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From the 



Fine Afts Librafy 

Fogg Art Museum 
Harvard University 







ALPHABETS OLD & NEW 



WORKS BY THE SAME AUTHOR: 



SOME PRINCIPLES OF EVERY-DAY ART. 

Second Edition. 

THE ANATOMY OF PATTERN. 

Fourth Edition. 

THE PLANNING OF ORNAMENT. 

Third Edition. 

THE APPLICATION OF ORNAMENT. 

Fourth Edition. 

NATURE IN ORNAMENT. 

Third Edition. 

WINDOWS; A BOOK ABOUT STAINED 
AND PAINTED GLASS. 

ART IN NEEDLEWORK. 

Second Edition. 

LETTERING IN ORNAMENT. 



ALPHABETS OLD & NEW 

CONTAINING OVER ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY 
COMPLETE ALPHABETS, THIRTY SERIES OF NU- 
MERALS, AND NUMEROUS FACSIMILES OF ANCI- 
ENT DATES, ETC., FOR THE USE OF CRAFTS- 
MEN, WITH AN INTRODUCTORY ESSAY ON 
**ART IN THE ALPHABET." 



BY 



LEWIS F. DAY, 



AUTHOR OF "EVERY-DAY ART,*' "NA- 
TURE IN ORNAMENT," AND OTHER 
TEXT-BOOKS OF ORNAMENTAL DESIGN. 



LONDON: 

B. T. BATSFORD, 94 HIGH HOLBORN 

NEW YORK: 

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1902 



FA na'i.i;?.^ 



V^ 



HARVARD 

UNIVERSITY 

UBRARY 



PREFACE. 

This is a book of Alphabets ; but of alphabets 
selected with a purpose — that, namely, of, in the 
first place, showing the development of letter- 
forms, and the shape they took at different periods; 
and, in the second, of suggesting the endless varia- 
tions which may yet be played upon shapes more 
or less fixed for us by custom. 

The ancient lettering illustrated in these pages 
has been taken, as far as might be, from original 
sources, and drawn with every care to keep the spirit 
of the original. I have not scrupled, however, 
to supply the letters missing in old manuscripts 
or inscriptions. For, presumptuous as this may 
appear to the scholar, he is not likely to be per- 
plexed by it, knowing well the letters which would 
not occur in the original script ; on the other hand, 
the practical workman, to whom this volume is 
addressed, will be thankful perhaps for alphabets 
as complete as possible. No pretension is made 
to paleographic learning ; and, even on the point 
of design, it should be understood that I do not 



VI Art in the Alphabet. 

presume to lay down the law, but am only ex- 
pressing personal opinions, which the reader must 
take for what they are worth to him. 

The old examples have been in great part 
chosen, and many of the modern ones designed, 
with the purpose of showing the influence of the 
implement employed by the workman, and of the 
material in which he worked, upon the character 
of his lettering — a point upon which sufficient 
stress has not hitherto been laid by compilers of 
alphabet-books. 

Sixteen pages are devoted to the illustration 
of Numerals, old and new. These do not, for 
obvious reasons, exactly correspond with any given 
Alphabets ; but, by comparing lettei^s with figures, 
observing of course the dates of each, it should not 
be difficult to determine which numerals would 
best go with a particular alphabet. 

The present volume deals with the Alphabet, 
that is to say, with the forms of letters. The con- 
sideration of the use of Lettering in Ornament is 
a question apart, and is reserved for a separate 
and quite independent book, which has long been 
in hand.* 

LEWIS F. DAY. 

13 Mecklenburgh Square, London : 
August y 1898. 

* ** Lettering in Ornament," published 1902. 



NOTE. 

Thanks are due to Mr, George Clulow for the use 
of his valuable collection of old Writing Books, ctc.j to 
Messrs, Matthew Bell &* Co., W, J. Pearce, C Griffin ^ 
Co., Ltd,, y, Vinycomb, Brindley <Sr* Weatherley, Nash ^ 
Hull, Frau Bassermann Nachfolger, Munich, and others, 
who have kindly permitted the reproduction here of alphabets 
drawn or copyrighted by them; and to the artists who have 
designed alphabets especially for this book. 



DESCRIPTIVE LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. 



1. GREEK ALPHABET — From an MS. — characteristic of the pen. 

Compare the B with 32 and 34, and observe the likeness 
of the O, to W. 9th century. 

2. COPTIC MS. — 10th century or earlier. \ 

3. COPTIC MS. — 1 2th century. \ Compare with Greek. 

4. COPTIC MS. — 14th century. j 

5. MOESIAN MS. — Characteristically pen work. 4th century. 

6. ROMAN MS. — Penwork. A has no cross-stroke. Upstrokes 

thick and thin. Compare 30. 4th century. 

7. MS. — Penwork. Round D and M. G has a tail. 7th century. 

8. ROMAN UNCIALS — Penwork. 8th century. 

9. •* rustic" ROMAN — Penwork. A has no cross-stroke. F and 

L rise above line. £, I, T not easy to read. 5th century. 

10. ROMAN capitals — Penwork. R has thin upstroke. 6th 

century. 

11. ROMAN CAPITALS:— Penwork. Compare square O with 17, 18, 

36. Note "dilation" of strokes. 6th century. 

12. BYZANTINE CAPITALS— 7th century. 

13. ENGLISH INSCRIPTION— From a monument to the sister of 

William the Conqueror. 1085. 

14. FRANCO-GALLIC CAPITALS — Heading of an MS. Penwork, 

of which the curly quirks are indicative. 7th century. 

15. visiGOTHic MS. — Moresque influence perceptible. Note long 

and short letters. loth century. 



X Descriptive List of Illustrations. 

1 6. SAXON ILLUMINATION (Caroline)— Qth century. 

17. ANGLO-SAXON engraved forms. 

18. ANGLO-SAXON pen-forms — 9th century. 

19. LOMBARD — From the Baptistery at Florence, incised in marble 

and inlaid with cement Compare 41, 85, 86. 12th century. 

20. ITALIAN MS. — Compare with 74. Beginning of 13th century. 

21. LOMBARD WRITING of about 1250. Freely rendered. 

22. CAPITALS— 15th century. 

23. GERMAN GOTHIC minuscule or black letter — Rounded form. 

15th or 1 6th century. 

24. GERMAN GOTHIC minuscule or black letter — Squarer form. 

15th or i6th century. 

25. BIACK LETTER— Squarer form. 15th or i6th century. 

26. ROMAN CAPITALS cut in stone — Wetzlar. About 1700. 

27. MINUSCULE ITALICS— i6th century. 

28. GREEK — From an Athenian stele. Marble. Cut in with a 

chisel. Characteristically right-lined. Certain strokes fall 
short of the full length. The two sides of the stroke not 
always parallel, but inclining occasionally to wedge-shape. 
The top stroke of T is not stopped by cross-cut, but runs 
out. 394 B.C. 

29. GREEK INITIALS — From a book printed at Basel. Wood 

engraving. The serif fully developed. i6th century. 

30. ROMAN — From fragments in the British Museum. Cut in 

stone. In E, F, L, P, R, T strokes run out. Note variety 
in rendering the same letter. 2nd and 3rd centuries. 

31. ENGLISH, IRISH, OR ANGLO-SAXON — From illuminated MSS. 

Curves inclined to take a spiral direction. Considerable 
freedom of penmanship. Various forms of the same letter. 
Note long tails and unequal length of letters. 6th century. 

32. FROM A CODEX in Latin — Written between ruled marginal 

lines. Considerable variety in the form of the same letter. 
Note the square C and G, and the deep waist of the B and 
R, which compare with alphabet 1. 7th or 8th century. 



Descriptive List of Illustrations, xi 

33. SAXON AND ANGLO-SAXON Mss. — ^The outliDe penned and 

filled in with various tints. The scribe has not made up 
his mind as to any logical use of thick and thin strokes. 
Note square C and S, and Jooser T and U. 7th, 8th, 
9th centuries. 

34. GALLiCAN CAPITALS — ^MSS. Compare B and R with alphabets 

I and 32. 8th century. 

35. IRISH — From the Book of Kells. Illuminated. Note square 

forms of certain letter — the curious D-shaped O and the 
general thickening of the upright strokes at the starting- 
point. Various forms of same letter. 8th century. 

36. ANGLO-SAXON — Various MSS. Forms sometimes rigidly 

square, sometimes fantastically flowing. Strokes developing 
occasionally into spirals, or into interlacing, which ends 
perhaps in a grotesque head. 8th and 9th centuries. 

37. IRISH MSS. — Fantastically flowing initials. 9th century. 

38. MS. LETTERS — More nearly resembling the orthodox Roman 

character, with exception of D, E, G, P, U, in which 
Gothic characteristics begin to appear, and psrhaps a hint 
of future minuscule forms. loth century. 

39. FRENCH MS. — Initials in colours. More Gothic than Roman, 

flourishing into tails of foliation. 12th century. 

40. GERMAN MS. — Initials. Distinctly penwork. Departing again 

widely from the square Roman form. 12th century. 

41. FRENCH— From the doors of the cathedral at Le Puy. Wood, 

simply grounded out. Several varieties of letter. The 
curved lines characteristically cusped. Probably 1 2th century. 
Compare with 19. 

42. MS. LETTERS— Typically Gothic capitals. "Closed" letters. 

Sportive finishing strokes. 14th century. 

