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I'OSTAGK PAID ON RKCKIPT OF PRICK.
A. P. BOYCE,
No. 31 CORNHILL,
Sold by Booksellers and Paint and Artists' Material Dealers throughout the
United States and ( anada.
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THE ART OF LETTERING,
A COMPLETE AND PRACTICAL ILLUSTRATION OF THE ART OF SIGN WRITING.
By .A.. IP. BOYCE,
AUTHOR OS 1 "THE MODERN OENAMENTKR AND INTERIOR DECORATOR," Sco., &o.
A. WILLIAMS AND COMPANY, PUBLISHERS
Kntervil, nivonlmg to Act of Cougress, in the year 1S71, by A. I*. Boyck, in tlic Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.
A R] J, Spur. E F M N, Thickness.
15 E G J, Small curve or grace lines. B C J K, Spread of the grace.
R N T T P Q, Large curve. D R S T L Q, Hair-line.
The thickness, E P, is two-ninths of the height.
The width, E N G P, is seven-eighths of the height.
The thickness, M N P, is a little greater than E F G II, on
account of the curved lines, which cause the thickness to appear less
than it really is.
The hair-line, S T, is a little ahove the centre.
The distance, B C, is a little less, and J K a little more than one-
half of C D.
The lower grace, G J, is slightly longer than the upper grace, B E
The circle is about two-thirds of the height.
The thickness is a little more than two-ninths of the height.
The greatest width about equal the height.
The Roman character &■ is a modification of the Latin
word el. The left-hand side was the e, which it very much
resembles now ; the right-hand side was the t, and although
it little resembles that letter at present, the character &■ of
one hundred or two hundred years ago had quite a perfect t.
The present character is much prettier than the old-fashioned
one, which can be seen hy comparing the present letter with
the Antique or Old Style.
X^ V/ X1l k3
BOSTON STRAIGHT ROMAN.
V WX Y Z
BOSTON ROMAN LOWER CASE.
BOSTON OCTAGON EGYPTIAN.
BOSTON EGYPTIAN LOWER CASE.
NEW YORK EGYPTIAN LOWER CASE.
BOSTON OCTAGON FULL BLOCK.
BOSTON OCTAGON FULL BLOCK.
BOSTON ROUND FULL BLOCK.
These are the only letters in the Round Block which differ from the Octagon Block; in all other respects they are identical. (Shades of these letters referred to on another page.)
NEW YORK ROMAN LOWER CASE.
NEW YORK ROMAN.
NEW YORK ROMAN.
NEW YORK OCTAGON FULL BLOCK.
NEW YORK OCTAGON FULL BLOCK.
NEW YORK ROUND FULL BLOCK.
These are the only letters in the New York Round Full Block which differ at all from the Octagon Block.
NEW YORK ROUND EGYPTIAN.
The A,G, H, I, and other straight letters of this alphabet will be found in the Boston Octagon Egyptian, with the simple alteration of making the thickness one-fifth instead of two-ninths.
Boston Foil Roman.
Boston Straight Roman.
Boston Round Egyptian.
Boston Octagon Egyptian.
Boston Octagon Full Block.
Boston Round Full Block.
New Tork Roman.
New York Octagon Block.
New Tork Round Block. Hew Tork Condensed Block.
DIRECTIONS TO DRAW/ AN OVAL.
To draw an oval of. any given proportions, with string and tacks. Suppose it desirable to paee
an oval through the four points A B C D : first draw the horizontal line A E C, then at a point
just midway between the points A and C erect the line BED, exactly perpendicular to it ; next set
the dividers the distance E C, place one leg on the point B and describe the arc FHG; the two
points on the horizontal line where this arc intersects are where the tacks are to be put; around these
two tacks a string is to be tied so loosely that a pencil put in the loop will just reach the point B, then
by passing the pencil completely around, while guided by the string, the result will be the oval A B C D.
BOSTON ROMAN NUMERALS.
12 3 3-1-5 6 78 90
BOSTON ROUND EGYPTIAN NUMERALS.
BOSTON FULL BLOCK NUMERALS.
OLD ENGLISH NUMERALS.
A B CDEF GHIJK
V WX YZ &
a b cdefgh ijklm n op
A B CDEFGHIJKL MNOP Q R
STU V WXYZ. &1 2345 67890
TUSCAN LOWER CASE EXTENDED.
bcdefgliij lz X. xn. nopq
ANGLO SAXON TEXT.
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FANCY GRADED SHADE LETTERS.
The above letters may be worked up with any colors to suit the taste. The shades of the I and S are usually different tints of the same colore. The management
of the Egyptian S is that usually adopted with burnish gilt letters on glass. The outline of the letters is burnish gilt, which is filled in with any brilliant color graded to
different tints. The darkest line on the shading is black, and marks the limit of the shade, while the fainter line outside is of Umber or Sienna ; between these lines and
the letter is the fancy graded shade, of any bright color harmonizing with the other colors used on the letter. The study of this style of shaded letter offers a fine
opportunity for the display of taste in colors. An article on shading may be found in another place.
DESIGNS FOR SIGNS
DESIGNS FOR SIGNS
^,. ;.?.... -. I'D
This letter is claimed by the Boston sign painters to be the prettiest letter made. Its most distinct feature is its fine hair-line,
but the character of its curved lines is also peculiar. In the New York Roman everything SET or stiff in the curves of letters is
avoided ; the New York Roman O is for this reason not a perfect circle, as is the case with the Boston Roman, but an easy curve
all round. In the Boston Roman the curves are distinct and sharp, some of them resembling the sharp end of an egg, as in P and
R, others involve an actual point or break as in S and the tail of R. The grace curves are long and sweeping, and differ entirely
fruin the corresponding lines in the New York letter.
The body of the letter is about square as a general rule, although it may vary slightly in this, as in some other respects, with
the taste of the artist or the peculiarities of the space where the letters are to be placed. The thickness of the letter is two-ninths of
its height, but some painters make the very small letters a little more, and the very large a little LESS than the generally observed
thickness. The hair-lines or spurs extend to the right or left from the grace of the letter a distance equal to about three-fourths of
the thickness, but these lines vary in length according as it is desirable to spread or condense the letter.
Another peculiarity of the Boston letter is that the lower part is made a little broader or heavier than the upper, thus, the
lower large curve of the B projects slightly beyond the upper and is a little thicker; the lower arm of the E extends a little beyond
the one above and is also a little heavier; the cross-bar of the B and H is a little above the centre of the letter, thereby giving the
lower part a heavier appearance than the upper; the grace lines are also a little longer on the lower part of the letter than on the
upper. The effect of these peculiarities is to make the lower part appear heavier than the upper, and to give the letter a decided
appearance of standing firmly on its base.
DESCRIPTION IN DETAIL.
The best description of this letter is the letter itself, for its peculiarities are so decidedly Bostonish as almost to defy any
written representation. The following remarks on the different letters will perhaps give the reader a distinct idea : —
If the two outside lines of the A be extended straight to the lower line, the distance between the points where they intersect
should be a little greater than the height of the letter; the cross-bar is usually midway between the upper and lower lines ; the
thickness, where it joins the grace lines, is less, and at the top of the letter a little more than the usual two-ninths.
The lower grace of the B is slightly longer than the upper; the cross-bar is above the centre, thereby making the upper large
curve considerably sharper than the lower ; the thickness of the lower large curve should be greater than the upper ; the thickness
of both large curves should be a hair-line greater than the upright part, because if made the same thickness it would appear too
thin and the letter would look unharmonious and one-sided, and this fact should be borne in mind that the thickness of curves
APPEARS less than that of perpendiculars.
The C is a perfect circle on the outside, and should be drawn larger than the other letters the thickness of a hair-line above
and below the lines; the inside line cannot be made with dividers, the eye alone must decide as to its correctness ; it should be
drawn in such a way that its thickest part will be below the centre; the perpendicular lines should be drawn inside of the right
hand limit of the circle, so that the lower part will appear broader than the upper — the thickness should be a little greater than the
The thickness of the perpendicular part of the D is the usual two-ninths ; the thickness of the large curve is a hair-line
greater ; the lines of the large curve cannot be described by the dividers, but must be drawn entirely by the eye.
The lower arm of the E should extend beyond the upper and be made somewnat heavier ; its perpendicular line should be a
little longer than the corresponding one above — the centre piece be placed just above the centre.
The arm of the F should be made slightly heavier than the corresponding one in the E ; the appearance of the letter may be
improved if the centre piece be placed a little lower than in the E.
The outside of the G is a perfect circle, larger than the other letters the thickness of a hair-line above and below the lines;
the perpendicular line is placed in the same position as in the C; the left hand inside curve is an oval, making the thickness a
little greater than two-ninths; the horizontal line is drawn from the centre of the circle to a point about as far outside of it as the
spur usually extends beyond the grace of the other letters ; the small curve on the right hand outside of the letter is left to the
The thickness of the II is the usual two-ninths ; the lower grace lines are longer than the upper, and the cross-bar just above
The J is about the width of the other letters; its thickness is the usual two-ninths. The large curve may be described by a
circle eight-ninths of the height, and should be drawn the thickness of a hair-line below the line; a sharp and distinct point is
usually made where it joins with the perpendicular — the ball is in the form of an oval and not a circle.
Little can be said of the K. The point where the long hair-line intersects the upright thickness should be below the centre :
the right hand thickness is less at the grace lines than at the long hair-line.
The upright hair-line of the L is one-half the height of the letter ; the arm is made heavier than the corresponding arm of
The M is the width of the other letters; the height of the grace lines on the left hand hair-line is two-fifths of the height
of the letter; the point of the middle lines should come fully down to the lower line.
The N is usually made narrower than the other letters ; the left hand grace lines arc three-sevenths of the height, and the
right hand ones two-fifths.
The O is a perfect circle on the outside, drawn a hair-line above and below the top and bottom lines ; the inside curve is an
oval, and the thickness of the letter a hair-line more than the usual two-ninths.
The cross-bar of the P is above the centre ; the right hand large curve has quite a sharp turn, and its thickness is a little
more than two-ninths.
The tail of the Q is left to the person's taste, in all other respects the letter is a perfect O.
The R is a P with a tail attached, although the cross-bar is often put still higher; the tail must be studied and copied, as no
words can describe it; particular attention is called to the point on its inside curve.
The S is a difficult letter to draw, and one for which it is almost impossible to make a rule. The left hand upright line is
even with the left hand extremity of the upper curve; the right hand upright lin;, however, is considerably to the left of the right
hand extremity of the lower curve; the upper curve may be very nearly described by a circle eight-ninths of the height; and the
lower circle TEN-NINTHS of the height; the upper and lower curves should be drawn a hair-line above and below the upper and
lower lines ; the thickness or centre part cannot be described. The curves should be smooth and graceful ; the point near the centre
of the letter should be made distinct, and care taken to avoid that crooked, pot-hook appearance, which results from carelessly drawn
The T should be wider than the other letters ; the length of the right and left hand upright lines is one-third of the height
of the letter.
The grace lines and the long hair-line of the U resemble the corresponding part in the N ; the curve should be drawn a hair-
line below the lower line, and may be very nearly described by a circle EIGHT-NINTHS of the height.
No particular description can be given of the V and W. The space occupied by the W is greater than that of the other
letters. Particular attention to the diagram will give a good idea of the letters.
The X occupies a very little more space than the other letters, and the upper should be drawn slightly narrower than the lower
The Y requires more space than the X ; the spread of the upper part being considerably more than the height of the letter ;
the point where the long hair-line touches the perpendicular is four-sevenths of the height.
The Z occupies the ordinary space, the upper arm being shorter than the lower; the left hand perpendicular line is even with
the upper left hand point of the letter; but the right hand perpendicular line is considerably to the left of the lower right hand point
of the letter.
In this letter the small curves or grace lines which characterize the full Roman letter are wanting, and many parts of the letter
are composed entirely of straight lines, from which it receives the name of Straight Roman. The description of the FULL Roman
letter will answer very well for the Straight Roman, with the exception that all remarks concerning the grace lines as connected
with the thickness are to be omitted, and the letter does not occupy quite as much space.
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The lower case letter differs distinctly from other letters used by painters. It is the LOWER CASE used in printing ; and in
fact, any of the different styles of this employed by printers may be made use of by sign painters, since there seems to be no distinct
standard, every painter introducing some slight alteration of his own.
The peculiarity of the lower case is, that parts of some of the letters extend considerably above or below the main body of the
letter; thus, the a, c, e, etc., occupy the ordinary space, but the b, d, f, h, k and 1 extend above the body of the letter, while g, j, p,
f[ and y axtend as far below. These letters will be found to look best when these extensions above and below are equal to one-ha
the height of the body of the letter, although they are very often made to vary greatly in this respect, it being sometimes required to
compress or spread them to suit some peculiar space. They are always used as small letters, their capitals being the STRAIGHT
There seems to be more variety to this than any of the Boston alphabets, except the Old English (which it in some respects
resemble:.), its appearance \o the eye being very pleasing, and where several lines of letters are required on the tablet or other sign,
ii may be occasionally introduced with the best result. The learner will find it an easy letter to master, and no further direction is
necessary than attention to the copy.
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This alphabet is distinct from the Roman lower case by reason of its solid appearance and the equal thickness of all its parts.
It is useful to sign painters chiefly because it will accommodate a little larger letter in the same space than the Roman lower case ;
its proportions are the same, except that it may be made somewhat narrower than the Roman, and its capitals are the round
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The peculiarity of this letter is its solidity, all of its parts being of equal thickness. It is bold and showy, accommodates a
larger letter for the same space than any other, and is made very great use of by Boston sign painters. The width of the Egyptian
is three-fourths of its height, except A, K, M, V, W and &, which require to be a little wider; the thickness is the usual two-
ninths of the height, and the letter is so simple in construction that the pupil will find close attention to the copy all that is required
to get a good idea of the Egyptian alphabet.
There are two kinds of Egyptian : the octagon and round. The octagon is composed entirely of straight lines, giving
t he letter an octagonal loo k, from which it derives its name ; the ROUND is composed partly of curves, and is therefore more difficult
to manage. The pupil will find the labor of making the round Egyptian lessened consid-
erably by first sketching out the letter lightly in octagon, and drawing the curved lines
afterwards, since both the octagon and the round are of the same size and space.
