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Messages - sybillevz

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Ooh, I should come her more often, this conversation is interesting @AAAndrew !

I'm not sure I can add anything to what you've both said already, though.
The French texts sometimes use the term oblique which is one of the appropriate words to describe this in French, so I never really paid attention to it. It just never occured to me that "oblique" might not have been the first word that comes to mind in English to describe this kind of cut...

As I said, some French masters use the word but it's not systematic. Most of them just describe the cut as being done in a diagonal or slant, or just specify that  one tine should be longer than the other.
in 1680, Alais de Beaulieu (who was one of the famous copybook authors), calls one of the positions "oblique", he doesn't say much about the cut itself. The pen-holds he cites are "à face" (pen slit is perpendicular to the line), "oblique" (pen slit is at an angle), "de travers" (pen slit is almost hoizontal to the line)  and "inverse" (what we'd call today the off-hand pen hold). But he prefers using "oblique" to get the same effects as "inverse"... I think he just means it's more comfortable and gives the same thick-thin potential.
Royllet in 1737 uses the word "obliquité" (obliquity ?) to describe the cut. (Démonstration de l'art d'écrire, 1737)
In 1763, Paillasson uses the word "oblique" to describe the nib cut but, as @Estefa said, it's not very precise. The word oblique just means "slanted" in this case.

The British Masters at the time were more inclined to criticizing one another than to writing stuff that would have successfully helped people learn on their own... Those who describe the tip of the pen just say that some scripts necessitate a tip "with the part which lies next to the Hand (the writing itself) when you write, be small matter the shortest and narrowest." An illustration in George Shelley's second part of Natural writing makes this description a bit less "obscure".
None of them use "oblique" to describe this cut, some call it the French cut.

By 1730, all the books that describe the cut of the pen advise the use of a square cut for Round Hand. Bickham writes that he still uses an oblique cut for running hand and mixt secretary (the left side of the knib be rather shorter than the other). Other hands also call for other kinds of obliqueness described in the same manner. (The Surrey and Southwark writing-master... , c.1750)
After this, I only see masters who reccommend the use of square nibs, or finer points.

Of course, this is only for quills... All the masters seem to agree that cutting a pen is more an art than a science, every penman will have a cut that fits his own position or style.

I don't have any information regarding steel nibs themselves. I guess you could have more information by asking a collector. Looking at "left-handed" nibs section, I don't see a lot of French manufactured nibs, or mentions of the word "oblique".

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: French Roundhand Exemplars?
« on: July 27, 2019, 03:34:40 PM »
@Estefa I've come to believe that things are never simple when it comes to the evolution of scripts : every single calligrapher has his own style, some are just more quiet about it than others.... Soennecken saw an opportunity to market this script (which I think bears more "gothic" characteristics than the French ronde you can see in Paillasson's exemplars), he wasn't quiet about his own style and probably sold many nibs thanks to his marketing skills.
The thing is, the official French Ronde that was used in late 19th- early 20th century is closer to Soennecken's examples than to Paillasson's...

This is something that we can still see today : some calligraphers will make minor tweaks to a standard copperplate and call it their script... Maybelle Imasa is a name that comes to my mind today but there are others. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, though. I'm happy for the calligraphers who manage to make a living out of their craft, whoever they are ;)
... I'm just not a good marketer  ;D

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: French Roundhand Exemplars?
« on: June 11, 2019, 11:12:17 AM »
The French Ronde was originally a modern evolution of the gothic french handwriting from the 15-16th centuries. It became one of the official french hands when the French Parliament decided around 1633 that only 3 hands would be allowed to be taught and used for official documents. The Ronde was the formal one, it was never (meant to be) used as an every day handwriting style; in the 19th century it was mainly used for official documents like passports or birth certificates (for titles, mainly). They used a lot of weird variations for end of word / beginning of word letters, which makes some examples hard to read...

As David pointed out, the French models don't really look like the American models. All I can add to this observation is that the Italian copybooks from the 19th century show models of this "german-american" variation. German-looking styles became official in Italy back when Austria was ruling part of the country... My guess is that the style was inspired by the French models (there was this german-speaking region in France, which may have played some part is making the style more popular in Germany?), tweaked to fit the German aesthetics around the 1820-1850's and made simpler by getting rid of the "illegible" variations. I don't think that this was ever something else than a "ornamental" hand in Germany : they had Kurrent as their own handwriting style before they tweaked the French Ronde.

Soennecken is actually credited for inventing round-writing, and he seems to have published quite a few manuals on the subject in several languages. But I have trouble accepting this information, as he was only born in 1848 and the hand (or a very similar one) is already around in Italy in the 1830's...
He also manufactured a nib specifically to write this style.

Anyways, Soennecken's examples are wonderful @Masgrimes, thanks for sharing !

ahah ! Starlee ! I think we all like curlicues !
Clearly, Shelley loved them and managed to make beautiful things  ;)

I'm not sure when this piece was made, but I think that it was probably created as a way for Bickham to advertise his expertise as a letter engraver.
Bickham contributed to most major copybooks published between 1709 and 1750, he was basically the only one to have worked with masters in the early years of the RH.
By creating this plate, I think he intended to show that he had worked with the best writing masters during the "development" period of the RH, insinuating that he was the only real expert engraver able to reproduce the RH properly.
The ornamentation at the top and bottom remind me of Shelley's style, so it is possible that the plate dates from around 1712-1725, when Shelley was still around and enjoyed a good reputation. I don't remember seeing such ornamentation in Bickham's later works.

Thanks Kacy !
Actually, the "disagreement" was between Snell and Clark  ;).
Clark had taken over Shelley's position as a teacher at the "Hand and Pen" in Warwick Lane when Shelley was appointed master at Christ's Hospital, in 1710. Christ's Hospital was an enviable position, and Snell seems to have been a little envious... He expressed what he thought of Shelley's work and Clark defended Shelley (who was not as outspoken and confident as Clark was).
The argument kept going between Clark and Snell :
Snell criticized the what he saw as a lack of precision in the explanations on writing published by Clark in Writing Improv'd. In my opinion (from reading the details of the argument published both in books and newspapers), Snell was just a man of bad faith, jealous that Clark managed to publish his own rules before he could, and unable to admit that other masters could have contributed to the development of the RH as much as he did... He liked to say he was the first to publish things.
Clark defended himself with some reason, the argument was made public through publications in newspapers until 1717... Which, some thought, completely discredited the profession in the eyes of the public. In the end, what I retained from this is that Clark allowed more variety / fancy in his writing than Snell did. Snell wanted to work according to very strict rules, which were probably not very practical for a handwriting system. He was probably too much of a perfectionist. He was very talented, but this may have made him a bit of a snob.

Years later, Bickham engraved a plate representing the "fathers" of the RH. He placed Clark at the top and Snell at the bottom... Not that is opinion is unbiased... He engraved all the copybooks of these masters from 1709 to his / their death. He confessed that Clark had been the first to instruct him in the art of writing, and had done a superb job. But he also had great admiration for Snell's most famous pupil : Joseph Champion. (See the plate I'm referring to here :

Flourishing / The Rules of flourishing, according to John Clark, 1714
« on: April 02, 2019, 11:46:53 AM »
Hey everyone,

I just wrapped up my latest post and thought it may be a good idea to tell you about it here.
While I was researching old copybooks, I found some great advice on flourishing, written by John Clark - one of the founding fathers of the English round Hand. Some of his "hints" have been often repeated in this forum, but the post also contains some things that aren't so well known about flourishing.

Here's the link

I'd be happy to discuss this with you here too  ;)

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: Female scribes through history
« on: February 28, 2019, 02:26:37 PM »
@RD5 The information I wrote is a loose translation of a book in French, but I wrote minister as a translation of "ministre", which cannot mean clerk in French... But it looks like Mediavilla was mistaken. I'm going to post the copy of what the Oxford Dictionary of national biography says about her below.

Inglis [married name Kello], Esther (1570/71–1624), calligrapher, was probably born in London. She is generally known as Inglis, the Scottish form of Langlois. Her parents, Nicolas Langlois and Marie Presot, moved to London from Dieppe in France as Huguenot refugees about 1569. By 1574 they were settled in Edinburgh, where, after initially receiving assistance for debt, Nicolas became master of the French school and died in 1611. Esther, the second of five children, was taught calligraphy by her mother, who was a skilled scribe. She married Bartholomew Kello (d. 1631) about 1596. John Kello, her husband's father, had become minister of Spott, Haddingtonshire, in 1567, and was hanged for the murder of his wife, Margaret Thomson, in 1570. Bartholomew Kello was a minor government official who occasionally went abroad in the royal service. He and his family appear to have moved to London by 1604 and from 1607 to 1614 they were in Essex, where Bartholomew was rector of Willingale Spain. They returned to Edinburgh in 1615, and Esther died at Leith on 30 August 1624. She was survived by her husband and four children.

