Recently in Writing books and typography Category


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In the summer of 2012, Brody Neuenschwander, Class of 1981, prepared an installation at the Kapel Ten Bogaerde in Koksijde, Belgium. The master calligrapher transformed the fourteenth-century chapel into a “meditation on the death and resurrection of language.” