Why does this letter look like that? May 5, 2007
This highly versatile book begins with some of the terminology of historical calligraphy, a look at the life of a scribe, and a humorous aside on the calligrapher's demon, Titivillus (who caused scribes to make errors).
The next fifty-five pages provide an overview of the development of Western writing, primarily from Roman times to the end of the Medieval period, richly illustrated with black-and-white photographs.
In the heart of the book, Drogin provides a detailed look at a set of twelve scripts variously used between the first and fifteenth centuries. Each script's presentation contains a set of photographic examples from historical documents and Drogin's analysis of how the letter forms could have been constructed with a broad-edged pen.
The book closes with sections on page layout, writing medieval numbers, materials and resources, and references.
Had the photography been in color, the book would have been glorious. As it is, the generous supply of black-and-white photos of centuries of documents is still a feast for the eye and mind. And if you've ever wondered why "A" and "a" (or "D"/"d" or "E"/"e") are the same letter, this book will help you understand how that came to be.
(The reader/calligrapher/student who wants to go further would do well to consider "Historical Scripts" by Stan Knight.)