Samuel Kello (d. 1680), Church of England clergyman, her only surviving son, was educated at Edinburgh University (MA 1618) and also studied at Christ Church, Oxford. From 1620 until his death in December 1680 he was rector of Spexhall, Suffolk, where his wife, Marie, is recorded in the parish register. His Carmen gratulatorium ad … Jacobum … sextum (1617) was addressed to the king on his visit to Edinburgh that year; another poem was published in The Muses' Welcome (1618). He also wrote a treatise, 'Balme for the wounded soul', dated 1628 (Trinity College, Dublin, MS 695). He was buried in the church at Spexhall, Suffolk, on 9 December 1680.

Fifty-nine manuscript books written by Esther Inglis and dating from 1586 to 1624 are known. Most of them carry dedications to royalty, members of the nobility, or people of rank and influence, and were evidently presented in hope of reward. Two early works, 'Discours de la foy' in verse, dated 1591 (Huntington Library, HM 26068) and the Psalms in French of 1599 (Christ Church, Oxford, MS 180), were made for Elizabeth I, and four for Henry, prince of Wales; another patron was the poet and courtier Sir David Murray of Gorthy, whom she addressed as 'mon treshonoré Mecoenas' (BL, Harleian MS 4324, fol. 2). But despite these wealthy patrons the family was not well off, and Esther was in debt at the time of her death. The manuscripts are written in a wide range of scripts, including the French secretary hand, chancery script, mirror writing, and the highly ornamental hands practised by contemporary writing-masters. Some of her most ornate books, executed between 1599 and 1602, contain over thirty different styles, but from 1608 she tended to use only roman and italic, often on a tiny scale. Several manuscripts written in 1615 measure about 45 × 70 mm and contain lines of text less than a millimetre in height. The decoration in her manuscripts changed too. The earlier works often have introductory pages, headpieces, and initials incorporating designs and elements copied from printed books. In contrast, her later manuscripts make use of colour but have far less decoration, and this often takes the form of flower paintings. Many of the manuscripts contain a self-portrait in pen and ink or in colour, sometimes accompanied by verses in her praise by the Presbyterian divines Andrew Melville and Robert Rollock.

Esther Inglis signed and dated most of her work. Among the undated manuscripts are two collections (NL Scot., MS 2197, and Edinburgh University Library, MS La.III.522) probably intended as specimen books and modelled on the published works of writing masters such as John de Beauchesne. She certainly knew Clément Perret's Exercitatio alphabetica (1569), since she copied parts of its decoration in several manuscripts written between 1599 and 1601, notably in 'Le livre de l'Ecclésiaste' dedicated to the vicomtesse de Rohan (New York Public Library, Spencer Collection, French MS 8 ). But the most striking example of adaptation is a manuscript made for Prince Charles in 1624 (BL, Royal MS 17.D.XVI), a version of Georgette de Montenay's Emblemes ou devises chrestiennes (1619), in which Esther dedicated each emblem to a different English courtier. As with eleven other books made for royalty, it is in an embroidered binding which is probably also her own work. Another outstanding manuscript (privately owned) is 'A book of the armes of England' made for Henry, prince of Wales, in 1609. It contains paintings of the arms of the nobility and its velvet binding is embroidered with the prince's crest in pearls.

In contrast to her elaborate manuscripts, Esther Inglis wrote at least ten small books between 1614 and 1617 which are relatively plain and very similar in design. They contain little decoration, the script is a small roman hand, and the texts are either the 'Quatrains' of Guy du Faur, Sieur de Pybrac, or the 'Octonaires sur la vanité et inconstance du monde' of Antoine de la Roche Chandieu. Esther frequently copied these texts as well as drawing heavily on both French and English versions of the Genevan Bible. She also wrote out an English translation by her husband and incorporated verses by him in her work.

While other women calligraphers are known from this period, the quantity of work by Esther Inglis to survive is remarkable and her manuscripts have always been admired. Although her draughtsmanship was weak and she lacked originality, preferring to reproduce designs by others, the delicacy and precision of her calligraphy, particularly when working on a very small scale, was outstanding.