43. PENWORK — Severe and straight beginning of a type which 

eventually becomes excessively flowing and florid. 1420. 

44. ITALIAN CAPITALS — Drawn by J. Vinycomb. 14th century. 

45. INCISED GOTHIC CAPITALS — From Italy, Spain, and south of 

France. About 1350. 



xii Descriptive List of Illustrations. 

46 and 47. GOTHIC inscriptions — ^From Nordhausen. Cut in 
brass. I395-I397* 

48. ENGLISH INITIALS — From MS. in the British Mnseum. On a 

background of delicate ornament, penned in red. About 1400. 

49. GOTHIC MINUSCULE — From the Church of St. Francesco at 

Prato. Simple forms incised in marble and filled in with 
cement. About 1410. 

50. ENGLISH — Gothic inscriptions. Stone. From monument of 

Richard II. in Westminster Abbey, and others of same 
date. About 1400. 

51. GERMAN MSS. — Gothic initials. 15th century. 

52. GERMAN MSS. — Gothic initials. The thickening of the curved 

strokes is characteristic. The swelling is not gradual, but 
sudden. This occurs in other German MSS. of the same 
period. 1475. 

53. GERMAN — From an inscription on a monument to Georicus 

de Lewenstein in the cathedral at Bamberg. Cut in brass. 
Something of a compromise between majuscule and minu- 
scule lettering. 1464. 

54. MS. INITIALS — The terminations again rather frisky. But 

letters of this kind (compare also 42, etc.) being usually in 
colour, most often red, their tails etc. do not cause the 
confusion in the ranks of writing which they would do if they 
were in black. About 1475. 

55. FRENCH — From an inscription on a picture-frame in the 

Louvre. The slight but characteristic curling and twisting 
of the points of serifs comes of the use of the brush. Note 
the recurrence of the square C, more characteristic of an 
earlier period. 1480. 

56. FROM AN INSCRIPTION on a brass to Duke Albert of Saxony, 

Meissen. Something of a compromise between Roman and 
Gothic types. 1500. 

57. FLEMISH MINUSCULE — From a memorial tablet at S. Jacques, 

Bruges. Cut in stone. There is a suggestion of turning 
over and interlacing the strokes of the letters, which was 
very usual in engraving of the period, whether on brass or 
stone. i6th century. 



Descriptive List of Illustrations, xiii 

58 and 59. GOTHIC MINUSCULE — From monumental brasses. 
Severe and simple forms. End of 15th century. 

60. GERMAN INITIALS—From ft book published at Augsburg by 

Job. Boccatius. The outline printed, the colours filled in 
by hand. An example of the common practice of clothing 
letters in foliage, or even making foliage or grotesque animal 
forms take the form of lettering, more or less. 1473. 

61. GOTHIC CAPITALS — 1 6th century. 

62. INITIALS — Framed in delicate ornament, penned in red. i6th 

century. 

63. ITALIAN — Gothic initials. From a corale at Monte Casino. 

Framed in pen work in colour. i6th century. 

64. ITALIAN INITIALS — Broad penwork of late Gothic character, 

neither so rigid nor so florid as the typical Gei*man writing of 
the period. 15th and i6th centuries. 

65. GOTHIC CAPITALS — By Albrecht Diirer. Penwork. (Compare 

with 67 and with 66, opposite.) £arly i6th century. 

66. ITALIAN GOTHIC CAPITALS — After Ludovico Curione. Pen- 

work. (Compare with German, opposite.) i6th century. 

67. GERMAN MINUSCULE — Albrecht Diirer. (Compare with Italian, 

opposite.) Early i6th century. 

68. ITALIAN MINUSCULE — By Vicentino. From the original 

Writing Book. The penmanship is florid, but not quite in 
the way of German flourish. (Compare with German, 
opposite.) 1 6th century. 

69. ITALIAN GOTHIC CAPITALS — Afler Vespasiano. Penmanship. 

1 6th century. 

70. ITALIAN MINUSCULE— From the original Writing Book, by 

Ludovico Vicentino. A good specimen of the so-called 
** ribbon letter." When once the carver or engraver began 
to consider the broad strokes of his "black letter" as straps, 
and to suggest by ever so slight a cut that they were turned 
over at the ends (compare 57), it was inevitable that he 
should arrive eventually at this kind of thing. Florid indeed, 
but fanciful. Any form of letter might be so treated, but 
the treatment is peculiarly suited to the black-letter form, 
l6th century. 



XIV Descriptive List of Illustrations. 

71. ITALIAN MINUSCULE— From the original Writing Book by 

Vespasiano. These letters are exceedingly well shaped. 
Observe the second variety of the letter r. i6th century. 

72. ITALIAN GOTHIC MINUSCULE— From the original Writing 

Book by Palatino. Straight-lined, with elaborately flourish- 
ing extremities. It suggests the engraver. 1566. 

73. ITALIAN CAPITALS— From the original Writing Book by Lud. 

Vicentino. The outline of the letters deviates into inter- 
lacings. But the knotting occupies approximately the natural 
thickness of the letter; and, though the outline is thus broken, 
the form of the letter is sufficiently preserved. This splitting 
of the letter, as it were, into ribbons in its thickest parts was 
not uncommon in 16th-century initials. It is obvious that 
any form of letter might be elaborated after this fashion. 
1 6th century. 

74. ITALIAN INITIALS — From the original Writing Book by G. F. 

Cresci. This is a fanciful and rather elegant elaboration 
of forms common in Gothic writing. The familiar outline 
is, as it were, ornamentally fretted. (Comp. with 20.) 1570. 

75. ITALIAN GOTHIC CAPITALS — From the original Writing Book 

by G. F. Cresci. Apparently to some extent influenced by 
the Roman character. 1570. 

76. ITALIAN MINUSCULE — From the original Writing Book by G. 

F. Cresci. Roman in character. 1570. 

77. SPANISH GOTHIC CAPITALS — From the Writing Book by Juan 

Yciar. The forms of the K and Y are unusual. r6th 
century. 

78. GOTHIC INITIALS— Woodcut. Used with printed type. End 

of 1 6th century. 

79. GERMAN CAPITALS — By Daniel Hopfer. Renaissance or 

** Roman " in character, but not without traces of lingering 
Gothic influence. 1549. 

80. TYPICALLY ITALIAN RENAISSANCE— " Roman '* capitals, by 

Serlio. i6th century. 

81. GERMAN — From inscriptions at Bingen and other towns. Cut 

in stone, showing some licence on the part of the mason. 
1576, 1598, 1618. 



Descriptive List of Illustrations. xv 

82. ITALICS — The sloping form came, of course, from the use of 

the pen, but it was largely adopted by the masons of the 
17th and i8th centuries, who copied even the most elaborate 
flourishes of the writing-master. (Compare 83.) 17th 
century. 

83. ENGLISH ITALIC WRITING — From inscriptions on monuments 

in Westminster Abbey. Stone-cutting in imitation of 
penwork, not characteristic of the chisel. 1665. 

84. ENGLISH ROMAN LETTERING— From engraved stone slabs at 

Chippenham and elsewhere. 1697. 

85. GERMAN CAPITALS — From the Germanisches Museum, Nurem- 

berg. Painted on the wooden drug-drawers of an old 
apothecary's shop. Brush work. Observe the bulging of the 
curved strokes. (Compare with 86 and 19.) 

Z^, GERMAN CAPITALS — By J. H. Tiemroth, of Arnstadt. Pen- 
work. From the titles of a series of water-colour paintings 
of botanical specimens. Observe the swelling of the curved 
strokes, and compare with 85 and 19. Here and there a 
letter shows an inclination to fall into Italics. 1738-48. 

87. GERMAN MINUSCULE Roman letters — From Bamberg, en- 

graved on brass, the background cut away. Observe the 
spur on the edge of the long strokes, designed to accentuate 
the parallelism of the line of lettering. 161 3. 

88. GERMAN LETTERING — From inscriptions at Osnabriick. Halting 

between majuscule and minuscule forms. Incised in stone. 
1742-56. 

89. GERMAN MINUSCULE — From a monument at Wiirzburg cathe- 

dral. Incised in slate. 161 7. 

90. GERMAN — From a monument at Wiirzburg. Incised in slate. 

Occasional capital letters are mixed up with the minuscule. 

1784. 

91. ROMAN CAPITALS— From the lace-book of Giovanni Ostaus, 

adapted to working on a square mesh. Characteristic of 
the method of execution, and not of any period. (Compare 
142.) 1590. 

92. ITALIAN CAPITALS — A survival of Gothic forms, not cha- 

racteristic of the period. 17th century. 



xvi Descriptive List of Illustrations. 

93. FRENCH — Of the period of Louis XV., by Latirent. This is a 

case in which Rococo scrollwork and flowers are compelled 
to take the form of lettering, more or less — in this case the 
form of current writing. i8ih century. 

94. FRENCH — A more reticent example of the period of Louis 

XV., by E. Guichard, in which it would, perhaps, be more 
accurate to say that the shape of the letter is broken up 
into ornament. i8th century. 

95. ENGLISH COURT HAND— From Andrew Wright's "Court 

Hand Restored," a book designed to assist the student in 
deciphering old deeds, etc This book was published in 
181 5; but the character is at least as early as the 14th 
century, and may have been in use a century or more 
before that. 

