Jun. 17th, 2014

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One script that I have always loved is called Insular Majuscule. It's the main script used in the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels, as well as a large variety of manuscripts written in England and Ireland in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries I haven't ever really mastered it, but I think in part that is due in (very small) part to my tools. See, the pen angle for Insular Majuscule is extremely shallow. This means that the thin lines are at the top and bottom of a curve, as in the O on the left in the picture below, rather than occurring at the top left and bottom right portions, as in the O on the right.

Now, a broad-edged pen, as used to create the letters above, can have its nib cut in two ways. One of them is so that it is perpendicular to the line of the pen, as in the nib on the left below. Imagine holding such a pen and writing naturally. If you're right-handed, your arm will be positioned in such a way that the nib will naturally have a steeper angle, creating curves like the O on the right above.

For a long time, I've been using only nibs like the one on the left, and as a result it's been very difficult to keep my pen angle constantly shallow for scripts such as Insular Majuscule, which leads to unsatisfactory lettering. By contrast, the nib on the right is cut obliquely, rather than perpendicularly, so that it counteracts this angle of the arm. This makes it much easier to write letters with a shallow pen angle.

The point of this little preamble is that I have now received from an excellent, excellent calligraphy supplier a large number of oblique-cut nibs, which means I've been diving into Insular Majuscule, and, by extension, other varieties of Insular manuscript decoration. To start with, I've been learning Celtic knotwork. The remainder of this entry will illustrate my adventures in this area.

Knots! )


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July 2014

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