Archive for the Category » The Bedford Psalter – Script Analysis: Spacing «

Script Analysis – Sentences

Firstly, I’ve been distracted for a few days coz I buggered my back. Ooops! Back again now, tho :-)

I’ve updated my post
to include all of the answers I’ve got about density of script.
It’s such a simple issue, but I just couldn’t get a handle on it. I do now.

James Cornwell (Sir Bjorn Jorsalfar, OL, KB
Knight-Principal of Green Knight Academy Medieval Martial Arts

has been kind enough to offer me further help. He asked me to script a couple of sentences so he could see what my writing was like, as opposed to seperate letters.

These are my very very first sentences written in non-standard gothic textura quadrata but in a historical gothic g.t.q. script, and IMHO they suck.
I’m not doing the letter forms quite correctly and have a strong tendency to make them too wide

I need to write some more to get some more confidence and better letter shaping.

I had another look at the spacing at george’s suggestion.

Between words, it’s only 1 nib width (as opposed to the standard of 2 nib widths in standard gt.q.) and that spacing is taken from the last flourish to the first flourish (not measured between the last and first verticals).

Between letters, the spacing is somewhat less than 1 nib width. It’s difficult to put an exact figure on it. “damn close” is one way to describe it. I’ve noticed that on the original mss page, the hook serif that extends at 45 degrees from the bottom diamond of the a letter (if it ends in a diamond) intersects with the first diamond/quadrant of the following letter, to give an almost cursive affect.

I was able to buy a William Mitchell Nib of 3 mm width yesterday, and am going to work with that, rather than the springy Speedball. I’m very much looking forward to finding out if this nib helps in improving my script.

Gothic Textura Quadrata – Spacing

I’ve written of my journey discovering that the spacing between letters, as well as counterspace of each letter, is one pen width between the verticals for Historical Gothic Textura Quadrata script.
The way I was taught modern Gothic script was one pen width between the letters, not the verticals. This destroys the ‘picket fence’ effect achieved by doing the spacing between the verticals.

I asked Tetchubah the other day “why did the spacing change?”
She said “that the spacing changed for the same reason most of us don’t calligraph “pure” gothic – it’s more readable that way. Also, as more readable hands came into being I suspect that their influence bled over to scribes doing gothic, and of course gothic eventually fell out of fashion. What I mean by bled over is that if you’ve practiced one hand extensively, it tends to influence how you write other hands.

And, of course, except in Germany, the Gothic hand fell entirely out of fashion, entirely out of use, for centuries. When it started being re-used by non-Germans in the 20th century, the calligraphers wenton the whole for readability, not the picket fence effect.

Spacing – Happy Dance

I talked a bit with Tetchubah and Meisterin Katarina.

To quote Meisterin Katarina

“I think you are correct, the “1 pen width” rule applies to the vertical strokes, it the verticals as being the 1 pen width, not the starting of the letter. In other words, the serifs can touch, and the bottoms can touch, but there will be at least one pen width (give or take a bit) between all of the vertical strokes.”

In another mail

“That was what they did in the Gothic era… those monks started to learn how to form those letters when they were children, their hands and eyes were trained to see just the right amount of space between each vertical. “

To quote Tetchubah

From what you've sent, though, I have to agree that gothic TQ is definitely "better" looking (and by that I mean more period) the more unreadable it is.  The picket fence look is exactly what you're looking for in this hand.  It can be difficult to achieve successfully thought - I've been trying for years and still aren't happy with the results.  Plus, I prefer to have my scrolls readable so tend to put spaces between the letters rather than run them into each other."


The difference is between 'modern' g.t.q, which is more readable because it spaces between the letters, and the more historic version of g.t.q, which spaces between the verticals, as I described in the Straight Lines-Confusion post.

So I can do either. Since Paul has set me to do the script analysis of the Bedford Hours, Queen Mary Psalter and Geese Book, I guess that all my script practice and script produced from that activity will be 'the old way'. Who cares about readability when coming from that sense? (script analysis, knowing the proper historical way)

Tetchubah has promised me more information on the subject when she gets home to her computer later this week - which I look forward to avidly.

Confusion – Straight Lines

Akiko, I’m not suprised that you said that you were confused. I certainly have been.

I’ll try and explain …..

