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The Second Coming – Script Analysis

This is the mss that I based my script for The Second Coming piece on. It’s from a Dominican Breviary from the last quarter of the 15th century, in Alsace, where ever that is. It appears on page 139 of Bologna’s Illuminated Manuscripts
Even tho I was basing my layout and illumination on the 42 line Gutenberg Bible, I couldn’t base my script analysis on it, because it was printed, not written, so I chose this one.
I remember that I should have referred to 2 or 3 mss, but that seems to have got lost by the wayside somewhere.

I was told that the x-height in my Second Coming piece was ‘squat’ and my a/d too short. I agree.

I just did a quick bit of measuring with my ruler. The x-height in the mss is 4 mm, a/d 2 mm. P/w is slightly less than 1 mm

Measuring on the Second Coming, x-height is 4 mm, a/d 1 mm, p/w is 1 mm.

That’d be the problem then.
A mistake with the ascender/descender height, plus using a pen that was too broad – even 1/4 mm is going to make a difference when dealing with measurements that small. I did try a smaller nib width but I didn’t like the thicks and thins I was getting – not distinct enough. I guess that being more distinct comes down to me maintaining my pen angle and keeping my pen upright.

I wonder how I made such a mistake with the a/d height? In the notes on the script analysis in my project book, I’ve got a/d height listed as being 50% of x-height, then that is crossed out and 25% written in instead. Simply a bodgy re-measurement, I guess.

It would have helped if I’d simply gone back and compared the appearance of what I was writing to the original mss. I would have picked up the problem then.

It kind of sounds like I’m beating myself up. I’m not. I’m glad to figure out the reasons for the problem with the script. Feel like a bit of an idiot, but ….. live and learn :-)


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.

The Second Coming – Paul Antonio’s comments

Paul was incredibly kind, and provided a critique of my piece.

I originally started publishing stage by stage scans of the piece in a blog to entertain my non-calligraphy friends and keep them updated on what I was doing. However, the following comments are rather “calligraphy speak”.

I have no idea why this post insists on having text at different sizes. I’ve tried re-formatting, removing all formatting, exporting and re-importing from Word, reformatted. I give up. It’s supposed to be all the same size. I used colours to indicate importance.

Here are his comments, interspersed with other notes I made during our conversation.

  • Gilding

  • I mentioned that I knew that I’d laid the acrylic gesso down too thickly (I didn’t mention the second ‘coat’ – to fix that I’d have to scrape back down to the paper).

To gild when the mordant is thick – use a double layer of glassine paper, and burnish very quickly and lightly.

Then use more pressure to bring up the polish.

– -> notes

  • To research – the use of the term “brown” in gilding – ie burnished gold is brown.

Burnishing means ‘darkening’ of a material. It compresses the gold particles together.

–> research and then -> notes

  • The best teeth to use are those of carnivores, because they have the most enamel. He uses German Shephard. I don’t know what mine is.

– -> notes

  • Majuscule Importance (there must be a better term) and Decoration

  • The pen filigree (down the side of the left hand column).. well, it’s a start.

The only way to learn is to look at hundreds, thousands of examples from the relevant period/region.

--> part of the Gothic Textura study coming up. Will have to incorporate into learning – do a seperate ‘module’ on it?

  • I used various methods of decoration for various levels of the Majuscules in the piece

ie any capitalized letters in the poem were rubricated with a simple blue vertical line.
first letter of each line of the poem were rubricated with a simple red verticle line
first letter of first word in each verse was a pen flourished versal
the poem heading was completely done in pen flourished versals

I did this after reading Christopher De Hamel’s British Library Guide.

Paul pointed out that my ‘levels’, overall, weren’t actually contemporary to the period.

Also that rubricated versals were a Dutch thing.

That I should have assigned versal letters to all capitalized letters

The script was too heavy to be used with pen filigree work

–> All of the above can be avoided in future by being more familiar with the decorative elements that typically accompany a particular script – region/time

  • With the decoration of the T and the S (the first letter of the first word of each verse) it’s important to construct the design around the letter geometically, not just by copying

I just copied it and altered it a little to fit my versal.

Note that variance on the diagonal is less obvious than variance on the horizontal/vertical.

Pen work wouldn’t have been used to fill the space for the T and the S (first letter of first word of each verse) anyway

–> construct decorative pen work geometrically in future

  • The Script

  • My columns are too narrow. I should be able to fit at least 5 words in each space (bugger)

  • In an earlier post I recorded that. June Francis made the comment, about my ascenders and descenders being too short. Paul agreed.

  • I’m inconsistent with the width of my letters eg an ‘n’ on one line compared to an ‘n’ on another line.

  • I’ll wimper slightly here, and say that the layout caused me to write at about half the x –height I’m used to. I did try a narrower pen, but lost my thicks and thins – I like the script to be heavy.
  • I write my Gothic Quadrata letters too wide. 1 p.w. counterspace!