The B, C, D, G, J, O, P, Q, R, S, U, and &, are the only letters in the round which
vary at all from the octagon; the others are precisely identical.
The accompanying diagram shows the simplicity of the Egyptian letter. The
lines A B C D represent the top and bottom lines or height of the letter. The lines E
F G H are drawn parallel to these lines, and at a distance from them equal to the
thickness of the letter. Then, after drawing the perpendicular lines, making the letter
of a proper width, almost all the Egyptian letters can be made in this one space.
Thus, in the dotted lines wiil be found the letters B, C, D, E, F, H, I, J, L, M,
O, P, S, U, as well as the numerals I, 3, 5, 6, 8, o.
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The full block letter is the Egyptian, with the addition of a spur, or short line, extending over the top and bottom of the
letter, after the manner of the SPUR in the Roman. It occupies the same space as the Roman, although it is often made to fill more,
and may be compressed into very much less space, according to the exigencies of the case. The length of the SPUR is really
dependent on the taste of the person making it ; the proportion observed in the copy, viz., four-fifths of the thickness, is generally
adopted by Boston sign painters. There are two kinds of FULL BLOCK, the octagon and the round ; the octagon is more commonly
used than the round, and is in fact more in harmony with the general idea of a block letter. The B, C, D, G, J, O, P, Q, R, S, U
and &, are the only letters in the round full block which vary from the octagon.
The Old English letter needs no special remark. It may be said of it, as of the lower case, that it has no distinct standard of
style. The short hair-lines should all be drawn at the same angle, and the fine lines be of uniform thickness. The letter is some-
times made wide and sometimes quite narrow, and the thickness may be made very heavy or very light, according to the taste of the
person making it; in fact, such great liberties are .taken with this alphabet, that the judgment must, in a great measure, be depended
upon. The proportion of the capitals to small letters is the same as in the lower case, and the spacing is about the same.
The punctuation marks — comma, period, &c, need mention only to observe that those belonging to hair-line or Roman letters
are round, while those used with Egyptian or block letters are square, and they are always of the same thickness as the letter they
follow. The position of the apostrophe is always on a line with the top of the leading letters. The period belongs close to the letter
it follows, and not half way between it and the next letter, as it is sometimes erroneously placed.
SEE PAGE 14.
New York painters will not admit any style of letter to be superior or even equal to that in vogue in the greatest American
city; they consider the Boston style " homely, weak, skinny and effeminate." It must be admitted that the New York style is the
bolder of the two, and therefore a little more easily read; in fact, its peculiarities make it entirely different from the Boston letter so
distinct that a person accustomed to it could not fail to regard the-Boston style as unsatisfactory; and undoubtedly one great reason
why the New York painter cannot endure the Boston letter, and vice versa, is the decided difference in the style of the other, from
the one to which he has all his life been used to see.
The outline of the New York Roman is bold, the small line or hair-line is thick or stout, and the body of the letter solid and
strong ; the curves are easy rather than exact — in fact everything stiff or SET is avoided as much as possible. The C, G, O, and
Q are not made a perfect circle, but an easy, graceful curve ; the small curves are short and sharp, and assist in giving the letter its
bold look ; the SPUR, or short line, extends over the letter about three-fourths of the thickness ; the width of the letter is generally
more than its height, and the short line, or hair-line, is made one-fifth or one-sixth of the thickness.
The best way to study this, or, in fact, any letter, is by comparing its different parts with its height, thus : We use the dividers
and find the thickness to be about one-fourth of the height, the width of some of the letters to be more and some less than the height,
etc., etc., and in this way, together with careful practice, the learner may gain a better idea of the letter than any written description
could possibly convey.
The Roman A is broader at the bottom than the height of the letter ; the cross-liar is two-fifths of the height ; it comes to
a point at the top, which point should never be less than the thickness of the hair-line, and this top is sometimes cut off parallel with
the upper line, and sometimes at a slight angle with it.
The width of the B is the same as its height ; but it is frequently made broader. The cross-liar is put in the centre; the right
hand curves extend the same distance from the upright part of the letter, but the lower curve is sometimes made to pass a very little
beyond the upper.
The width of the C is greater than its height, and its thickness should be more than that of the B. It is not a perfect circle,
buf an easy, graceful curve, not to be described by the dividers. The extremity of the lower hair-line should be made heavier than
its other parts.
The D should be made wider than its height, its principal difficulty being the sweep of its large curves, for which the eye
alone must be depended upon.
The E may be made wider than its height, with its cross-bar just at the centre, or a little above; which may also be said of
the F, except that some painters consider its appearance improved if made narrower than tho E.
The G, like the C, is not a perfect circle, but an easy curve, its thickness and width being the same as the C. The lower
right hand part may be made less than the usual thickness ; the horizontal line should be placed below the centre.
The width of the II is equal to its height, and the cross-bar at the centre, or a little above.
The I requires no particular remark. The J will bear being made narrower than the other letters, and its ball should be
placed considerably below the centre.
The K occupies the same space as the II; the point where the right hand arm, or hair-line, intersects with the perpendicular
part of the letter, varies with the taste of the artist; but three-sevenths of the height will answer for a general rule.
The L and M are the width of the other letters, while the N may be made narrower.
The and Q are not perfect circles, but the same graceful curves as the C and G ; their width is greater than their height,
and they look well with more thickness than the other letters.
The P is as wide as the other letters, and its cross-bar is placed sometimes at the centre, and sometimes below, but never
The R is the width of the other letters, its cross-bar being placed usually at the centre. The curves of this letter are peculiar,
the tail being particularly difficult to master. It cannot easily be described, which may also be said of the curves of the S ; in fact,
the eye alone is to be depended upon in both these letters.
The T is as wide as high, but is sometimes made wider, and its arms extend downward from the top line a little less than the
thickness of the letter.
The U requires no particular remark, and the V may be described as an inverted A without the cross-bar.
The W is composed of two compressed Vs, and requires considerably more space than the other letters.
The X occupies the usual space; the point where the hair-line intersects the middle part of the thickness should be above the
The Y fills more space than the ordinary letters ; the point where the right and left angular lines intersect with the upright
line should be above the centre.
The Z requires no particular remark, except that the right hand upper point and the left hand lower point should never be
sharper than the thickness of the hair-line.
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This letter is distinguished by the equal thickness of all its parts, and the entire absence of hair-lines. It is made great use
of by sign painters, since it admits of being made very much higher than any other letter in the same space. Its thickness is usually
ONB-FIFTH of the height, and its width three-quarters of the height. It is so simple in construction that the learner, with a little
use of the dividers and careful study, will not find great difficulty in understanding it. There are two alphabets of the New York
Egyptian — the octagon and the round. The octagon is, however, but seldom used.
The Full Block is the same as the Egyptian, with the addition of a slight extension or spur to the right and left of the letter ;
the length of which is sometimes one-third, and sometimes one-half, the thickness of the letter; the width is the same as the
height, but sometimes, much wider ; as in extended letters, its thickness is generally one-fifth of the height. It occupies the same
space as the Roman, anil, with a little study, the reader will find it an easy alphabet to comprehend.
