Monday, November 12, 2018

Forty Years #5: Books

Calligraphy became a serious part of my life in the fall of 1978 when a friend from high school remembered my earlier dabblings and asked if I could do some lettering in a wedding album for a friend. I got out my Speedball Handbook, practiced a bit, and said yes. I was utterly smitten. I was unemployed at the time and began to spend my days at the dining room table with my rudimentary supplies. I can’t remember whether I looked for a class in my local area and didn’t find one or just decided that I would learn from books. For several years, they were my only teachers. While the Handbook had (has) a lot of styles, it didn’t have as much explanation and direction as I wanted. Access to information was very different in the pre-internet world of 1978. Finding books meant going to bookstores or somehow finding out about a book and ordering it by mail through the publisher. The quantity of published books on the subject was way less than today. Here are ones that were particularly important to me.
I was attracted to Italic from the beginning. I liked the idea that it could be a part of my everyday writing life as well as something apart and special. I found Fred Eager’s workbook and diligently worked through it. His guiding words were thorough and encouraging.
Ralph Douglass' Calligraphic Lettering was another early book. He too had a good combination of specific instructions and models and general principles.
Edward Johnston's Writing & Illuminating & Lettering, first published in 1906, was a trusty guide that I spent many, many hours with.
The first book I had with examples of calligraphy rather than instruction was Two Thousand Years of Calligraphy. It was especially meaningful as it was a gift from William Cladek from my hometown of Rahway, NJ. He gave the book to my father when he learned I was doing calligraphy. 
One of the examples on this page is by Ed Karr, a Boston calligrapher who I got to know later.
One of my favorite books is Written Letters. It was also the most important to me as it led me to take a week-long workshop with Jaki Svaren at the 1982 Philadelphia Calligraphy Conference. Her gentle notes for each letter made me want to learn from her. Her introduction of the book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind in Philadelphia was life-changing.  

I came later to Friedrich Neugebauer's book. I didn't really use any of the models in the book but absorbed his philosophy and feelings about lettering.

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