The ductus books (ie all the books showing how you write the gothic script, of which there are a million) state there is 1 pen width between each letters within a word. And also 1 p.w. as the counter space within a letter.

I’ve always known this, but I never noticed the ‘picket fence’ effect this achieves before. (and I’m wondering if it’s a bit more complicated than that in the actual historical writing)

I’ve noticed the issue because I’ve been looking at pages from the Bedford Hours (and other examples since, to check it out further, such as the Luttrell Psalter – looking at textura precissus is a bit easier because the writing is clearer.)

By “picket fence” I mean that if you take a piece of gothic writing and cover over the top half of the writing, you can see ‘a picket fence’ effect of the bottom half. – all that equal spacing between the VERTICALS, whether they are from within the one letter, or within the entire word.
This is much more of a ‘textual’ effect. The verticals take up a lot of real estate on the page, so having them even makes the whole thing look even.

Have a look at these words, taken from the Michelle Brown example I scanned in entirety in the last entry

Here is “oderunt” :
o to d - the spacing between is 1 p.w, and the same whether you measure the space between the letters, or measure the distance between the last vertical of the o and the first vertical of the d
d- e – this is a ligature. This is just a paleographical rule that the scribes used for various combinations of letters. The two letters share a vertical.
e -r – look what happens here! That ain’t no 1 p.w. between the e and the r! But there is 1 p.w between the verticals of the two letters. And this makes it a textual pattern – nice and even.
r – u – again, they are right up against each other – no 1 p.w. between the letters, but there is 1 p.w. between the verticals of the r and the first vertical of the u.
u – n – now we’re back to 1 p.w. between the letters, which is also 1 p.w. between the verticals.
n – t – are just touching. Not 1 p.w. between the letters, but there is 1 p.w. between the last vertical of the n, and the vertical of the t.

Now have a look at ‘gratis’ :
Can you see the same thing happening?

The thing to do seems to be to equally space the verticals, NOT finish a letter, move along one pen width distance and start the next one. The latter will work for some letters, but moving along one pen width from the last vertical to the next vertical is ALWAYS true

I can say one thing – having a constant one pen width between the letters (not the verticals) would make the writing a lot more readable.

To document my journey of confusion along the way :
: At the beginning of all of this, a couple of weeks ago I discovered that :
In my writing, I was altering the space sometimes for 21st century readability. I discovered this when I first wrote out that “Gods of Snow” quote with all the n,m,i,u’s and my spacing was nothing like that in the exemplar in Drogin.

: Then, I talked here in the blog about equal space between DIAMONDS. Because I was thinking only about n,m,u,i,’s because that was in the quote.
Then (days later) I realized that it was the spacing between the verticals that was relevant, not the diamonds. It’s only in n,m,u,i that the letters are simply vertical (for i), vertical…vertical (for n,u) (and more verticals for m). With all the other letters it gets more complicated – a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h, and so on have more construction in them. I needed to look at the verticals, not the diamonds.

I hope that explains what the last couple of weeks of posts have been about.

Straight Lines and Diamonds

I’ve been looking at the script analysis of the Bedford Hours in Michelle Brown and Patricia Lovett’s “The Historical Source Book for Scribes”
I was avoiding it, coz I felt it was cheating, but I’ve had ‘feelings’ about the diamonds, and there is also the spacing issue, so I looked.

First – the diamonds.
They are not built up diamonds in this script after all! At the original size of this picture in the book, the diamonds measure 3 mm x 3mm (and the verticals are slightly offline to the centre of the diamond, as Drogin mentions).

I realize that I’ve gotten a bit ahead of myself – I haven’t done the formal script analysis yet – but I wanted to do some basic pen stroke practice appropriate to the Bedford Hours as practical work while I did the mostly paper work of the analysis, and I’ve found myself dragged into this confusion.
I should have done script analysis, and measured the diamonds vs p.w. first, instead of just looking at their particularly pointy ends and thinking ‘oh, they must be built up, so I’m going to practise built up diamonds”.
Don’t I feel silly.
But once you’ve made a mistake, you don’t tend to do it again (you hope). And now I’ve had practise with built up diamonds, for when I do use them.