96. HEBREW ALPHABET. 

97. HEBREW ALPHABET — Ornamental version. From Sylvestre's 

" Paleographie.*' Almost identical with an Italian version 
of the 1 6th century. 

98. ENGLISH — Roman capitals and numerals, by William Caslon. 

Printed type, "old face." i8th century. 

99. ENGLISH — Roman lower case, and italic upper and lower case, 

by W. Caslon. Printed type, "old face." i8th century. 

100. MODERN ROMAN, MAJUSCULE AND MINUSCULE, of French 

type, elegantly shaped and spurred. Drawn by J. Viny- 
comb. 

loi. MODERN ROMAN CAPITALS of French type, elongated. This 
one instance is enough to illustrate the way in which 
variations are made upon any given type by elongating or 
compressing the letter. Such elongation or compression 
is seldom an improvement upon the normal proportion ; 
it is a too convenient way of adapting an inscription to 
the space it has to occupy. The illustration represents 
letters actually cast in metal : the simulation of relief in 
painted or other flat lettering would be a vulgarism. 

102. MODERN ROMAN, MAJUSCULE AND MINUSCULE, sans serif. 

These thin letters, all of one thickness, are sometimes 
described as "skeleton." 



Descriptive List of Illustrations, xvii 

103. MODERN ROMAN CAPITALS — A vcrsion of the French type 

(100). L. F. D. 

104. MODERN ROMAN ITALICS, majuscule and minuscule, in what 

printers call " revived old style." 

105. MODERN ROMAN ITALIC capitals, with something of a cursive 

character. L. F. D. 

io6. MODERN MAJUSCULE AND MINUSCULE lettering and nume- 
rals, with more curvature in the strokes than in the typical 
Roman character. J. W. Weekes. 

107. MODERN ROMAN CAPITALS, not quite of the usual character 

and proportion. (Compare 80.) L. F. D. 

108. MODERN ROMAN CAPITALS AND NUMERALS — Suggestive rather 

of the chisel than of the pen. J. Cromar Watt, architect. 

109. MODERN ROMAN CAPITALS AND LOWER CASE — Rather further 

removed from orthodoxy than the last. J. W. Weekes. 

no. MODERN GERMAN version of Roman capitals. Otto Hupp. 
From " Alphabete und Ornamente." F. E. Basserman*sche, 
Verlag. 

111. MODERN ROMAN "BLOCK," Or sans serif, majuscule and 

minuscule, miscalled " Egyptian." J. W. Weekes. 

112. MODERN VARIATION UPON ROMAN CAPITALS— Blunt brush- 

work. L. F. D. 

113. MODERN CAPITALS — Twisted, blunt brushwork. Could easily 

be worked in ** couched " cord. L. F. D. 

114. MODERN ** block" CAPITALS — Based chiefly on Roman. 

W. J. Pearce. From "Painting and Decorating." C. 
Griffin & Co., Ltd. 

115. MODERN CAPITAI^ — Inspired by Gothic. W.J. Pearce. 

116. MODERN GERMAN BLACK LETTER, majuscule and minuscule — 

By Otto Hupp. From ** Alphabete und Ornamente." 

117. MODERN GERMAN GOTHIC capitals. Otto Hupp. From 

"Alphabete und Ornamente." 

118. MODERN VARIATION OF MINUSCULE GOTHIC — Intentionally 

rather fantastic, but not intentionally departing so far from 
familiar forms as to be difficult to read. 

119. MODERN GOTHIC CAPITALS— Again meant to be fanciful, but 



xviii Descriptive List of Illustrations. 

not to do any great violence to accepted form. An alpha- 
bet in which there is the least approach to design is always 
in danger of being considered illegible. Legibility is for the 
most part the paramount consideration ; but there are cases, 
however rare, in which it is permitted even to hide the 
meaning so long as it is there, for those whom it may 
concern. 

1 20. MODERN CAPITALS AND NUMERALS^Patten Wilson. 

121. MODERN CAPITALS — More or less playful variations upon 

familiar forms of lettering. L. F. D. 

122. MODERN CAPITALS derived from Gothic, yet more playfully 

treated than 121. L. F. D. 

123. MODERN CAPITALS — Rather Gothic than Roman, which break 

out (as was common in old work) into foliation which forms 
a sort of background to the letter. L. F. D., designed for 
Mr. Matthew Bell. 

124. MODERN GERMAN MINUSCULE — Fancifully treated. After 

Franz Stuck, compiled from various designs by him, in 
**Karten und Vignetten." 

125. MODERN CAPITALS AND MINUSCULE drawn Straight off with 

the pen. L. F. D. 

126. MODERN VERSION OF EARLY GOTHIC CAPITALS —Adapted for 

engtiving on metal. L. F. D. 

127. MODERN VERSION OF EARLY SPANISH LETTERS— Adapted for 

cutting with a single plough of the graver. L. F. D. 

128. MODERN CAPITALS adapted for engraving. L. F. D. 

129. MODERN CAPITALS adapted for execution with single strokes 

of the pen. L. F. D. 

130. MODERN LETTERS of fanciful character adapted for direct 

execution with the brush. L. F. D. 

131. MODERN TWISTED LETTERS adapted for cutting wIth a Single 

plough of the graver. L. F. D. 

132. MODERN ROMAN majuscule and minuscule Penwork. 

Roland W. Paul, architect. 

133. MODERN RATHER GOTHIC CAPITALS— Pen work. R. K.Cowtan, 



Descriptive List of Illustrations, xix 

134. MODERN architect's ALPHABETS, majuscule and minuscule, 

with numerals and wording, to show the adjustment of each 
letter to letters adjoining. Designed to be characteristically 
pen work. A. Beresford Pite, architect. 

135. MODERN MAJUSCULE AND MINUSCULE — R. K. Cowtan. 

136. MODERN MAJUSCULE AND MINUSCULE, approaching to run- 

ning hand. R. K. Cowtan, 

137. MODERN GERMAN GOTHIC CAPITALS (Facturschrift)— Penwork. 

Otto Hupp. In the later German character penmanship 
ran wild. The lettering is often quite inextricable from the 
tangle of flourishes in which it is involved. Herr Hupp has 
avoided the utmost extravagance of the national style. To 
any one acquainted with the German character, it is clear 
enough which of his sweeping strokes mean business, and 
which are merely subsidiary penmanship. The happy mean 
is, of course, to make ornament against which the letter 
tells plainly enough. That is attempted also in 123. 

138. MODERN MAJUSCULE AND MINUSCULE, directly written with 

the simplest stroke of a quill pen. Walter Crane. 

139. MODERN GOTHIC CAPITALS, executed also with a quill. The 

forms designed for execution with two strokes of the pen. 
Walter Crane. 

140. MODERN CAPITALS, shaped with deliberate view to direct and 

easy expression with the chisel, the cuneiform character 
of the Assyrian inscriptions being taken as a suggestion 
that a wedge-shaped incision was about the easiest thing to 
cut in stone. (See p. 28.) Alfred Caipenter and L. F. D. 

141. MODERN CAPITALS, designed for wood-carving, the ornament 

typical of the Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Henri II. periods 
being taken as evidence of the ease with which strap-like 
forms may be cut with a gouge. L. F. D. 

142. EMBROIDERED ALPHABET, founded upon some letters in an 

old English sampler. The peculiar angularity of the forms 
follows naturally from working on the lines given by the 
mesh of the canvas, and is characteristic of a certain class 
of very simple needlework. L. F. D. (Compare with 91 
and 146, and with what is said in reference to 144.) 

143. MODERN CAPITALS AND LOWER CASES — Scratched straight oft 



XX Descriptive List of Illustrations. 

in moist clay, afterwards baked. The form of the letters 
is such as could be most easily incised with a point or 
stylus, and is characteristic of the way of working out of 
which it comes. L. F. D. (Compare with 112, 113, 
127, 131) 

144. MODERN CAPITALS drawn with a continuous line, such as a 

silk cord "couched" upon velvet would naturally, take, 
and suitable therefore for that form of embroidery. The 
flowing line is here as much dictated by the conditions as 
the square and angular forms of the letters following the 
mesh of the canvas in 142. This alphabet might equally 
well be traced with a full brush, and so executed in paint 
or gesso. It was worked by Mary Kidd of S. Mary's 
Embroidery School, Wantage. 

145. MODERN CAPITALS EMBOSSED on thin sheet-metal, the form 

and fashion of the letters suggested by the ease with which 
they could be beaten up. L. F. D. 

146. MODERN ALPHABET IN RIGHT LINES, suggested by the 

square form of Chinese writing. L. F. D. (See p. 29. 
Compare with 142.) 

147. MODERN ALPHABET, expressive of the brush, suggested by 

brush forms in Japanese writing. L. F. D. (See p. 29.) 

AMPERZANDS. 

148. AMPERZANDS from various MSS., dating from the 7th to the 

15th centuries. 

149. AMPERZANDS — Free renderings of instances dating from the 

1 6th century to the present day. In the top row may be 
traced the connection between the accepted & and the 
letters ET, of which it is a contraction. 

Note. — Other examples of amperzands occur in illustrations 
83. A.D. 1665. 

98. CASLON TYPE. 

ICO. MODERN FRENCH. 
10 1. „ ,, ELONGATED. 

104. „ "OLD style'* ITALIC. 