I do that at double the x-height, just lost it when I decreased it. *sigh*

  • That my x-height was squat

All these problems came from my script analysis of the two contemporaneous mss. What went wrong? (Plus, I obviously can’t handle writing at a small x-height, not without more practise, anyway)

  • That the diamond/slanted feet should only JUST touch the baseline

–> For all of this – practise the diamonds touching, and practise the script at a small x-height. (x-height used was 4mm)

  • Illumination

  • He really liked my painting

–> :-)

  • The vine work : – vines are always either the same width all the way along, or thickest at the base and getting thinner.

A good way to draw the vine at the same width – take a piece of paper and draw dots along one edge, removed from the edge by the width of the vine.

–> Notes

  • On the direction of the flowers in the bottom margin :

They should all face the same way, or L,R,L or R,L,R. to make a good design.

Important – that the original illuminators didn’t necessarily always use design principles, and a little re-design may be necessary.

-> remember

  • For the future

A good way to learn is to copy mss, and think about each aspect, thinking ‘why is it this way’

That I should do a script analysis of

- The Bedford Hours

- Queen Mary Psalter

- The Geese Hours (German) at the Pierpont Library

And that these are examples of ‘High’ Gothic Textura script

To look at the Gothic script from it’s beginnings to the 19th century .

Did he say just Gothic Textura Quadrata or the entire Gothic family? I’ll have to check.

To study where the script came from and what it was like at it’s height. To use critical thinking.

That no book(Knight’s “Historical Scripts”, Brown/Lovett’s Source Book etc) has the depth of information that I needed, but Brown’s “A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600”was the best one on the subject, which I don’t have.

But I do have Knight, Brown/Lovett, Albertine Gaur “History of Calligraphy”, Donald Anderson’s “The Art of Written Forms” and Joyce Whalley’s “Students Guide to Western Calligraphy”.

He wants me to examine scripts, not just read and digest books.

I think I’ll start with just Gothic Textura Quadrata and find out how long it was around for.

Meanwhile, back to basics with the Gothic Textura Quadrata script in practice. And I promise that I’m not going to scream. I WILL get it perfect!

Next post on The Second Coming will have the details of the script analysis on the couple of contemporaneous mss I examined, the colours of the paints I used. I might as well put it all up in here neatly, as well as being scrawled in my project book.

The Second Coming – Finished

Since the last scan, I’ve

  • done the top margin
  • burnished the gold a little.

There wasn’t much point in doing much burnishing. I made a big, big mistake when doing the gilding. There were a lot of holes and so I did a ‘patch’ job with the acrylic gesso after laying the first layer of gold. The new layer of gesso stuck. Additional gold leaf didn’t. Ouch – what a lesson.

Anyway – here ’tis :-)

If I don’t sound very bouncy – I had bugger all sleep last night. I’m bouncy!

Now ….. where should I put it up? I desperately need more wall space!

The Second Coming – Bottom Margin and the T finished

The bottom margin has been outlined in a 0.1 pigment marker. It makes a difference – makes it look more finished …..

I’ve also finished the T at the side, and added ‘he Second Coming’ along the top to complete the heading of the poem.

The Second Coming – Partial "T"

On the vertical stroke of the T, the bottom four ‘swirls’ have been completed with highlighting and shading.
The two above have had a little yellow (for highlighting) laid down as preliminary highlighting.
You can see this clearly by clicking on the picture above.

I’m currently working on the horizontal bar of the T. It needs brightening. Hard work with the swirls so tiny, and not being able to touch the blue, or else I’ll end up with green (yellow + blue) mixed in the red (which equals mud colour)

I’ve finished the pen flourishing for the majuscules (capital letters) at the beginning of each verse as well.

The Second Coming – Bottom Margin finished, except for outlining

I still have to outline it.
I’ve decided that I’m going to use a fine pigment marker.
I could use a brush (or a mapping pen, which has a very very fine nib) but the chances of ‘wobbles’ are much higher. I don’t know how many colours are in this illumination, but there are quite a few. If I have to re-touch the edges, going right through the palette again, I’ll go nuts!

I’ve received some commentary, which is just great.

Kit pointed out that

  • the ‘cones’ on top of the leftmost and rightmost flowers didn’t line up (now fixed)

She very kindly printed out a copy of the work and took it to show her teacher, June Francis, a published calligrapher.

June said that I was doing everything correctly, but commented

  • the margin was designed to go into a book. The margin extending over to the right past the text would therefore run into the gutter of the book. Since I am doing a single page, I should have shortened the length, especially of the bottom margin, to end more or less where the text ends on the right hand margin

Oh well. I’ll know for next time. I remember having some thoughts about the length of the bottom margin but I wanted to include all of the ‘cone flowers’.

  • that the ascenders and descenders seemed a bit short.