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This letter differs from the other New York alphabets, — its peculiarity being that parts of some of the letter extend above,
and others below the main body of the letter. The length of these extensions above and below the lines differ at times, being made
to suit some particular requirement; they are one-half or two-thirds of the main body of the letter. What is meant by the main
bo ly of the letter is the height of the a, c, m, n, &c, and the thickness of the letter is sometimes one-quarter ana sometimes two-
si ninths of this height, accordingly as the letter is compressed or spread. The letters all occupy the space of the a, c, e, &c.
except f, i, j, 1, r, t, which, being ONF.-HALF the ordinary width, of course require less space. After some acquaintance with the New
Ycrk Roman, the pupil will have but little trouble with the lower case.
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This alphabet bears the same relation to the New York Roman lower case that the capital Egyptians do to the Romans. A
careful study of the copy, and a little use of the dividers, will make the pupil familiar with it in a short time.
If the pupil mark out carefully the word SLAY, in Roman letters, he will perceive more space between the L and A than
between the other letters. In order to correct this appearance, the S must be moved a little from the L, and the Y from the A,
which will be found to give the word an even, regular look. Precisely the same attention is to be paid to the distances between
words, thus: If it were required to place on a sign the following, — Importers and Jobbers of Hair, — it would be obviously in bad
taste to put it thus : —
Importers andjobbers ofllair, or,
Importersand Jobbersof Hair, or,
Importersandjobbersof H air.
Good taste requires that the words should be equally distant from each other, and this is what is meant by spacing. The importance
of careful- spacing cannot be overstated; it is the sign painter's saving grace. A well spaced sign, even if it be poorly lettered, will
make a good appearance, and be accepted, nine times out of ten; while precisely the reverse is true of a sign well lettered but
poorly spaced; the time and labor spent in careful spacing will be found to be well repaid. In every style of letter, — exeept the
Lower Case, which will be mentioned hereafter, — an equal space is allowed for all letters except I and \V ; the W being quite a
wide letter, it is customary to allow a Itttle more space for it than for ordinary letters; while for the I only one-half the usual space
is allowed. One-half a space is also left between capital letters of names ; thus, if we were spacing out the name J. 1 1. Smith, we
should leave one-half a space after the J, and one half a space after the H, but none after the S, because the letters mith do not
require to be separated from it. The effect of allowing these spaces is to give prominence to the capitals and distinctness to the
The folowing examples will show the difference between the good and bad spacing of capitals:
1 J. H. Smith. J.II.Smith.
A half space is also allowed between words, thus : In the case of painting the line " Importers and Jobbers of Hair," a half space
should be left after each word, and at least a half space at each end of the sign ; as a general rule it looks better to see a little more
space at each end than between the words. It should be remarked here that it is not intended to convey the idea that one-half space
and only one-half space is just what is demanded in all cases; on the contrary, the size and form of the sign or place to be lettered,
as well as the words to be put on, may be such as to require more than a half space, or more even than a whole space, between the
words. Necessity often compels the spacing to differ somewhat from the rules here laid down, but that work will be found to look
best which conforms most nearly to these instructions.
Where several lines of letters are required on one sign, such as upright or tablet signs, or, as very often happens, on
tin signs, care must be taken to have an equal space between each line, thus : In this example, the
space between mustard and the top of the sign, and exportation and the bottom of the sign, and
between the luaes of letters, should be the same.
We will now suppose it is required to mark out a sign with the name of J. H. Smith & Co.
If we make dots to represent the spaces, leaving one space for each letter except the I, for which a
half space is allowed, and a half space between initials, and an equal space at each end, the following
will represent its appearance :
MUSTA R D,
The first space is for J, the second for II, the third for S, etc. It makes no difference what kind of letter is required,
whether it he Roman, Straight Roman, Egyptian, or Block. All the letters of the name must go in their corresponding
spaces, the only difficulty heing as to the size of the letters. The following is the rule for the size of the different styles
of letters : The height of the Full Roman is two thirds of the space, but if it be desired to make the letter as large as
possible, it can be made to go three fourths; that is, if the space be found to be twelve inches, the full Roman will go eight
inches high, or nine inches, if it be required to make a large letter. In the same twelve-inch space the Straight Roman will
go TEN and one half inches, although it looks well when made as small as three fourths of the space ; but it is usuallj made
seven EIGHTHS. The Full Block will go about the same as \he Full Roman, although it is often compressed and made to
go :is high as the space itself; that is, twelve inches high in a twelve-inch space. The height of the Egyptian is greater
than the space, being generally made one sixth greater; that is, in a TWELVE-inch space, the Egyptian looks best fourteen
in, lies high; but it can be made, if desired, eighteen, twenty, or even twenty-two inches high, or one half, two
THIRDS, or five sixths higher than the space. It is on this account a very popular letter, and very frequently made use
of by sign-painters. The sizes mentioned above refer to the ordinary letters; that is, in the name of J. H. Smith, the
above rule gives the size of the letters •'mith," and not the J. H. S., which are usually made higher than the other letters
of the name, and are called leading letters, or capitals. j
The leading letters arc made sometimes one fifth and sometimes one fourth higher than the ordinary letters.
When the ordinary letters are eighteen inches high, or more, the leading letters need not be more than one fifth higher;
but when they arc small, the leading letters will be found to look better one fourth higher.
These remarks on leading letters do not apply to lower-case letters, which have some peculiarities of their own, and
are distinctly different from the other alphabets. Some of the lower-case letters extend above the line of the ordinary let-
ters, thus: The b, d, f, h, k, etc., extend above the a, c, e, etc. Now the effect of limiting the extent of the b, d, f, h, etc.,
lo one fifth, or one fourth above the ordinary letters, would be to give the letter a stunted, crowded, and very ungainly
appearance; if the leading letters, and h, d, f, h, etc., be made about one half higher than the ordinary letters, the effect
will be about right. The thickness of the lower-case is the regular TWO ninths of the ordinary letter; that is, a, c, e,
etc., and the b, d, f, h, and other letters which oxtend above and below the line, are also of this same thickness; the capi-
tals or leading letters, however, are two ninths of their own height. In spacing lower-ease, the space is allowed for a, b,
c, d, e, g, h, k, n, o, p, q, s, u, v, x, y, and z; one half space for i, 1, t, a little more than a half space for f, j, r, and a
little more than a whole space for m, w, and all capitals.
A great advantage of the lower-case is, that by its use in proximity with a line of large, heavy letters, the latter are
made, by contrast, to appear very much more bold and distinct than would result from the use of another style in place of
the lower-case. Thus, if it were required to put on a sign the following: Brown & Black. Wholesale Dealers in Fish, and
important that the word Fish should be made as distinct as possible, by putting Brown & Black in Roman letter, wholesale
dealers in lower-case, and fish in large Egyptian, the word fish would look more prominent than any other line on the sign,
and would be the first to catch the eye.
There are two lower-case alphabets — the Roman and the Egyptian. The Roman is the prettier of the two, and more
often made use of; it is only necessary to remark of the Egyptian, that it has no spurs or short hair-lines, and can there-
fore be made a little larger in the same space than the Roman. The Old English is very similar to the lower-case, may be
made about the same use of, and its rules in regard to spacing are the same; while its fine hair-lines and the regular angle
of the short lines give it a slight advantage in neatness over the Lower-Case.