On the verticals : the image very handily has vertical lines drawn through the verticals of most of the letters. And they are all 5.5 to 7 mm apart. I think this is a reasonable case for saying that all the verticals are evenly spaced – allowing for enlarged error because of the enlargement from the original, and also human error by the scribe. There is variation when letters are ligatured, of course.
Well – no kidding! 1 p.w. It says that in all the books. So in this case, inter letting spacing should be 3 mm = p.w. Plus, to have the lines going through the centre of each vertical line – that’s another 1.5 mm (half p.w.) multiplied by 2 (right hand and left hand edge of each vertical respectively) = 3 mm, to give a total between the verticals of 6 mm. (where I measured 5.5 to 7 mm)

I have been getting myself a bit confused. There is the same space between the verticals but I’ve talked about the same space being between the *diamonds*. This is true for m, n, u and i, because they have diamonds above their verticals. So it’s effectively the same space as between their verticals for these letters.
Won’t work for the rest of the alphabet tho.

I’ve really got myself in knots because I was looking at the Gods of Snow quote, and noticed a fundamental problem with my script – that I was varying from the pen width for my inter-letter spacing to make the script more legible to my eye.

I have been practising looking at the space between each diamond as i draw/write it with my m,n,u,i.s, I’ll have to swop over to verticals, so the practise is useful/relevant for when I hit the rest of the alphabet.

I know, I know, I know – that both inter-letter (ie counter space) and intra-letter spacing is 1 p.w. I just seem to have picked up a bad habit somewhere. I can understand why – making it more readable. It just isn’t correct. And I’ve practised so much – it’s kind of ingrained now. *sigh*
I’m very glad that I have finally picked up the problem from looking at historical examples.

I am getting a bit tired of being stuck on this issue. It’s so simple!
I will work it out.
I definitely think too much.

Did I mention that anyone reading this might end up confused, coz I was?


OK, so I’ve been practising the “dipped” tops, and the straight lines and diamonds, with writing that latin sentence that is all m’s and n’s, u’s and i’s as part of that practise (I’ll do the pen flourish-y practise later)
It occured to me today that my Latin sentence was too legible. You could distinguish the individual letters, whereas the whole point of this sentence is that they should only be distinguishable by the joins internal to the m, n and u’s.

So I had a look at the spacing. I measured point to point of the diamonds in Drogin’s example of the B.H. I measured point to point on another page of the B.H.
And they are all equally distanced, regardless of which part of which letter they are.
The page I measured from varied a little, but it was pretty consistent. (4 or 5 mm, regardless of letter height)

I measured mine, and they were all over the place. I’m putting in extra space between each of the letters.

So now I’m about to print out some new graph paper with 5 mm wide columns, (one for each vertical) and a second lot of lines spaced at 1mm, so I can size the diamonds for each vertical correctly.
The diamonds will be very nearly touching. (they should be 4 mm wide) unless it is a ‘n’ or ‘m’ where they have the joins at the top.
They would touch if the flicks are added to the diamonds (this is the final step in creating the diamonds, and one I’m not going near at the moment. Flicks are easy)

I’m suppressing a quiet urge to scream. I shall get this right. One day. At least I’ve got pretty good at doing the built up diamonds, and the dipped tops, though I haven’t done dipped bottoms yet.

I was looking at the Second Coming last night. I always thought the writing was below my best standard, and actually pretty crap. With this recent knowledge/practise, it appears even crapper. But that means that I’m progressing :-)

As I looked I was wondering why to the Lord God why I did a two columnar format for the piece, as it destroys the rhythm of the poem, and makes it hard to read. As Paul pointed out, it should be at least 5 words to the column to start with.
I was imitating the layout of the 42 line Gutenberg Bible – that’s why I did it.
But from Paul’s comment about modifying design to suit the piece (in terms of the length of the bottom margin) – I wouldn’t do it like that again. I don’t feel that I have to follow what the source mss did – but use it as inspiration, and use the medieval ‘rules’ plus modern design rules in my design work.

I’ve put some information (like Fraktur being a German version of the German script) which is kind of really obvious. And about the spacing today. It’s really obvious information. But I’m finding that there is a big difference between reading about something, and *realising* it. Once it’s realized, you don’t forget it. It kind of goes internal.

Graph paper printing time ……and only very quiet screams.