109' t) J. W, Weekes. 

120. ,, Patten Wilson. 

125. „ L. F. D. 



Descriptive List of Illustrations. xxi 



NUMERALS. 

150. GERMAN. CUT IN STONE— The peculiar form of 4 is of the 

period ; the 7's have, so to speak, fallen forward. 1477. 

151. VARIOUS 15TH-CENTURY DATES— Flemish and German. 

1491 is carved in wood and grounded out. 1439 is cut in 
stone, 1499 in brass. 

152. FIFTEENTH CENTURY— German. Cut in stone. 

153. DATES FROM 1 520-1 545 —Chiefly cut in brass or bronze. 

The figures in relief and grounded out. 

154. FIFTEENTH CENTURY Numerals, 1520-1531, etc. German. 

Cut in bronze or brass. 

155. NUREMBERG— Bronze. About 1550. 

156. GERMAN — Bronze. 1560. 

157. ITALIAN — Painted on faience. Brushwork, 1560. 

158. BRUSHWORK — 1 6th or 17th century. 

159. ITALIAN — From a corale. Penwork. Compare 64 and 71. 

i6th century. 

160. GILT FIGURES on a dark ground — Brushwork. 1548 ? 

161. INCISED IN WOOD— 1588. 

162. BRASS, GROUNDED OUT — i6th ceutury. 

163. PAINTED ON GLASS— 1 6th century. 

164. BRUSHWORK — 1 6th or 17th century. 

165. ROTHENBURG— Cut in stone. The 4 suggests the origin 

of the 15th-century shape. It is an ordinary 4 turned part 
way round. 1634. 

166. ROMAN NUMERALS — From a bronze dial. Swiss. Figures 

in relief, grounded out. 1647. 

167. CUT IN STONE — 1 692. 

168. VARIOUS DATES — 1633, wood in relief. 1625, wood incised. 

The rest on brass (grounded out) or cut in stone. The i in 
1679 resembles the letter k — a not uncommon occurrence 
in 17th-century German inscriptions. 



xxii Descriptive List of Illustrations, 

169. VARIOUS iSth-century NUMERALS~The Complete series 

from an English writing-book (Curtis), 1732. The Dates 
incised in stone. 

170. PROBABLY swiss—Inlaid in wood. 1664. 

171. DATES FROM MONUMENTS — Stone and brass. 1 8ih century. 

172. NUMBERS FROM AN OLD MEASURE — Inlaid in brass wire on 

hard brown wood. 1740. 

173. VARIOUS DATES— 1573, Flemish, engraved on steel. 1747, 

German, twisted brass wire inlaid in wood. 

174. FANCIFUL NUMERALS. L. F. D. 

175. MODERN. 

176. MODERN— (Compare with 113, 144.) L. F. D. 

177. MODERN— (Compare with 119.) L. F. D. 

178. MODERN GERMAN — (Compare 116.) Alois Miiller. 
Other numerals occur in illustrations — 

83. A.D. 1665. 

84. A.D. 1697. 

98. CASLON TYPE. 

106. MODERN. J. W. Weekcs. 

108. „ J. Cromer Watt. 

120. ,, Patten Wilson. 

134. ,, A. Beresford Pite. 



ART IN THE ALPHABET. 



TheR£ are two conditions on which the artist may 
be permitted to tamper with the alphabet : what- 
ever he does ought, in the first place, to make 
reading run smoother, and, in the second, to make 
writing satisfactory to the eye. Neither of these 
desirable ends should, however, be sought at the 
expense of the other. 

The way to make reading easier is to mark 
whatever is characteristic in the letter ; to develop 
what is peculiar to it ; to curtail, or it may be to lop 
off, anything which tends to make us confound it 
with another ; to emphasize, in short, the individu- 
ality of each individual letter, and make it unmis- 
takable. At the same time, there is no reason 
why reading should not be made pleasant as well 
as easy. Beauty, that is to say, is worth bearing 
in mind. It must not, of course, interfere with use ; 
but there is not the least reason why it should. 
Beauty does not imply elaboration or ornament. 
On the contrary, simplicity and character, and the 
dignity which comes of them, are demanded in 
the interests alike of practicality and of art 

B 



2 Art in the Alphabet. 

It is impossible judiciously to modify the letters 
of the alphabet as it is, or as at any given time it 
was, without thoroughly understanding how it came 
to be so. The form and feature of lettering are 
explained only by its descent. 

All writing is a sort of shorthand. It is inevitable 
that the signs usedto represent sounds should be re- 
duced to their simplest expression. They become 
in the end mere signs, as unlike the thing which 
may have suggested them in the first instance 
as a .man's, signature,^ which is yet honoured by 
his banker, is Lunlike his nanie : enough if writing 
convey what wo are meant to understand: the 
business bfa letter is .tasym{)olize a definite sound. 

We arrive, then, by a process of what has been 
termed "degradation'^ of such natural ^fprms as 
>vere. first enjployed in picture-writing (call Itxatbca? 
adaptationj, at an alphabet, of. Seemingly arbitrary 
sighs^ the alphabet as we know it after a couple of 
thousand years and more. So well da we know it 
that. we seldom think to ask ourselves what the 
letters mean, or how they came to be. . 

The explanation of these forms lies in .their 
evolution. . ^ , 

OuT-^alpfaabet i& that of the Romans. We speak 
of it to this day as Roman,^to distinguish it from 
Gothic or black letter.. The Romans had it fronx 
the Greeks, or, if not immediately from them, 
from the same sources whence they drew theirs. 

Certainly the Greek, Etruscan, and old Roman 



Art in the Alphabet. 3 

alphabets wei^ all very much alike. They resembled 
one another In the number of letters they contained, 
in the sound-value of those letters, and in the form 
they took. There were sixteen letters common to 
Greeks, Etruscans, and Pelasgians: ABFAEIKLM 
NOnPSTY; and this number sufficed always for 




H-&-«-IK)t\MUMNO 




- r. GREEK MS. 9TH CENTURY. 

the Etruscanis, the race dying out before ever it 
had need, of more. The Greeks had no longer 
(as the Egyptians had) any signs to represent 
syllables, that is to say combinations of vowels 
and :. consonants, but they grafted on to the old 
PellLsgian or native alphabet (whencesoever that 
may have been derived) sundry new letters neces- 
sary to express new words, borrowed from the 



Art in the Alphabet. 



^^ cp CJUTTTBXfiO 

• ^ MM 






JMOVpcpe 




xpcGpoeic 
epoc^ 

2. COPTIC MS. 5TH TO lOTH CENTURY. 

Phoenicians. Naturally they took the letters also 
from them. These same Phcenicians had probably 
adopted from the Egyptians signs to express 
foreign sounds new to their own language, without 
knowing or caring anything about the pictorial 
origin of such signs. There was thus no reason 
why they should not modify what they regarded 
as arbitrary expressions of sound-values, and every 
reason why they should reduce them to the very- 
simplest and most conveniently written shape — 
which they did ; and so it comes about that we 
to-day are in all probability directly indebted to 
ancient Egypt for at least a portion of our alphabet, 
far removed as it may be from the hieroglyphics 



Art in the Alphabet. 5 

of the Pharaohs. That, however, is by the way, 
and, besides, a long way off. For present purposes 
we need not go further back than to ancient Greece. 
The four Phoenician letters first incorporated with 
the Greek alphabet were Z, (th\ * (pK), X {cli), 
and eventually there were added also the letters 
H (ee) Q (po\ ^ (ps\ S (ks\ 

The Romans dropped all compound conso- 
nants, using at first the two consonants which 
most nearly expressed the sound equivalent to 
that of the Greek double letter ; for example, PH 
in place of ^. But they proceeded also to devise 
single letters for sounds which until then had 
been expressed by two ; F, for example, instead 
of PH, and Q for CV. 



3. COPTIC MS. I2TH CENTURY. 




fcnxmiiiiij 



Art in the Alphabet. 7 

. A Greek alphabet of the year 394 B.C. is given 
in alphabet 28, ^nd a 16th-century version in :z^. 
The more cursive form employed : by tbe^ 9th- 
century scribe is shown in the manuscript letters 
(i) on page 3. 

It is interesting to . compare with these the 
Coptic writing (2, 3, 4), which is obviously only 
a variant upon the Greek ; for the Christianized 
Egyptians, when they accepted Christianity, 
adopted the Greek alphabet, just as the Turks 
took the Arabic character at the time they ac- 
cepted the Koran ; and when, in the 6th century, 
the new faith was firmly established at Alexandria, 
Coptic writing supplanted the old Egyptian. So 
it happens that the Coptic alphabet is Greek, 
except for seven extra signs, taken from the 
ancient demotic alphabet, to express Egyptian 
sounds for which the Greeks h$d no equivalent 

Akin to the Coptic lettering is the Moesian 
alphabet of the 4th century (5), which bears on the 
face of it the evidence of the broadly cut pen with 
which it was written. 

The early Roman or Latin alphabet differed 
very little from the Greek. The latest pomers 
initwereGHKQXYZ. 