Wealth at death :
debts of £156: commissariot of Edinburgh, 11 March 1625, register of testaments, CC8/8/53

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: Female scribes through history
« on: February 24, 2019, 05:14:24 AM »
This is what Ambrose Heal wrote in his Bibliography of English Writing master's copybooks (p.xviii of the preface)

"Calligraphy, one would have thought, was a field in which woman would have excelled, but we find records of very few writing mistresses.
Ballard in his Memoirs of Several Ladies in Great Britain mentions Elizabeth Lucar (died 1537) as a skilful and curious calligrapher.
In the days of Queen Elizabeth and King James I, Esther Inglis was renowned for her fine writing and numbered members of the Royal families of England and Scotland among her patrons. Specimens of her exquisite work are presereved in libraries in this country and on the Continent.
In the Pepys collection is a trade card of a writing school kept by Elizabeth Penniston in Ave Maria Lane in the final decade of the 17th century.
Massey speaks of a contemporary of his, one Mary Johns, a proficient in the art, specimens of whose work were offered to George Bickham for inclusion in his Universal Penman (1733), "but upon some frivolous pretext, that offer was rejected". It is fairly safe to assume that Bickham, being employed by the leading wrting-masters to engrave their copy-books, was anxious to avoid the embarrassing situation which might have arisen with his clients if he had introduced competition from the other sex."

I also found a copy of a book by Marie Pavie, a Frenchwoman :
This is what Mediavilla says about her :
She was born in 1580 and published a book in 1608 called (my translation) "The first essay by the hand of Marie Pavie". Her style is reminiscent of Le Gangneur, even though it lacks in fluidity. This book is the first signed by a women that mentions a date.
This last information may only be true for France, as Maria Strick published her first book in 1607.

Mediavilla also cites :
Marie-Angélique Duru (born around 1680) : she was part of the "corporation des maîtres écrivains de Paris", and produced beautiful manuscripts (often on vellum). Most of her works have been lost.

Esther Inglis (1571-1624) : was born in Dieppe (FR) as Esther Langlois, but her father took his family to Edimburgh after the Massacre of Saint-Barthelemy (when protestant were killed in France). Esther was taught calligraphy and illumination by her mother (as part of her artistic education). In 1596, she married Bartholomeuw Kello, a gentleman and the Queen's minister.
She never taught writing in a school setting, but produced many artistic books for her patrons and taught her art to Henry Prince of Wales (older brother of Charles I). The Queen Elizabeth (I) and James I were among her patrons, one of Esther's manuscripts is dedicated to his son : prince Charles. A series of her manuscripts can be seen at the Royal Library in Stockholm, her major work is kept at the British Museum. Esther Inglis was considered as one of the best calligraphers of her time.

Mediavilla explains that few women were admitted to the corporation as the role of men and women was so well defined in society that few women ever managed to earn a living by holding a writing school, or even sold any "artistic productions".

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: Female scribes through history
« on: February 23, 2019, 03:48:59 PM »
Very interesting topic Stefanie !
There is of course Maria Strick, whom you already mentioned. She was a badass scribe and won the "golden quill" at a contest against the best master penmen of her time. Her Italian hand was specially praised by the judges. She published 4 copybooks with the help of her husband who engraved just for her (I think he also didi it as a favor for someone else though)....

There is Esther Inglis, a Frenchwoman who migrated to England because she was a protestant. I don't think I have seen any of her work, she didn't publish anything, but her work was highly regarded. I'll see what I can dig up about her.

Finally, I read that there was a wonderful penwoman in London around the time Bickham was looking for contributors for the Universal Penman. She was said to be better than some of the other contributors, but Bickham didn't want to shock any of his subscribers and decided not to use her submissions. I'm going to try and find her name in my notes if I can...

I understand what you mean...
But for most historians of calligraphy (meaning people who wrote books on the history of calligraphy) there is a clear line between "handwriting" and "calligraphy".  In many cases, only "book hands" (formal hands seen in books) are considered proper calligraphy. Faster cursive hands (including the medieval and antique versions of running hands) are not considered "calligraphy" hands.
These people classified all the hands that came up after the Chancery in the "handwriting" category becaus they served as models for everyday (efficient) writing styles. The RH was put in that category too. Engrosser's script is often considered a grotesque attempt at creating a "bookish" round hand.
But in my opinion, this kind of thinking is no more pertinent for today's calligraphy. Even though the RH shapes still serve as a model for everyday handwriting (in many countries), the formal "calligraphic" ductus that includes many pen-lifts makes it impossible to use as an efficient everyday hand.  So there is a difference between formal "copperplate", which is penned much slower, and handwriting. I consider that Engrosser's is "drawn" because every stroke has to be thought and executed with caution... much more so than RH. Of course hand lettering is even more in the "drawn" category...
Spencerian is more of a handwriting style, whereas Ornamental Penmanship is more of a "calligraphy" style because of the "ornamental" and "planned" aspect of the hand.
Well, that's just my opinion.