In spacing out a sign with several lines of letters, there is sometimes a difficulty in making the spaces between the
lines equal without considerable rubbing out and marking over, and an expenditure of much time and more patience. The
following example will show the quickest and surest way of meeting this difficulty.
Suppose the sign to be 'painted is two feet wide and six feet high, and five lines of letters are to be put on. First,
decide which lines are to be Roman letter, which Egyptian, which Block, etc. ; then find the size of the first line of letters
(see page 40), and mark it at the top of the sign ; next find the size of the second line, and mark it immediately under the
first, and so on through all the live lines. The sign will then resemble the following diagram :
The space from the bottom of the fifth line to the bottom of the sign is to be divided into equal spaces,
to go between the lines. On a sign with one line of letters there is, of course, one space above and one be-
low the line; where there are two lines, there is a space above and below, and one between the lines; that
is, there is always one more space than lines of letters. In the exampje under consideration there are five
lines, and therefore six spaces, so that by dividing the #pace below the fifth line in the diagram in six equal
spaces, the exact distance between each line will be found, and the sign can then be marked out without
trouble or loss of time. >A single remark more is all that is necessary to complete the hints on the spacing
of lines of letters, and that is, in regard to short lines, such as and, of, for, etc. If such short lines were
spaced exactly according to the above instructions, the spaces they occupied would appear to be much larger than the or-
dinary spaces between the lines: it is therefore necessary to make the spaces above and below all short words a little less
than the ordinary space; and the quickest way is to allow two spaces between the lines where such a word comes, and put
the word in the middle of this double space. Thus : suppose the sign to be like the following diagram :
Space out the sign as though there were four lines, and the and were out of the account
entirely, except, that instead of allowing five spaces, six must be allowed, and two spaces placed
under the line Jobbers: in the middle of this double space the and is to be put; a short dash on
each side will generally prove an addition, and the spaces will then appear about even between all
of the lines.
The above instructions on spacing apply to all kinds of signs, tablets, tins, door-posts, &c,
but there are sometimes signs to be painted in places where it is impossible to space in the ordinary
way, — such as lettering upon buildings, brick walls, and other high places impossible to get at
except upon ladders or swing-stages. There are several ways of obtaining the exact space, size
of letters, so that a painter can commence with his work and go right along without spacing, ac-
cording to the method above described. The most common method is to find the length of the
whole space to be lettered; then, knowing the number of letters, the number of spaces between the words, and the s
to be left at the commencement and end of the lettering, it becomes a very easy matter to figure out the exact size of
the lettering, spaces, &c. For instance : suppose the building which is to be lettered to be twenty-five feet long,
and the words to be painted, " Cracker Bakery," in which there are thirteen letters; if it were thought best to make
the spaces one foot each, allowing one space for each letter, and one half-space between the words, of course thirteen and
one half feet would be occupied, leaving the difference between that and twenty-five feet to be divided equally for the
ends ; so that, if the lettering were commenced five feet and nine inches from the end, one foot allowed for each letter,
and six inches between the words, the work would be found to be correctly spaced. After finding the space and deciding
which style of letter is to,be used, — Roman, Egyptian, Block, &c, — the only thing to be doue is to mark out the height
of the letter — the rule for finding which has been given on page 40. If it be desirable to make the space eighteen inches,
instead of one foot, the lettering would commence two feet four and one fourth inches from the end; if the space were to
be fifteen inches, the work would begin four feet and one inch from the end. In fact, careful figuring and careful measure-
ment are all that is required to space correctly by this method.
A better way than the above is to sketch out carefully on a piece of paper the line of letters to be put on, then di-
vide the length of the paper into as many equal parts as there are feet in length on the place to be lettered. For instance:
suppose the paper to be six inches long, the lettering is to be marked out carefully, in good proportion, with a suitable
space at each end, so that it will not appear crowded, after which, if the building on which the lettering is to be put be
twenty-five feet long, the paper is to be carefully divided into twenty-five equal parts; then, by marking off on the building
spaces of one foot each, it becomes a simple matter to place the letters in the positions corresponding to those on the pa-
per. The best way, however, is to mark out the work by an exact scale of so much to the foot; a half inch to the foot
will be found as convenient as any. After selecting a suitable sized paper, or a piece of smooth board, which is much bet-
ter, since it can be handled on a staging without difficulty, and will not blow away or get rumpled or torn, — a space is to
be marked out twelve and one half inches, if the building be twenty-five feet, or, in other words, twenty-five half inches;
the lettering is then to be marked out exactly as it is desired to look on the building, after which no difficulty will be found
in proceeding with the work, as every half-inch in the plan is equivalent to one foot on the building; one fourth of an inch
is equivalent to six inches on the building, one eighth is equivalent to three inches ; so that by this method it is impossible
to go wrong if the measurement be correct in the first place. A great advantage of this method is, that it enables the
artist to show to the person having the work done, an exact copy of the sign as it is to be, the size of the letters, and the
arrangement, so that any alterations can be easily made if desired, and satisfaction thus guaranteed in advance.
In making letters on a circle they should be straight across the top and bottom, and the same width should be
observed at the bottom as at the top, as a rule. In case there is little space between the letters, their bases can be slightly
contracted and the tops and bottoms on a line with the curves, as in fig. 1. Numbers 2 and 3 are, however, the correct
The amount of pitch in the best lumber used for signs is such that the beauty and durability of the painting is
very often marred ; in fact, frequently completely ruined ; a very ordinary heat being sufficient to start the pitch to run-
ning out over the surface of the sign. Shellac varnish being the only known article which will dry hard over it, and
prevent its boiling or stewing through the paint, its use is unavoidable, notwithstanding the belief that the work is less
liable to wear well when it is used. The general practice is to put on the shellac first, but there has been some doubt in
the minds of painters whether it should be applied immediately to the bare board, or a coat of priming color first applied,
and the shellac spread on after the priming has become dry. There is this reason in favor of putting on the priming
color first, that it can strike into and dry into the pores of the wood, thereby rendering the durability of the painting more
probable ; but there is this decided reason in favor of applying the shellac first, that, when it is put over the priming coat
all subsequent coats of paint are very liable to peel off, there being so little affinity between the paint and shellac; it is
therefore safer to apply the shellac first, and the priming-coat may be put over it as soon as it becomes hard. When this
ha* become dry, the sign should be thoroughly puttied wherever required, and carefully sand-papered, after which the
second coating can be put on ; when this is dry, the sign is ready to be marked out. After carefully marking out the let-
tering, if it is to be a white letter, all superfluous pencil-marks are to be cleaned off the surface of the letter with a clean
cloth and a little spirits of turpentine, when the finishing-coat should be spread on carefully and neatly, and when dry the
pencil-marks will be found to show through sufficiently to work by. If the letter is to be black, the color used should be
mixed with boiled oil and a little japan : by adding to it a little fat oil or varnish, the drying property will not.be inter-
fered with, and the color will be more certain to dry with a good gloss; should it crawl or fret, the difficulty can be rem-
edied by rubbing over the surface of the sign with soap and water, or a little spirits of turpentine. If the letter, instead
of being black, is white, the work is to be cut in ; that is, the black, or whatever color is to constitute the ground-work, is
to be painted round the letter, and all parts of the face of the sign, except the letter itself, to be covered with this ground-
work color. If the ground-work is to be sanded, after being certain that every spot is properly covered, the entire surface
of the sign may be scattered over with the sand as evenly as possible, through a sieve ; and when all is covered, the super-
fiuous sand may be turned off on a cloth or paper. This finishes the sign, except blacking out the mouldings, unless the
letters arc to be shaded, which is done when the ground-work color becomes dry. Sometimes the shading is done before
the sign is cut in, as in the case of white letter with gold thickness; where, after the sign is prepared as above directed,
the shade or thickness is sized and gilded, and afterwards toned or graded down with siennas; when sufficiently dry the
letter and thickness are both cut in and the sign sanded. The letter may be afterward shaded with any color over the sand.