In its adaptation to the Latin language, Greek 
gamma or G becomes C. G is, in fact, almost 
equivalent to hard C. To the not too subtle ear 
the two sounds are like enough to pass one for 
the other, just as soft C may be made to do duty 



8 Art in the Alphabet. 

for S. When G came to be used as a separate 
letter, distinct from C, then C in its turn was used 
for K, though K did not go quite out of use. 
The Greek H {hetd) stood for EE ; but at the 

jkLmhopq 

K ST u luxy z 

5. MOESIAN MS. 4TH CENTURY. 

beginning of a word it answered the purpose of 
the aspirate. The Romans used it for the aspirate 
only ; that is to say, practically just as we use it 
now, for H. 

The letter J did not exist either in the Greek or 
in the ancient Roman alphabet. It is equivalent 
to II. Place one I over the other and you get a 

long 1. Eventually the initial developed a tail, 

and became J. Towards the 15 th century the 
initial I was pretty generally written J. 

The Greek Y (upsilon) becomes the Roman V — . 
whence the confusion, until modern times, of the 
letters U and V, long used indiscriminately. They 



Art in t/ie Alphabet 9 

were considered as interchangeable ; one or other 
of them might be used, or both at once in the 
same word in the same sense. It was not until 
the loth century that the custom arose of reserving 
V for the beginning of a word, and elsewhere 
using U. 

Q, (omega) stood for 00, and in the minus- 
cule form, CD looked like it, thus showing its deriva- 
tion ; but in the end it was used for UU, or W. 
It appears that in some Greek dialects it is used 
for OU. It is quite certain that in the 9th 
century (see p» 3) omega was written precisely 
like a W, When you come to think of it, the 
sounds are very nearly alike. Take any word 
beginning with W, change the double U into 
double O, and then try and pronounce it — say, 
for example, not WHY, but OOHY. Is it not much 
the same thing? 

The alphabet, as we know it, owes something 
also to Scandinavia. The Runic writing, as the 
script of the Scandinavian and other Northern 
European priesthood was called, dates back to 
legendary days. It was the invention, they say 
of Odin himself If so, Odin, to judge by internal 
evidence, must have derived it from some earlier 
Greek or Roman source. What we know is, that 
it was in use from the time of the first intercourse 
between Scandinavians and Romans. The Chris- 
tian Church forbade its use, and with the triumph 
of Christianity it passed out of currency ; but it 



!0 Art in the Alphabet. 




NofaKSTyt 

6. ROMAN MS. 4TH CENTURY. 

lived long enough to affect in some degree our 
Anglo-Saxon writing. 

It will be well now to mark the more decided 
steps in the progress of the alphabet. The type 
we use takes, as every one knows, two forms — a 
larger and a smaller, a major and minor, or as 
printers put it, "capitals," and " lower case" or the 
small letters which, being most continually in 
request, it is convenient to keep near at hand, in 
the lower part of the case from which the com- 
positor, so to speak, feeds himself. Our written 
character takes the form of a "running" hand, 
and is known by that name, or by the more high- 
sounding title of " cursive." 

Now, the printer's " lower case," or " minuscule," 

?cBcx>efcjbAor) 

NopqRSTumxz 



7. MS. 7TH CENTURY. 



Art in the Alphabet. ii 




NOpCjRSTQVy 

8. ROMAN UNCIALS. 8tH CENTURY. 

as it is also called, is practically the book form 
of running hand, except that the letters are 
quite separate, not conjoined as they are in what 
pretends to be only the hand of the ready writer, 
and does not claim to be beautiful at all. 

The earlier form, whether of Greek or Roman 
letter, was the capital, the square shape, with rela- 
tively few curved lines, which could conveniently 
be cut in stbne or engraved on metal. This is, 
in fact, the monumental style — adapted to, and, 
what is mdfe, inspired by, the chisel or the graver. 
You have only to look at it (28, 30) to see how 

ABCDlfGhflL^ 

9. ROMAN "rustic" WRITING. 5TU CENTURY. 



12 Art in tlie Alphabet. 



abcdiFghvIm 
nopqrstvv 

lO. ROMAN MS. CAPITALS. 6rH CENTURY. 



precisely fit it is for its purpose. There is no 
mistake about it, it is incision. 

Manuscript writers adopted for book writing a 
different character, or rather they adapted the 
square capital letter to more ready execution with 
the pen, and so evolved a rounder kind of letter 
which is known by the name of uncial — not that it 
was invariably inch-long, as the term is supposed 
to imply. 

The uncial form of writing is intermediate, you 
will see (8), between the monumental writing and 
the "current" hand of the ready writer. It is, if 
not the step between the two, a compromise 
between them — no matter which ; what it concerns 
us to know is that calligraphy took that direction, 
which goes to explain many a later form of letter 
widely differing from the original square type. The 
relationship between these uncial letters and the 
cursive Greek (i) is obvious. 

The uncial character does not so much affect the 
modern printer ; but it is the form of letter from 
which the artist who prefers his own handiwork 



Art in the Alphabet. 




If. MS. CAPITALS. 6th CENTURY. 

to that of the printing press has perhaps most to 
learn. 

A squarer form of capital employed by the 
Romans in manuscripts of the 5th and two follow- 
ing centuries, is known by the name of " rustic ; " 
not that there was anything rustic about these 
capitals in our sense of the word ; but the Latin 
word was used in the sense of free and easy, sans 
gene. The character of the writing is not so formal 
as was supposed to befit the town. It is a kind of 
country cousin ; it stands, let us say, for the Roman 
capital in a loose coat and a soft hat. The charac- 
teristic points about it (9) are that the vertical 
strokes are all very thin, and the cross-strokes 
broad. These cross-strokes take the form of a kind 
of tick, tapering at the ends ; and similar ticks are 
used to emphasize the finishing of the thin strokes. 
That all of this is pen-work is self-evident. But, 
as before said, the more usual form of penmanship 
at that time was the uncial letter. 



14 Art in the Alphabet. 

ABCDEF6HIK 
LNOPR>yTYX 

12, BYZANTINE CAPITALS. 7TH CENTURY. 

Even when the Roman manuscript writers used> 
as they sometimes did, the square capital form, they 
did not confine themselves (ii) to the severely 
simple shapes which came naturally to the lapi- 
daries. The unequal strength of the lines, the 

I 

thickening of the strokes at the ends, and the 
spurred or forked shapes they take, all speak of 
the pen ; not the steel pen, of course, nor yet 'the 
more supple quill, but the reed pen — rather blunter 
than a quill, but pliant enough, and not given to 
spluttering. Moreover, it did not tempt the writer 
to indulge in unduly thin upstrokes. 

Capitals,. Greek and Roman alike, represent, 
roughly speaking, the first; accepted shapes, en- 
graver's or carver's work. Uncials stand for MS. 
writing, Scribe's, work, grbwing by degrees rounder 
and more current, , The smaller nfiinuscule was 
evolved out of the running hand of the mercantile, 
as distuiguishfe4 from the literary, scribe. It was 
hot used ,by the ancient, Romans, and it was not 
until towards the 8th century that running hand 
was thus reduced to; order. The greater part of 
what is called cursive writing scarcely concerns 



Art in the Alphabet. 



15 





13. INSCRIPTION CUT IN STONE. A.D. I085. 



the calligrapher ; it might equally be called dis- 
cursive, so apt is it to run wild, in which case it 
tells less of the progress of writing than of the 
cajf)rice or carelessness of the individual writer. 

That was not the case with the various ceremonial 
versions of running hand employed by the writers 
of Papal Bulls and Royal Charters. Such " diplo- 
matic " hands, as they are styled (because diplomas 
were written in them), and the so-called *' Chancery " 
handsy are highly elaborate, and in a sense orna- 
mental, but they are so unlike our writing as to 
be, practically speaking* illegible. They are very 
suggestive for all that A specimen of English 
Court hand is given in Alphabet 95. 

With the decline of the Roman empire came 
naturally the demoralization of the Roman 
character, capital or uncial ; and just in proportion 
as Rome ceased to be the one centre of the world, 
and other nations rose into inlportance, so their 
writing began to show signs of nationality. At 
the loss of some refinement, we get thenceforth 



i6 



Art in the Alphabet, 



variety of character. By the b^innihg of the 8th 
century distinctly national styles of lettering were 
evolved. 

To subdivide these styles so minutely as the 
learned do, is rather to bewilder the poor student 
by their multitude. The important European races 
were, the Latins, the Franks, the Teutons and 
Anglo-Saxons, and the Visigoths ; and from them 
we get respectively the Lombard, the Prankish, 



^C 



14. FRANCO-GALLIC MSS. HEADLINES. 7TH CENTURY. 

the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon, and the Visigothic 
types of writing, all of which eventually merge 
themselves in what we call Gothic, in which, 
nevertheless, we still find traits of nationality, 
English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, as the 
case may be. 

First as to the Lombardic character, which pre- 
vailed in Italy from the 8th to the nth century. 
It was not, as its name might be taken to imply, 
the invention of the Lombards, They were just 
long-bearded conquerors, and invented nothing. 
The character was not even confined to Northern 







Art in the Alphabet. 17 

Italy ; only it happened first to be developed there, 
and 5o all later Latin writing (after the Empire) 
came to be called "Lombardic." 

It has already been explained how uncial writing 
was transitional between square " caps*' and rounder 
pen-forms. The Lombardic shows a further stage 
of transition. The penman had not quite made up 
his mind between straight lines and curved ; he 
hesitated between the square-lined M and N and 
the rounded forms (19, 20, 46). Eventually he 
decided in favour of the bulging shapes, which in 
their later developnient we distinguish by the name 
of Lombardic capitals (42). 

There is a broken-backed version of the Lombard 
minuscule, ^^ Lombard brisie'' the French call it, 
which, though not intrinsically beautiful, is inte- 
resting as foreshadowing the later form of Gothic 
•* lower case " which we call " black letter." 

Our own ** lower case " we get more or less 
directly from Charlemagne. He found, perhaps 
his friend the Pope told him, that writing had 
degenerated by the time he came to the throne 
(a.D. 800) to a state unworthy of a mighty emperor. 
Accordingly he ordained its reformation. He went 
so far as to compel bishops and other important 
personages who could not write decently, to employ 
scribes who could. In this way he revived the 
small Roman character, which we eventually adopted 
for our printed type. 

The scribes of Charlemagne (and for some tinie 

C 



1 8 Art in the Alphabet. 

after him) did not yet manage to fashion very 
satisfactory capitals. They still mixed up letters 
all of one thickness with others in which thick and 
thin strokes, or diminishing strokes, were used in a 
most illogical and awkward way (33) — indicative, of 
course, of a period of change. But they did arrive' 
at a satisfactory and very characteristic rendering 



IHlEDIi 



7 



HEirrOKEbM 



/ 



trefatioksIhqsm 



eXPRfMTVRlr 



VMIS 




15. VISIGOTHIC MS. lOTH CENTURY. 

of minuscule lettering. A conspicuous feature in 
it was the elongation of the longer limb of the 
1 p g q f d — tails, that is to say, came into fashion, 
and long ones, as much as four or five times the 
length of the body of the letter. The letter s took 
also the long form, f. The letter t, on the other 
hand, does not rise much above the line, sometimes 
not at all. 



Art in the Alphabet. 



19 




16. SAXON ILLUMINATION (CAROLINE). 9TH CENTURY. 

That elongation of up-and-down strokes is 
characteristic of Prankish and Visigothic lettering 
generally. It occurs even in the case of capitals, as 
in the headlines of the 10th-century MS. on p. 18. 
There the I, the H, and the L rise high above the 
heads of their fellows, whilst, on the other hand, 
the V-shaped U in the word OPVSCVLVM is 
reduced to more than modest proportions. 

There appears to be in Visigothic lettering, of 
which that is a good example, usually a trace 
of Moorish influence, betraying itself in the liberties 
taken with the proportion of the characters ; the 
Moors had by that time overrun Spain. 

hlUttWmiJHOS 

OPqRSSSTUUX 



17. ANGLO-SAXON. 



20 Art in the Alphabet. 

>i-<>opcj8^t:'cu 

l8. ANGLO-SAXON MS. 9TH CENTURY. 

There is something very whimsical about the 
character of Anglo - Saxon capitals ; at times 
mechanically square in form, at others excep- 
tionally flowing and even frisky (i6, 17, 36, 37). 
Anglo-Saxon lettering was affected by lingering 
traces of an obsolete alphabet derived perhaps at 
some remote period from the Gauls, which, to 
judge by internal evidence, must have been some- 
thing like the Greek. In the minuscule character 
(18) there is a curious twist in the long stroke of 
the b and 1. 

By the 13 th century the Gothic style .had formed 
itself. In the next hundred years or more it was 
perfected. At the end of the 15th century it was 

ACDe€EILMNaOP(l 



aRSTUV 



19. FLOPEKTINE, INCISED AND INLAID. 12711 CENTURY, 



Art in the Alphabet. 



21 



still flourishing— flourishing was the word literally 
— in the i6th letters were sometimes nearly all 
flourish : it takes an expert to read them. 

The Gothic variations upon the Roman capital 
form are characteristic : the thick strokes are not 
even-sided, but expanded at the two ends or 
narrowed towards the centre ; the curved strokes 
do not swell so gradually as before, but bulge 

AU)Dt)eHL 

IMNBOPRSy 

20. ITALIAN MS. EARLY I3TH CENTURV. 

more or le§s suddenly ; the tails of sundry letters 
break insubordinate from the ranks ; and the ex- 
tremities are often foliated or otherwise orna- 
mented (39, 40-42)- Markedly characteristic of 
Gothic of the 13th and 14th centuries are also 
the "closed" letters, of wbich examples occur in 
Alphabets 45, 46, 47, 48, etc. 

What are called Lombardic capitals were used, 
not only as initials, but for inscriptions throughout. 
In fact, it was not until the isth century that 



22 Art in the Alphabet. 

inscriptions were commonly written in minuscule 
letters. In many cases these Lombard capitals 
were not written with a pen, but with a brush, from 
which results something of their character. The 
brush lines were fatter than pen strokes. 

Gothic characteristics, however, only gradually 

wuvwxyz 

21. FREE RENDERING OF LOMBARD MSS. ABOUT 125a 



asserted themselves, and individual scribes clung 
tenaciously to the older forms. The alphabet 
opposite, for example, though of the 1 5th century, 
only mildly represents the period to which by date 
it belongs. 

Gothic letters lend themselves to more variety 
in design than Roman, not being so perfect in 
themselves. To some, perhaps, they are more 



Art in the Alphabet 23 

interesting on that very account : perfection palls 
upon us. Anyway, the Gothic forms are often 
very beautiful. The Roman letter is classic, and 
therefore fixed — or, should it rather be said, it is 
fixed, and therefore classic ? 

With regard to the Gothic minuscule character 
(23, 24, 25), the even perpendicularity of the broad, 
straight strokes gives at a glance the character 
distinguished as ** black letter," because it is rela- 

ABCDeFQhHLM 
NOPQRSTVXZ 

22. CAPITALS. 15TH CENTURY. 

tively much heavier than the Roman minuscule. 
You have only to compare the two to see that 
the " black letter " is blacker. 

The Germans marked this form of lettering for 
their own, and persevered in its use long after the 
rest of the world, in pursuance of the fashion of 
classicism prevailing in the i6th century, had 
abandoned it for the Roman style of lettering. 

The mediaeval German version of black letter 
was stronger than that of other countries, the 
French more fanciful, the Italian more refined, 
more perfect, but perhaps never so Gothic. 

The old "black letter" varied, as will be seen, 



24 Art in the Alphabet. 




f$(ttPipm 



23. GERMAN GOTHIC MINUSCULE. 

very much in character. The rounder form (23) is 
freer, easier to write, more cursive. The more 
regular and straight-backed letter (24, 25) went 
rather out of fashion for a while ; but it was 
revived by the printers, who saw in it what they 
could best inaitate. , 

The type we use nowadays has shaped itself in a 
more or less accidental way. In the first place, it 
was a copy of manuscript forms. That was in- 
evitable. Possibly printers were anxious to palm 
off their printed books as manuscripts. But, apart 
from any such intent on their part, their text was 
bound to follow the written page, or no one would 
have been able to read it. And as, at the time of 



Art in the Alphabet. 25 

24. GERMAN GOTHIC MINUSCULE. 

the introduction of printing, two styles of writing 
were in use for manuscripts, there arose naturally 
two styles of printed type — ** Roman " and " black 
letter.** In printing, as in manuscript, however, 
black letter gave way to the Roman character, 
but not all at once ; there was a period of tran- 
sition during which some very interesting and 
characteristic types were used. We in our day 
have arrived, by a process of copying the copies of 
copies of copies, from which all the virtue of vitality 
and freshness has died out, at a Victorian type 
(look at the newspapers), which compares most 
unfavourably with the early printing. The modern 
form of letter is in a measure fixed for us by 



26 Ari in the Alphabet. 

Mninoiir|[r? 

25. GOTHIC MINUSCUEL. 

circumstances ; we cannot conveniently depart far 
from it ; but something may be done. There is 
no need to revive mediaeval lettering, no occasion 
to invent new lettering all out of our own heads, if 
that were possible ; any new departure of ours 
must be very much on old lines ; but at least we 
might found ourselves upon the best that has been 
done, and go straight to that for inspiration. 

Type, as before said, was based on manuscript 
forms. These manuscript forms had been shaped 
with a view always to easy writing. What was 
difficult to pen dropped out of use, and lettering 
became what the scribe made it. The considera- 
tions, however, which guided the writer no longer 
concern the printer. It is time, perhaps, he took 
stock of the alphabet — looked over it with a view 



Art in the Alphabet. 27 

to its perfection, since one shape is about as easy 
to print as another. The changes which have 
taken place in our printed type during the last 
three hundred years or so may very likely have 
been oh the whole in the direction of easy reading, 
but they have not been in the direction of beauty ; 
and it is quite likely that it may be worth while 
restoring some obsolete forms of letter now that we 
have not to write them. There is inconvenience 
in departing in any appreciable degree from the 
accepted form of letter; but we have arrived to-day 
at a period when everyone is so familiar with the 
printed page that, prejudiced as we may be against 
any modification of it, there is no danger of our 
finding any real difficulty in reading an improved 
type. Lettering is none the more legible because 
it is ugly : beauty is compatible with the very 
sternest use. 

The earliest writing was most probably scratched 
with a point upon whatever came handiest to the 
scribe — skins, palm leaves, or the bark of trees, and 
especially upon clay, a material which had only to 
be burnt to become more lasting than stone. 