I agree. I wrote it using 1 mm A/D to 4 mm x-height. I arrived at the 1 mm A/D height because I’d measured the x-height in 3 contempory documents, and this was the ratio used. (Note – of hand written scripts, not the text of the printed Gutenberg Bible). The normal ratio of x height to A/D in Gothic Textura Quadrata is 5 or 6 n.w. : 2 n.w. (Harris, Calligrapher’s Bible, and Lovett’s Guide to Calligraphy).
A lesson in using judgement as well as design information from historical exemplars!

The final scan of the bottom margin only will show it with outlining. Kit is very kindly sending me up a suitable pen.

The Second Coming – Bottom Margin minus the green

I’ve done a lot of work since the last scan – almost finished the bottom margin :-)

I still have to

  • highlight the green bits with forest (dark) green and yellow,
  • paint the ‘cone’ of the flower on the rightmost side in shades of purple – I’m saving that up
  • outline the whole lot in a very fine black line

I’m undecided whether I will wait until I can buy a 0.1 sized pigment marker pen and cheat in doing the outlining, or do it with atiny brush and paint, which is how you are supposed to do it, but takes a lot longer.
Using the brush is true to the historical process and will also increase my skill at making fine lines, whilst driving me mad as I do accidental little wiggles and have to fix them up and re-touch the other colours.

Click on the image to see a larger version

Then I can start on the “T” with the swirls on the inside, that runs down the side of the poem.

The Second Coming – bottom margin, base colours and some shading

I’ve been busy over the weekend …..

This is where the red base has been laid down, and shaded in dark red and yellow.
The pink base has been laid down.

Now some of the shading of the pink parts has been done, and the blue and gold base have been laid down.
It’s gold paint, as opposed to the beated gold leaf that forms the little pointy bits shown in the original scan of the piece. It will be shaded, the same as the other colours.

The instructions for the shading are taken from the Gottingen Model Book, written by Cennino Cennini, in the um, 15th century? I have both the original Italian and modern English versions of the workbook.
He used shell gold (arum musicum) rather than gold paint, which is the scraps from gold leafing well ground and then made up into a paint using a binder.
I have some shell gold myself – but it costs a fortune ($50 odd for a piece the size of a button – you need one heck of a lot of scrap to make a little bit of shell gold – it’s way more expensive than the leaf.) I am saving it for special projects. I will paint a gold/blue acanthus one day using it to see how Cennini intended it to really be, but not today.
Then, they used it because it was paint that could be further worked upon (ie shaded), as opposed to gold leaf with it’s shiny finish, because they didn’t have any other gold paint available. You can press patterns into gold leaf, or tint a colour over the top if you really really wanted to, but not shade it in the way that these acanthus are. In modern times, we have gold gouache (All my paints are gouache) which I can use instead of the shell gold.

I really want to get these pictures bigger. They are about half life size. I’m saving large detailed files in Photoshop, but this seems to be the biggest picture size that Blogger will allow. It’s a pity that the shading can’t be seen in more detail here.

The Second Coming

To repeat the mail I sent out the other day, only this time with the scans in-line ……


I’ve completed the gilding and outline on my big calligraphy piece – “The Second Coming”

The gold isn’t burnished yet (the base isn’t properly dry yet!) but you can see that it’s pretty shiny already.

The writing is “The Second Coming” by YB Yeats (“Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”) I had to write it out 4 times before I got it fitting properly in the margins and without mistakes in the words! Argh!

It’s about twice the size in real life as shown on the screen.

I have yet to do :

  • the poem heading, (flourished ‘he Second Coming’). The “T” of the “The Second Coming” is that big letter that runs down the left hand side.
  • finish the red and blue florishing of the first letter of each verse. I couldn’t do it until now, because gold will stick to paint. I could only do the bits that were far away from the bits that were going to be gilded
  • burnish the gold

and …. the fun bit -

  • paint the margin!

The original that I’ve taken the margin from is

I’ve already done some work in this style. – the muticoloured, shaded acanthus. They are those wiggly leaf things. The flowers are, um, weird flowers that come with the acanthus. ….one of my favourite styles.
You can see two acanthus in closer detail below in a work that I did last year. Below that is just one of them, blown up.

The detail above shows the colour blending in more detail

I’m going to start on the painting first, coz I like doing it the best.

This is the section I’m starting on (in the original).

The Gilding

It’s been a nightmare, because it’s winter.

I originally used some of Kaz’s gesso, but it wouldn’t dry even after about 5 days. It showed no signs of drying. One good thing about summer – good gilding weather.

After advice from the Scribes, I switched to Wills Quills quick gesso. Unfortunately, I’ve laid it on too thickly, and am having trouble doing any burnishing because it’s kind of ‘squidging’ under the burnisher, even after a week to dry. It’s just too thick. I should have laid it on in multiple layers. Oh well – live and learn.
I also committed the cardinal sin (I know now) of trying to put some gilding mix over existing leaf, to do some patching. what was I thinking? Now I have plastic coated gold leaf that won’t take any more gold leaf. Thankfully I only did a little. I have to scrape back two points and re-do them.