A letter is shadedi/with the addition of another color, generally to its right side, and under parts at an angle usually
about forty-live degrees to the letter itself. This shade may be made at any angle, may be put on the right side or the left,
at the bottom or the top; but the usual custom is like the illustration, page 29. Properly this addition is not a shade, but
a thickness; because when treated in this manner, it resembles a letter cut out of a block of wood, this shade showing the
thickness of tl.c block. There is still another shade which may be added to the letter — a shade, in fact, of the letter and
thickness of the block. There is, besides, a back or second shade (see illustration, B and D, page 12). If a letter cut out of a
block of wood were laid on a table near a strong light, the shadow cast on the table would be this back or second shade;
the thickness of wood would be the first, or thickness, and the top surface would be the original letter. If the pupil
keep this in mind, he will be immensely more successful than if he goes on with the shading without knowing what he
is trying to represent. The first shade or thickness is sometimes made to join the letter, and sometimes is placed a little
distance from it, leaving a narrow line between it and the letter; the first is called a close shade, the other a free shade.
(See illustration, page 11. G and L are close shades; H, J, K, free shades.) As a general rule, the close shade will
answer in all cases ; but the taste of the painter will discover some occasions where the free shade is preferable. The
shade may be made of every conceivable color, but should always be in harmony with the letter; and since it is the letter
which is to be read, and not the shade, the two should be managed in such a way as to make the letter prominent and dis-
tinct, and the shade sombre.
The Ornamental letter may be made entirely according to the fancy of the painter, although the most successful
ornamental alphabets are those where the original form of the letter is most perfectly retained. The best method to fol-
low is to draw the letter distinctly in the first place, work the ornaments on to it, taking care to alter the form as little as
possible. Points, pearls, eccentric lines, leaves, and vines may be added, according to the character of the design or the taste
of the painter; or the letter may be made to consist of one complete scroll; or some of the ornaments may be of one color
and some of another, while the letter itself may be made of still a different color, and so on, with as infinitely different forms
and colors as the imagination may suggest; in fact, any person with a taste in this direction will find the study of orna-
mental letters a most beautiful pastime.
The Medieval alphabet is seldom made use of. It might, perhaps, be employed for an old established bookstore,
antiquarian society, library, &c. ; but it is principally used for monograms and on church walls and tablets.
This style of letter has come to be quite popular of late years, being a plain and distinct alphabet, easily read —
having some of the characteristics of both the New York and Boston Roman, and yet being so decidedly different from
either as to make its occasional use quite acceptable. It seems to be the one style which looks well anywhere, appearing
to good advantage over a merchant's door or on a church tablet, and has the additional advantage, notwithstanding its
odd look, to be quite easily understood. It has not the bold look of the block-letter; and it would not be advisable to
make use of it where a large and heavy style seems best suited — such as on high brick walls, &c. ; but may be introduced
wherever a neat and pretty letter would be appropriate.
The Script letter is never employed for boldness, nor in any case where it is desirable that the sign should be quickly
read. It cannot be called plain and distinct in the same sense that other alphabets can ; but the Script is unquestionably
the most beautiful of them all. The capital letters are composed, in very many cases, of what is known as " Hogarth's
line of beauty," a line involving two slightly opposite curves; and the beauty of the letter may be said to depend almost
entirely upon the grace of this line. Great care should be taken to make all the letters slope at the same angle, which
should be forty-eight degrees. The curves should all maintain the same oval character, and the slope of this oval should
be the same as the slope of the letter. The pupil will find this alphabet to require close study, and much difficulty will
be found in mastering it. But whoever can paint a beautiful Script sign will not be long in making a reputation as a
On pages 33 and 34 will be found several designs intended to convey an idea of the form and arrangement of fancy
signs. In signs of this kind it is best to avoid straight lines as much as possible, especially of those words required to
be made prominent. Easy, graceful curves and sweeping lines are most desirable, particularly when a good variety can
0OLOB8 ft! SIGNS.
The cheap kind of board sign is a white ground-work and black letter. This style is the plainest and cheapest
looking, and is sometimes thought to be the strongest contrast to be made with paint; but it will be found, by comparison,
that a sign with black sand ground and white letter is a stronger contrast, and makes a much neater sign. It is. perhaps.
a little more costly style than the white ground, because more time is required to cut in a letter than to paint it on ; and
there is also the expense of the black sand. But the sign looks more than enough better to balance the difference in cost,
for which reason this style has become the most popular of the cheap signs, and is almost sure to give satisfaction.
A blue sand-ground and white letter with black shade is a neat and quite a showy style, a little more costly than
black and white, not only on account of the shaded letter but of the blue sand, which is a little more expensive than the
black. The blue sand, or smalts, holds its colors longer than the other fancy sands, and is generally considered to have
a more lively look. The blue, green, brown, purple, and other fancy-colored sands will be found to give the sign an
unfinished look, unless the letter be shaded. The quickest and cheapest shade on a sand ground-work is black, and this
color is most commonly employed. These fancy-colored sand-grounds are sometimes very much improved by putting a
white stripe, an inch or two from the moulding, around the face of the sign, and filling the margin with light vermilion,
or any bright color, either of paint or sand, which affords a good contrast. Sometimes the ground-work is ornamented
with black and other colors, and made to resemble showy pattern of cloth ; and, although this style is not employed of
late, it shows to good advantage on signs for dealers in cloth.
A gold letter and black shade on any of the fancy-colored sands makes a very neat and tasty sign; the effect of the
gold against the colored sand is agreeable, and such a sign, while being very modest, is decidedly attractive.
A very showy sign is a white letter with a gold thickness, the under parts being graded down with siennas, and a
black or Prussian blue-black shade on a blue sand-ground, with a white line around the sign, and the margin filled with
vermilion. This is one of the most bold and showy styles in use, and is very popular. But the painter need not confine him-
self to blue, as nearly all the other fancy sands may be treated in a similar manner, and with very nearly as brilliant an effect.
But when it comes to -paint ground-works, an unlimited field is opened; for there is no imaginable color which
cannot be imitated and made use of; in fact, a prettier study cannot be devised than to make up a number of beautiful
ground-works, and ornament them with brilliantly-colored shaded letters. The reader may get some hints from the
following styles :
On Chocolate ground — light-blue letter, white light, vermilion thickness graded down with carmine, black back-shade.
Gold letters — straw-colored light, Paris green thickness graded down with dark-green, black back-shade.
Light French gray letter with white light and any of the above styles of shading, and light pea-green letter and
light purple letter, may be shaded the same way.
Purple grounds may be treated in a similar manner; but of course no purple can be used on the letter or shade;
and so, by avoiding the ground-work color in the letter and shade, the whole range of ground-work colors can be gone
through with. Paris green, ultra-marine blue, all the reds, drabs, browns — in fact, all the colors which the imagination
Black ground-works also may be made use of, and on them may be put the letter of gold, white, yellow, and the light
tints of all colors ; and in the shading, any of the brilliant colors may be employed, which do not too much resemble the letter.
A white letter, with vermilion thickness graded down with carmine, gives a brilliant effect. A Paris green letter and
whiti' li^ht, with vermilion thickness graded down with carmine, makes a gay appearance. A gold letter with Paris green
thickness, graded down with dark green, looks very well; so also does a very light pea-green or purple letter, with light
blue thickness, graded down with ultra-marine.
White ground-works are not often employed with fancy shade; when they are, dark colors generally, sometimes ver-
milion, occasionally gold, but usually black, are the colors used for the letters, while the shades are mostly grays and drabs.
Black letters, with vermilion thickness graded down with carmine, and gray back-shade, makes a good appearance.
Vermilion letter with gray thickness looks pretty, and so also a letter of Paris green or ultra-marine blue. But the
light ground-works are more commonly made of the lightest tints of various colors in preference to white, and on these
almost every possible variety of color can be introduced ; and excellent effects are often obtained.
These light ground-works admit of experiment without end : all the colors of the rainbow may be used for the letter
or shade; but the experimenter will find his best successes in keeping the brilliant and strong colors in the letter, and the
soft and delicate tints in the shade.
Graded ground-works are made by using the lightest tint of a color for one part of a sign, and grading it down to
its darkest for the other part; or, for instance) to make it more clear: if we have a tablet sign on which we wish to put a
graded ground-work of red, we commence at the top with orange-red, and work down, carefully blending the colors
as we go into light English vermilion, Chinese ditto, India red, which will, perhaps, bring us to the bottom of the
sign, or chocolate color, if we wish to make it still darker, giving the sign the appearance of being one part in the light
and the other in the shadow, with no break between the light and dark shades. Either the top or bottom of the sign
may be the lighter; or the lightest tint is sometimes in the centre, and the darker tint worked round it, according to the
fancy of the painter.
The success of graded grounds has not been marked enough to make them popular, and they are seldom used.
An expensive venture has been made in gold ground-works. They look costly and pretty, but are not showy enough
to balance their extra cost.
The letter on gold ground-works is usually black and sanded, and frequently shaded up with brilliant color; and
the ground-works themselves are often ornamented by painting and sanding some pretty design on the face of the sign
before the gold is put on. Two coats of paint are put over this design after it has become dry, and the whole surface
of the sign is then carefully sized and gilded ; this leaves the ornaments rough and the other parts of the surface smooth,
giving the effect of a gold ornament on a gold surface. By lettering the sign at the same time of putting on the ornaments',
the form of the letter can be seen under the gold sufficiently to work by, without making a mark on the gold, or the
letter may be cut in and not gilded. The style of the ornaments can be varied to suit any taste, as also can the style of
the lettering and shading.
The sizing, when applied, should not be so fat as to prevent its working easily, should be free from skins or motes,
and be put on evenly, and will work best if allowed to dry in a moderately warm room. Before proceeding with the
gilding, the sizing should be carefully examined, as its condition makes or mars the beauty of the work. Experience will
best enable a person to decide when the size is in the best condition for the gold ; but as a rule it should be dry enough to
bear considerable pressure of the knuckle (which must be clean) without leaving any mark, while at the same time being
slightly tacky. When the size is in just the right condition, the gilding has a beautiful lustre; but when too tacky it has
no lustre at all, and, if exposed to the air for any length of time, will be very liable to turn a rusty color.
When the work is ready for the gold, the leaf should be handled in such a way as to place it on with as few wrinkles
as possible, covering the large places first, and afterwards the smaller places and whatever breaks occur. After the sizing
is entirely covered, it should be patted down and carefully rubbed smooth with a bit of cotton, or a badger-hair brush. The
superfluous gold may be collected with an old stocking-leg, slightly moistened with oil, and lightly passed round wherever
the loose gold lies.
There are many different styles of gilding, but the above is the only one having any relation to lettering, except
burnish gilding on glass, which will be spoken of in another place.
On japanned tins and irons, and other smoothly finished surfaces, where it is impossible or unadvisable to make a
mark by the ordinary means, the marking out may be transferred from paper.
The surface is first carefully cleaned by being wiped with a chamois-skin; a little powdered rotten-stone is then
scattered over it, and carefully dusted off with a soft duster; this is to prevent the gold from adhering to the surface,
which it is sometimes liable to do. A piece of blank paper is then placed over th« surface, and the work marked out on
it with chalk or lead-pencil, after which it is taken off and its reverse side rubbed over with chalk and afterwards well
dusted off, when the paper is again placed over the surface, and the pencil-marks traced over with a metallic point. On
removing the paper, the majks will be found to be transferred to the surface, with a chalk-mark as fine as the metallic point
used. This process can be used on any work where a clean, fine line is important.
ioenisi sajMnra on
, The following is the method pursued with the brilliant burnish gilding and fancy shading on glass seen in all the
The work is first carefully marked out on a paper, and these marks are all pricked through with a pin or needle, and
the roughness of the holes carefully sand-papered down.
This pattern is laid on the outside of the glass in the desired position, and a pounce (Note. — A pounce is a soft cloth
bag, containing any colored powder, a little of which escapes through the bag on being rubbed over a pattern or any
other surface,) rubbed over it, when the pattern will be found to be transferred to the glass. The remainder of the work is
all done on the back side of the glass.
First, the glass is to be thoroughly cleaned where the lettering is to go, then the sizing (a. rule for making this sizing
will be found on p. 46) may be applied freely with a soft brush, and the gold laid immediately on the -wet size, covering
generously all the letters to be gilded. When the size is dry and all the moisture evaporated, the gold may be rubbed
down with soft cotton, and a second coat of gold applied. In applying the sizing a second time, the operator must pass
the brush lightly over the gold, as it is liable to start up if rubbed too hard.
Alter the letters are all solidly covered, the pattern is put over it the reverse way and pounced, thus leaving a distinct
line to work by; the letters are then painted or backed over with asphaltum varnish, which will soon dry, when all the
useless gold can be cleaned off with cotton, wet with a little water or spittle. The solid part of the letter being now
finished, a straw-colored line may be put on the upper and left-hand sides for a light," and a black line, about half an inch
wide, drawn as far outside the letter on the right hand and lower sides as it is desired the fancy-colored thickness or
shade should be made, and outside of this black line and adjoining it, may be put still another of raw sienna or burnt
umber. When these become dry, the space between the black line and the letter may be filled with whatever color may
suit the taste, and carefully graded, the darkest tints being on the under parts of the letter, and the lightest at the sides.
By referring to the Egyptian S, on page 29, the pupil may understand the matter better than by the written description.
The plain part of the letter, that is, the letter itself, is what is to be gold ; the darkest mark outside the shade represents
the black line, and the fainter line outside that the raw sienna or umber line. Between the black line, the letter is the
fancy-graded shade, which may be red, green, blue, or any color to suit the taste.