If, in scratching upon firm clay, the writer begins 
his stroke with a dig and then drags out the tool, 
it results in a wedge-shaped scratch. That seems 
to be the way the cuneiform character came about; 
but the lettering upon the early Babylonian 
" bricks," as they are called, is so precisely defined 
that it must have been done with a sharp graver- 



28 Art in the Alphabet. 

like point. These "wedge-shaped" or "arrow- 
headed " characters came to be copied, as we know, 
in stone, in which again they were about the simplest 
thing to cut. Three, or at most four, direct cuts 
give the Ninevite character, as we know it in the 
famous bas-reliefs. It is descended from clay forms, 
but its own mother was the stone out of which 
it was cut The chisel was its father. Even in 
inscriptions as late as the eighteenth century or 
thereabouts, the stone-cutter lapses, as may be seen 
opposite, into more or less wedge-shaped incisions ; 
the chisel tempted him, and he yielded to its 
persuasion.. 

From the cuneiform character to simple Greek 
(28) or Roman (30) capitals, as square as well 
could be, is not far ; and the clear-cut inscriptions 
on classic monuments are still typically chisel 
work. Very early Greek inscriptions are, however, 
not much more than scratched in the granite or 
whatever it may be. The small Greek character 
on the famed Rosetta stone is mere scratching. 

Writing done with a stylus on tablets of wax was 
naturally blunt. Penwork at first was also much 
blunter than modern writing — owing partly, no 
doubt, to the use of the reed pen, partly to the 
texture of papyrus, and partly to the consistency of 
the ink. The strokes of early lettering in Egyptian, 
Greek, and Latin manuscripts alike, are rather thick, 
and rounded at the angles, not sharply turned. 

It was a reed pen with which the Arabs wrote. 



Art in the Alphabet. 29 

holding it more or less horizontally so as to retain 
the ink, and sloping the paper or papyrus at a 
convenient angle ; and it was in writing the Roman 
letters with a reed pen that the mediaeval scribes 
gave it its Gothic character. It was not until the 
quiU (which held the ink better) came into use that 
the Italians developed their minuscule letter with 
its thick and thin strokes. 

A glance is sometimes enough to tell whether an 
early Egyptian manuscript was written with a pen 

AaBCDEFGCHI 
KLMNOPPaQR 

26. FROM INSCRIPTIONS CUT IN STONE. ABOUT 1700. 

or with a brush. The Arab penmen, who took 
great pride in their art, wrote with a wonderfully 
elastic pen, and got out of the reed fornis which 
remind one at times of brush work ; but the neskhi 
character is as obviously the pen form of writing 
as the squarer cufic is the monumental. So also we 
find among the Chinese arid Japanese one form of 
lettering which i9 characteristically brushwork, arid 
another almost rectangular, which last is clearly 
the monumental manner. 



30 Art in the Alphabet. 

Even in late Gothic lettering we find a minus- 
cule which is of the pen (23), and another (24, 25) 
which is monumental, adapted, that is to say, to 
precise and characteristic rendering with the graver 
upon sheets of brass. It is curious that out of this 
severe form of writing the florid ribbon character 
(70) should have been evolved. But when once the 
engraver began to consider the broad strokes of 
his letters as bands or straps, which, by a cut of 
the graver, could be made to turn over at the 
ends, as indicated in Alphabet 57, it was inevitable 
that a taste for the florid should lead him to 
something of the kind. The wielder of the brush 
was in all times induced by his implement to make 
flourishes (55), in which the carver had much 
less temptation to indulge. The sloping or " italic *' 
letter (27) is, on the face of it, the product of the pen. 

We find, then, that the implement employed, 
stylus, reed-pen, brush, or whatever it may have 
been, goes far to account for the character of 
ancient lettering. So soon as the writer ceased 
to be satisfied with mere scratching or blunt 
indentation, and took to the use of the chisel, he 
felt the need of a square cross-cut to end the 
stroke of his letter. If that was broad, there was 
no occasion for the cut to go beyond the width of 
the stroke itself. If it was narrow, the easier 
thing to do was to anticipate the danger of over- 
shooting the mark, and frankly extend the end 
cut This method of finishing off the broad line 



Art in the Alphabet. 31 

by a projecting cross-line is technically called 
truncation, though literally that only means 
cutting off. Slight but appreciable difference 
in character results fronfi the angle at which the 
strokes are truncated or cut off. 

In working with a pen, this difficulty of ending 
the stroke occurs only in the case of very bold 
lettering. In small writing the strokes naturally 

abc d c f gb 

i kl mnop If 
rfs t ajc yz 

27. ROMAN ITALICS. 

take pen-shape. They start square and gradually 
diminish, or vice versdy or they thicken in the 
middle, according to the pressure of the pen, which 
it is difficult to keep quite equal from end to end 
of the stroke. 

It should be observed that the pressure is not 
naturally in the middle of the stroke, but at one 
end ; the penman does not naturally get the 
symmetrical Roman 0, but the Gothic (71). 



32 Art in the Alphabet. 

That is the pen-born shape. The even-sided O was, 
if not easier to cut in stone, at least as easy ; there 
was nothing to prevent symmetry, which was 
accordingly the rule in sculpture. It is rather 
futile to aim at that kind of thing with a pen ; 
much better let the pen have its way ; and its way 
is otherwise (129, etc.). We get so much more out 
of our tools by going with them, that it is rather 
stupid to strive against them. 

In very bold writing, even with a pen, the 
necessity for truncating the thick strokes occurs. 
You cannot easily, with one stroke of the pen, 
make a thick line which begins and ends square. 
It wants trimming; and the easiest way to trim 
it is by means of a fine cross-stroke extending 
beyond its width. This cross-stroke X helps to 
preserve and to accentuate the regularity of the 
line of lettering, for which a writer worth the name 
naturally has a care. The broad stroke being 
rather loaded with ink, the fine cross-stroke is 
inclined, in crossing it, to drag a little of the ink 
with it, rounding one angle of it. The obvious 
way of rectifying that is to round the opposite 
angle also — and so we have the familiar finish y, 
which is equivalent to the "spur" of the chiseller 
mentioned just now (100). 

The angle at which the cross-line joins the 
stroke may be softened until it disappears, and 
the stroke appears to be curved on either side-^ 
"dilates," to use another accepted termi at the 



Art in the Alphabet. 33 

ends. Historically, we arrive at that in Lombardic 
and other writing as early as the 8th century (34). 

Anticipating this dilation, the penman eventually 
made strokes in which the elementary straight line 
altogether disappears (54). Further elaborating, 
he arrived at the rather sudden swelling of the 
curved back of the letter, familiar in work of the 
13th century and later (51, 52). With the forking 
of the terminations, and the breaking of the out- 
line in various ways (20), we arrive at fantastic 
variation to which there is no conceivable end (46, 
47> 5i> 52, 74). Few examples, therefore, of the 
elaborate ornamentation of lettering are here illus- 
trated (60, 73, 93, etc.), preference having been 
given to alphabets in which the ornamental design 
is in the construction of the letters themselves. 

With the use of thick and thin strokes comes a 
difficulty. Which shall be thick, and which thin ? 
The scribes were a long while making up their 
minds on that point, and they contrived some very 
awkward combinations (33). The solution we have 
at last come to is probably the best that could be 
found. We need scarcely bother ourselves about 
trying to improve upon modern practice in that 
respect ; it has been a case of the survival of the 
fittest. 

Out of the use of thick and thin strokes arises 
the necessity for graduated strokes, there being no 
other way of treating the curved lines intermediate 
between the two. Then, if the thick strokes are 

D 



34 -^^^ i^ ^^^ Alphabet. 

truncated, the thin lines appear to want corre- 
sponding accentuation at the ends ; and so the 
** serif " runs all through the alphabet (80, 100, etc.). 

The further influence of the writing tool upon 
the form of the letter is illustrated in various 
Alphabets, and particular reference to it is made in 
the descriptive list of illustrations. A number of 
these Alphabets have been deliberately designed 
with a view to execution in a specific material. 

With regard, now, to Numerals. Until the 15th 
century, the letters M, D, C, L, X, V, and I were 
in general use to express numbers. 

The Arabic numerals, as they are called, found 
their way into Europe some time during the 12th 
century, but did not come into general use before 
the 15 th, nor indeed much before the introduction 
of printing, which diffused the knowledge of them. 
Their adoption in England was more tardy than 
on the continent, the beginning of the 17th century 
being given as the date of their universal accept- 
ance here. The numerals, as we know them, or 
even as they were written in the 1 5th century, do 
not bear any marked resemblance to the genuine 
Arabic ; numbers i and 9, and the all-important 
cypher, o, are the only Eastern figures which seem 
to claim direct oriental ancestry. 

The figures of the 1 5th century are not always 
at first sight very easily legible ; the 7, for example 
(150), presents anything but a familiar appear- 
ance, but upon examination that inverted V proves 



Art in the Alphabet. 35 

to be really an equal-limbed 7 placed (as it would 
naturally fall) so as to rest upon its two ends : it 
is not the figure that is changed, but its position. 
Much more puzzling is the early form of 4 (150, 
151, 152), a loop with crossed ends upon which it 
stands. The popular explanation of the figure as 
**half an eight," is anything but convincing, and it 
appears to have no Eastern prototype. There is a 
17th-century version of it, however, in the Francis- 
kaner Kirche, at Rothenburg (165), which, had 
it been of earlier date, might have been accepted 
as a satisfactory explanation. There the loop has 
a square end, and the figure rests, not upon its two 
loose ends, but partly on its point. Imagine this 
figure standing upright, one point facing the left, and 
it is seen to be a 4 of quite ordinary shape. This 
may not be the genesis of the form ; but, if not, it is 
ingeniously imagined by the 17th-century mason. 

