectic mix of the history of calligraphy and lettering in America, exemplars, and instruction. It is delightfully different than most calligraphy books with a unique and fascinating perspective on the history of calligraphy in America.

She begins with an enthralling account of lettering from the first Native Americans, including a Cherokee alphabet or Syllabary with guidelines. Pictures show letters, symbols, and artwork of the Lakota tribes, Southwestern Mogollon people, Apache, Pacific Northwestern Native American artists and others. Next is the story of how Gothic made its way from Spain with the conquistadores in Christian scriptures and imperial decrees to the West Coast of the Americas in the early 1530s and its five revivals throughout the centuries. An honest assessment of the deterioration of Gothic’s letterforms by the mid 1800s and into the next century, is absolutely fascinating in its tale of Gothic’s journey and experience between east and west coasts of America. Even more colorful is how Gothic metamorphosed into Goth in yet another revival, exemplified by the Monster logo of this generation’s popular energy drinks.

Jumping forward to modern day, the section on American Graffiti covers three main categories, thick and thin; variable monoline; and outlined. It includes three really fun, energetic hands to inspire the ambitious lettering artist. The more traditional hands of Copperplate, Spencerian, Palmer, Cursive, and Italic follow with a delicate and lovely Copperlate exemplar as well as exemplars for Spencerian, Palmer, Manuscript (ball and stick), and Italic. (Guidelines are included as well.) While brief in narrative, it gives just enough to understand how these hands moved us through history and does so in a familiar yet engaging way.

Margaret offers in depth first aid for improving your handwriting and a passionate, informative treatise on ten reasons handwriting still matters. (Hear, hear!) A short section on the lettering used for embroidery, quilting, mosaics, weaving, and other American crafts offers endearing insight into how Americans have used lettering in ways not usually given much attention.

The Roman Capitals revival begins with Arts & Crafts, Art Noveau, and Art Deco exemplars. A delicious monoline exemplar called “Prairie School” offers a fun, simple alphabet that can be used in so many different projects. Several other distinctive and interesting hands are included as well and then Fraktur, block letters, and a plethora of other really fun, relevant lettering styles.

Not only are there many new styles to learn, but fascinating tidbits and history which tantalize you to read more. This is a truly charming book that will keep you coming back to read, study, and practice from over and over.
Warm Regards,
Lettering & Design Artist
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Offline AnasaziWrites

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I'll look into it.