Sometimes, instead of making the letter completely solid, only an outline of the letter is made, and the parts of the
letter left vacant filled with any brilliant color contrasting well with the shade. By this means quite an array of magnificent
colors may be brought together in one job. After all the colors are dry, they should be backed over, each part of the
shade with about the same color as before, and the whole varnished over, the varnish lapping slightly over the letter on the
glass, to prevent moisture from getting under the work, and the job is finished.
Two kinds of gilding arc sometimes introduced on this work; thus, instead of filling the outline letter spoken of
with paint, the open parts are to be sized with any quick-drying and transparent sizing, — clear japan, for instance, — and,
after coming to a proper tack, carefully gilded. The effect will be a brilliant outline and dull centre parts, but all of gold,
similar to what the gilders call matt.
A short paragraph on punctuation would be of service to all sign-painters, since their ideas on this subject are
original, and not according to any fixed rules; but as no particular difficulty is met with except in the use of the possessive
case, it will perhaps be as well to confine these remarks to that topic.
The most common form of the possessive is the addition of an apostrophe and 5 to the word : as, Wright's Pills ; and
if this rule were always followed, it would convey with sufficient distinctness the idea of the possessive. But grammarians
have established certain exceptions which public opinion has indorsed and adopted, and these exceptions, therefore, must
be respected. The following observations on the possessive, by Peter Bullions, will be found to meet most of the difficulties •■
1. — When several nouns come together in the possessive case, implying common possession, the sign of the pos-
sessive ('s) is annexed to the last, and understood to the rest; as, "Jane and Lucy's books," i. e., books, the common
property of Jane and Lucy. But if common possession is not implied, or if several words intervene, the sign of the
possessive should he annexed to each; as, "Jane's and Lucy's books," i. e., books, some of which are Jane's and others
Lucy's. "This gained the king's, as well as the people's, approbation."
2. — When a name is complex, consisting of more terms than one, the sign of the possessive is annexed to the last only ;
as, "Julius Ca-sar's Commentaries," "John the Baptist's head," " His brother Philip's wife," " The Bishop of London's
3. — When a short explanatory term is joined to a name, the sign of the possessive may be annexed to either; as,
" I called at Smith's the bookseller," or, " at Smith the bookseller's." But if, to such a phrase, the governing substantive
is added, the sign of the possessive must be annexed to the last; as, " I called at Smith the bookseller's shop."
4. — If the explanatory circumstance be complex, or consisting of more terms than one, the sign of the possessive
must be annexed to the name or first substantive ; as, "This psalm is David's, the king, priest, and prophet of the people."
" That book is Smith's, the bookseller in Maiden Lane."
* An illustration of a " light " on a letter may be fcunc^pn the letter I, on page 11.
5. —When two nouns in the possessive are governed by different words, the sign of the possessive must be annexed
to each ; as, " He took refuge at the governor's, the king's representative," i. e., at the governor's house.
6. — The 5 after the apostrophe is omitted when the Jirst noun has the sound of s in each of its two last syllables,
and the second noun begins with s; as, " For Righteousness' sake," etc. In other cases such an omission would generally
be improper; as, "James' book," instead of "James's book."
The following correctly punctuated sentences occur frequently in sign-painting : — " Men's and Boys' Clothing."
"Gent's and Youth's Clothing." "Gentlemen and Ladies' Saloon." "Ladies' and Gent's Saloon." "Johnson and
Young's Store." " Curtis's Shoe Store." "At Manufacturers' Prices." "Jones & Co. 's Store." "Morris Bros. &Co.'s Store."
The point to be gained in preparing this sizing is sufficient adhesiveness to hold the gold, but not enough to interfere
with a brilliant polish. Several different articles are in use for this purpose, but the most popular, and perhaps the surest,
is Russian fish glue. Take of this glue a bit about the size of a pea, put it into a clean vessel with a half pint of water,
and boil for two or three minutes, after which it should be carefully strained, and the result will be a sizing of about the
right strength. But as the beauty of the work depends almost entirely on the sizing, it should never be commenced until
the sizing has been thoroughly tested; for this purpose, any piece of clean glass will answer: flow on a little of the size,
and put on a leaf of gold. After it has become dry, rub it carefully with a bit of cotton, and if it present a clear, brilliant
look, the size is about right ; if it appear dull and dingy, with streaks and spots, it is too strong and needs reducing with
water; if the gold rub off, it is too weak and requires a little more glue. These changes can be easily made; but after
any alteration the size should be allowed to boil half a minute or so.
till SIZING ffl GOLD.
The ordinary gold sizing is usually made with oil which has been allowed to stand until it has acquired a sticky
property, or become fat. What is needed is, of course, an oil which will give the best lustre to the gilding, and still take
the gold readily and without trouble. The following is an excellent method of fattening oil : — Pour some very nice boiled
linseed oil into a shallow tin pan, stir into it a little red lead ; put a sheet of glass over the pan, and set it in the sun; the
lead will soon be found settled to the bottom of the pan, and it should be stirred every day for two or three weeks; after
it has become sufficiently fat, it may be poured off into bottles for use, leaving the red lead on the bottom of the pan.
The advantages of this method are, the red lead imparts a drying property to the oil ; most of the impurities in the oil will
settle with the lead, leaving it clear and beautiful for use, and, being presented to the sun in a shallow vessel, it fats much
more readily than it otherwise would.
This oil will be found to dry in about forty-eight hours, but can be made to dry more quickly by the addition of
japan. If it should prove too stiff to work well, it may be thinned with boiled oil.
It is rather a difficult matter to prepare a quick size which will work well from the brush and bear out a good polish
when the gold is put on. The great difficulty with articles which dry quickly being, that they dry up hard, and leave no
tack to hold the gold. It is of prime importance, in making use of quick size, to watch it closely, and put on the gold
when it is in just the right condition.
The following receipts' for quick size are in common use with sign-painters :
Take the common oil-sizing, and add plenty of japan, and a little quick-drying varnish; if too thin for use, it may
be thickened with a little dry chrome yellow. This size will dry in five or six hours.
Number one coach varnish and japan, thickened with dry chrome yellow, makes a size which will usually dry in a
warm shop in four or five hours.
Quick-drying furniture varnish and japan and a drop or two of fat oil, thickened with dry chrome yellow, makes a
size which will dry in two or three hours.
Asphaltum varnish and dry white lead, with a drop or two of japan, thoroughly mixed, make a size which will dry in
ten or fifteen minutes, but must be very closely watched, as after commencing to dry it hardens with great rapidity.
Minot's japan gold size, which may be had of any paint-dealer, thickened with a little dry chrome yellow, will dry
in about three minutes, but may be made to dry more slowly by adding a little boiled oil, and is, perhaps, the best article
to use for quick size.
To such as find trouble in cleaning the paint and sand off old signs, the following mixture will be of great
service : —
Two pounds sal soda, one fourth of a pound of unslacked lime, and one gallon of warm water. The warm water is
to aid in dissolving the soda and lime, which being accomplished, the mixture can be used cold by spreading it over the
surface of a sign, which will soon yield to its influence, and can be easily scraped off and washed. The paint afterwards
applied will not be affected by its use.