Writers have from the first made use of con- 
tractions, the ready writer in order to save time 
and trouble, the caligrapher, sculptor, and artist 
generally, in order to perfect the appearance of 
his handiwork, and, in many cases, to make it fit 
the space with which he has to deal. The ends 
of art are not satisfied by merely compressing the 
letters, or reducing them to a scale which will 
enable the writer to bring them all into a given line 
(loi). We, in our disregard of all but what we call 
practicality, have abandoned the practice of con- 
traction, except in the case of diphthongs, and in 



36 Art in the Alphabet. 

the exceptional instance of the word "et" The 
" amperzand," as printers call it (143, 149), still 
lingers in his founts of type, and is used even more 
habitually by the ordinary penman of to-day. 

To what does all this investigation of the 
alphabet lead ? It is of no use trying to evolve 
brand-new alphabets out of our inner conscious- 
ness. No one would understand us^ and we want 
to be read. Originality is what we all desire ; but 
it is scarcely the thing to seek consciously, least of 
all in lettering ; it comes of its own accord if ever 
it comes. We are original or we are not 

While the alphabet is alive there will be changes 
in it, but they must inevitably be gradual; we 
can only creep on to new forms. Practically, what 
we have to do is to take an alphabet and modify 
it according to our wants or inclinations, without, 
as a rule, interfering much with its legibility. A 
man may, if he knows what he is about, make it 
more legible, as well as in other ways bettering it. 
But to do that intelligently, he should know some- 
thing of the descent of the lettering on which he 
founds himself. That is why it has been thought 
worth while to discuss the subject at such length 
here. 

An important consideration in the design of an 
alphabet — if design be not too pretentious a word 
to use in speaking of what can scarcely be much 
more than a variation upon orthodox forms — is 



Art in the Alphabet. 37 

that the letters should be systematically treated. 
They are more likely to be all of one family if we 
derive them from one source. But there is no 
reason why we should not cross the breed in 
lettering, if thereby we can improve the stock. 
An alphabet, however, should not look hybrid. 
The artist is free to do what he can ; but the test 
of success is that his creation should look as if it 
must be so, and could not have been otherwise. 

Why, it is asked, should any one trouble himself 
about hand-drawn lettering, when he has ready to 
his use type, which is so much truer and more 
perfect ? Truer, perhaps, it may be, in the sense 
of being more mathematically exact, but it is not 
necessarily so truly uniform in effect ; for the un- 
yielding letters of the type-founder come together 
as best they may, and if they come awkwardly he 
can't help it. The writer can, and indeed he should. 

There is no denying that many an artist who 
ventures to introduce lettering into his design, 
does it ill, does it so carelessly, or is so easily 
satisfied with very indifferent penmanship, that 
of the two evils hard and fast letterpress would 
have been the lesser. None the less true is it that 
an artist who has been at the pains to learn to 
write, can, if he aim at what pen or brush will 
do, and refrain from entering into foolish and in- 
effectual rivalry with the printing press, do what 
that cannot do, and do better. 

Looking at an early printed book, you are 



38 Art in the Alphabet. 

astonished, each time afresh, at the beauty of the 
page. But if you go from that straight to a fine 
manuscript, you realize that, after all, printing, 
even such printing as was done by the great 
printers, is a makeshift. It is a makeshift we 
have to put up with, and we may as well make the 
best of it ; merely petulant complaint is childish ; 
but when occasion does occur, let us have the real 
thing, and don't let us be persuaded by readers 
so greedy of print as to have lost all appetite for 
beautiful writing, that there is no flavour or artistic 
savour in it. It is not good manuscript, but their 
spoilt palate, which is at fault 

Having perfected machinery, we are doing our 
best to make ourselves into machines. Until that 
happens — ^which God forbid ! — man's hand is still 
the best, in art at all events ; and were it not the 
best, it would still have the charm of character, 
that individual quality for which a public brought 
up exclusively on printed type has no relish. 
Print, with its mechanical smoothness and pre- 
cision, has gone far to distort the modern ideal of 
lettering, just as photography, with its literalness, 
has degraded the ideal of art. There are people 
who resent as a sort of impertinence anything in 
lettering which the printing press cannot do. They 
are ready to take offence at whatever is unfamiliar. 
Really the impertinence is in a makeshift thing 
like type usurping any kind of authority in a 
matter quite beyond its scope. 



» 



Art in the Alphabet. 39 

The great difference between old lettering and 

new is that in days before type-founding the scribe 
was free to play variations on the well-known 
alphabetical air, whereas our print is monotonous 
as the tune of a barrel organ. 

Pedants are never happy until everything is 
fixed. But nothing is fixed until it is dead. Life 
is in movement. Philosophy has long since given 
up the search for perpetual motion, but that is 
the secret of it — life ; and that is the evidence and 
sign of life — motion. The question is : Are we 
alive ? 



iS. GREEK. FROM A STELE AT ATHENS. B.C. 394. 




29. GREEK INITIALS, PRINTED AT BASEL. i6TH CENTURY. 




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JALPHABETE AND ORNAMENTE." 




117. OTTO HUPP. "ALPHABETE AND ORNAMENTE.*' 










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I08. J. CROMAR WATT, ARCHITBCT. 



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109. J. W. WEEKES. 



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120. , 



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11110 FQR3T 

34-561190 . 



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124. FROM DESIGN 




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126. ENGRWING. ADAPTED FROM MEDl/GVAL GOLDSMITH'S WORK. 

L.F.D. 







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127. SCRATCHING. ADAPTED FROM OLD SPANISH. L.F.D, 



s 
4 




128. DESIGNED FOR ENGRAVING ON METAL ; BUT NOT 
UN8UITED TO PBNWORK. L.F.D. 




129. PEN WORK. L.F.D. 







m 11 TL 



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131. SCKATCHBD. I.F.D. 



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132. PEN WORK. ROLAND W. PAUL, ARCHITECT. 








133. PENWORK. R. K. COWTAN. 




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134. PEN WORK. 



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akcdeff 
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43 iMouiote. 




A. BERESFORD PITE, ARCHITECT. 





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135. PEN WORK. R. K. COWTAN. 



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136. PENWORK. R. K. COWTAN. 






137. o'"^ HiTPP. 



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^ WALTER CRANE. 

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139. PENWORK 





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140. INCISED- At-"" 




,147- BR17SHW0RK. UF.D. 





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148. AMPBRZANDS. 7TH TO I5TH CENTURIES. 



^cCQZS. 






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149. AMPBRZA.NDS. i6tH CENTURY, BTC, FREELY REND£Rti:D. 






IJO. CUT IN STOWK. 1477- 



laAA 



s6 




151. STONB AND BRASS. i439-'49i- 





151. CUT m STONE. 149a- 






1559 ( , 




153. CHIEFLY BRASSES. 152O-1545. 

O 



j2Mr 




154 BRASSES 



67&5)0 

6>890 

678?0 



I52O-I598. 



U345 




155* BRONZE. ABOUT I5SO. 



IZHS 



156. BRONZE. ABOUT 156a 



IZ34:5 

157. BRUSH-WORK. 16TH-CENTURY FAIENCE. 

67890 



158. BRUSH-WORK. i6TH OR I7TH CENTURY. 



67SOO 



159. ITALIAN MS. i6tH CKNTURY. 



JZ345 

160. GILT, ON BLACK, BRUSH-WORK. 1 548? 



^ 



l6l. INCISED IN WOOD. GERMAN. 1 588. 



(57890 



162. BRASS. i6TH century. 



678 pO 

163. BRUSH-WO&K. i6TH CENTURY. 

( 234-S 




164. ABOUT 1700. 





165. CUT IN STONE. I634. 




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166. RKLIBP IN BRASS OR BRONZE. 1647. 






167. STONE. 1692. 



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I 



l68. BRASS AND WOOD. I563-I707. j 

I 

i 




169. i8th century. 



37)6 zg A: ^7X9 
&7Zd 3723 

1724 J725 

S73SZX73e 

\77¥69S 3783 



A ^3 4 o" 4; 8 



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II 1^ 



A74 ° 



172. BRASS WIRE INLAY ON WOOD. 174O. 

U73 J 595 



J 74-7 



(^43 



173. ENGRAVED ON STEEL, OR INLAID IN WIRE ON WOOD. 

I573-1747. 









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174. L.F.D. 




175* MODERN. 




176. I^F.D. 





1 77- L.F.D. 



^2545^7 



178. ALOIS mOlLER. 



4 



4 



THE BORROWER WILL BE CHARGED 
AN OVERDUE FEE IF THIS BOOK IS 
NOT RETURNED TO THE LIBRARY ON 
OR BEFORE THE LAST DATE STAMPED 
BELOW. NON-RECEIPT OF OVERDUE 
NOTICES DOES NOT EXEMPT THE 
BORROWER FROM OVERDUE FEES. 



t 



SEP 18 2000 



K . 



FA 1 12 3.12.2 

ma «f1i 



3 2044 033 847 955 



FA 1123.12.2