Some calligraphy styles are not actual writing styles : in my opinion, when a letter can not be written in one continuous movement and lead into the next letter, it cannot fully be considered (hand)writing. Even though you are using a writing tool, the fact that you need to build each letter (as if you were drawing it) makes the style rather inefficient as a writing style, but it can be a beautiful ornamental style.
Originally, the Round hand was meant to be written in a continuous movement, but the tool we use today makes it impossible to get the same shapes as model shapes if we don't build letters from several separate strokes. When you write an "a" you first make the oval, lift the pen, then make the final downstroke. Lifting the pen allows you to position the nib where it needs to be and to get the squared top. The letter you get looks good, but it took more time to write than a regular handwritten a.
Engrosser's script demands even more pen lifts than regular round hand... I consider that it is drawn and not written.
Calligraphy today is very different from handwiting, in the same way that hand lettering is different from calligraphy...
Does that make sense ?

Thanks for the nib references @AAAndrew ! I'll have to try and find some of these nibs to try them out.
The French manufactured an oblique broad nib specifically for their Ronde (but it is very broad), I have some from Blanzy here, but I have no idea when such nibs were first manufactured. I should try and find that out, given that the French kept using the Ronde for official documents even after the English styles were popularized for regular handwriting, they probably started making such nibs earlier than in the US...

As for Williamson's style, I'd say it is very similar to the running hand that can be seen in Carstair's books (see here). Carstairs didn't invent the style, James Henry Lewis claimed that it was his invention... but it's hard to be sure about such things. This more angular version of the running hand is only a natural evolution of the script towards a faster hand. As Williamson's letter dates from 1808 and was written in the US, I'd be tempted to say that the writing style is just personalized running hand, maybe learned from John Jenkins' books or just imported British copybooks from the late 18th century (similar to what can be seen there :;view=1up;seq=33. )

You can recognize the running hand by its long loops on ascenders and descenders (they are longer than the usual proportions) and flowing occasional flourishes (kept very simple) that don't interrupt the flow of the text, but participate in making the hand look more "fluent".  The hand was typically used for correspondence (when you see an example of a letter in an 18th century copybook, it is likeky to be written in running hand or Italian hand).

The Italian hand was also used for correspondance (regular handwriting stuff), and it's not always easy to see the difference (mainly the shape of capitals is different, and it is less shaded). It was a ladie's hand more than a gentleman's. I'm not sure I have seen examples of it "in the wild" yet...

My post is up ! Here

I find it fascinating that most historians of calligraphy consider that the shift to pointed pen was the one move that exiled the English Round Hand out of "true calligraphy hands heaven"... and that many calligraphers today think it was an improvement...
Of course, it all depends on the point of view, and on where you draw the line separating calligraphy and handwriting.

The fact is that from the invention of the printing press the tendency went toward simplification of cursive scripts in order to make them faster and accessible to more people, mainly so that they could be used for trade and business. 20th century historians of calligraphy see this tendency as a deterioration whereas contemporary people see this as an advancement (parallel to the industrial revolution, efficient writing contributed to a more "efficient society").

Let's not forget that back in 19th century England, gentlemen thought that earning a living through actual work wasn't proper... I know that things were very different in the US, which probably explains why the calligraphy styles derived from the RH (including handwriting styles like spencerian) were kept alive longer as "art" than in Europe.

I had read about these quill slips but never seen a photo ! thanks for sharing!
Accounts in writing books explain that to keep a "plume à trait" (which was as pointed as possible and used for flourishing), one had to leave it in ink all the time. Otherwise it would break, split, make stains... all the things every penman wants to avoid. The ink allowed the quill to stay soft. But not everyone had the skill to manipulate such quills, which required a very light touch combined with the strength necessary to produce big shades (women were said to be bad at flourishing).

I can confirm that quill cutters kept a record of who liked which kind of cut : in one of the books I have, the quill cutter explains how the shift to "fine" flexible cut made his work easier, as there were less details to write in his books.
Oh, and to avoid the quill from wearing too fast, he explains that the corners should be rounded so that no straight edge can catch in the paper.

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