The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man
4000 Alphabet and Letter Motifs is a genealogical exploration and collection of Scripts and Alphabets. Their formation and story line is examined in the first section of the book, from the ancient Egyptian and Sinai Desert models down through the Phoenician, Greek and Etruscan scripts to the Roman alphabet. This book is constructed as both an instructional manual and as a sourcebook. Alphabet families are grouped together for your instruction, convenience and inspiration and ordered chronologically. This bequeathed inheritance includes scripts from the Phoenicians, Greeks and Etruscans.
Included in this book are alphabets gathered from the Romans, the Romanesque era, the Visigoths, Celts, Anglo-Saxons, from the Gothic and Humanistic period and the English Round Hands that we use today. Here lies the value in this book, that an appreciation of historic lettering will allow the reader to develop their own styles of writing and lettering.
Also in this publication is a comprehensive collection of several thousand letter motifs arranged from the letter A to the letter Z, as well as a compilation of alphabets by the author for your personal use.
INTRODUCTION – ALPHABET AND LETTERING BOOK
THE GENEALOGY OF LETTERING
There can be few images that we identify as readily and with such effortlessness as we do the letters that make up our Latin/ Roman alphabet. They are as familiar to us as are mirrored reflections of our own faces and as warmly recognizable, as are the features of those we love and cherish.
If you have occasion to observe a family of several members, you will notice that siblings share similar features. This is because they share similar genes inherited from both their parents. Though not identical in appearance, these similar characteristics tie them together as kin. This is also true for the greater Roman alphabetic tribe, where even a casual eye will be able to discern lettering clans and identify script families. This book, which is constructed as both an instructional manual and as a sourcebook – groups these alphabet families together for your instruction, convenience and inspiration. This extensive collection of historic alphabets, are ordered chronologically so that the reader can follow the developmental time-line that leads them down through the millennia to themselves and the handwriting they employ.
Our 26 letters (like the 23 pairs of chromosomes that we as humans inherit) are passed down from one human generation to the next. This is our bequeathed inheritance as readers, writers and calligraphers – that letters formulated 4000 years ago by people living in what today is the Sinai desert and expanded upon in the Phoenician cities bordering the Levantine Sea, are ours. These precious heirlooms first scratched onto wood and stone tablets and later transcribed by pen and ink onto papyrus and parchment, by birth right now emblazon our billboards with loud advertisements and reside quietly on our computer keyboards, capturing our silent thoughts for posterity.
There is no other historic presence more tangible in our lives than the hardworking and functional Roman alphabet. This book richly illustrates and explores this heritage all the way from our letter’s initial Egyptian inspiration, through the seafaring hands of the innovative Phoenicians, whose galleys and ideas traversed the Mediterranean Sea, over to the ancient Greeks with their aesthetic sensibilities and onwards to our present handwriting and printed models. On route we investigate those practical Roman scribes, whose contributions chiselled into marble, encapsulate for us today, the very classical idiom of a perfectly crafted letter. Not stopping in ancient Rome, but climbing the Alps, up and out of Italy, we traverse the plains of Barbarian Europe on an alphabetical journey through the Pre-Romanesque era with its idiosyncratic inscriptions and manuscripts. Using this book’s timeline, we navigate across the English Channel to the mystical home of the Celts where the art of writing reaches new heights in innovation and beauty. This manual draws from this alphabetical treasure chest. This Celtic family of lettering is tremendously popular with calligraphers today and I am sure they will be seminal to this book’s readers. Just as heritages are not ours to keep, the art of writing leads the reader over the Irish Sea in an alphabetical coracle with Saint Columba to the realms of the Scots and Anglo-Saxons. On this island, books such as the beautiful Lindisfarne Gospel were created by dedicated Christian monks. These scripts and letter forms are still as inspirational today to lovers of lettering as they were to the mainland of Europe, where many of these exquisite books and manuscripts were taken by missionary monks. You will find that many of these alphabets still have modern applications.
No book on lettering would be complete without it exploring the Gothic Age. The ogee arches and pointed cresting of the soaring cathedrals were duplicated in the writing of the day, now known as Black Letter. Seven hundred years on, and we are still making use of Gothic lettering. Many calligraphers have found that their interest in lettering was sparked-off when they first saw Gothic lettering. This could very well be true for you too.
We in the 21st century are quite familiar with the Humanist lettering of the Renaissance. The reason for this is that the first printers of books looked back to Humanist lettering models for inspiration. Interestingly enough, the Humanist scribes had themselves looked back to the Carolingian and early Roman lettering for their inspiration. Here lies the value in this book, that an appreciation of lettering will also allow you to develop your own styles of writing and lettering.
Included in this compilation are a collection of alphabets by the author for your personal use.
The latter half of this book comprehensively explores the 26 letters that make up our modern alphabet in all their many forms and various strokes. There are a full 6000 individual letters in this source section of the book, and an additional 80 full alphabets. The calligrapher, graphic artist, hobbyist and craftsperson will certainly find within this collection an alphabet or letter motif that will enhance their creativity.
It is my sincere hope that the reader will find visual-pleasure at the sheer beauty of our scribal heritage, but also, that the incredible inventiveness in form and shape of our alphabet, will inspire the reader to pursue the art of writing, that they develop their own styles, and in so doing, pass the torch on and contribute to the future.
Graham Leslie McCallum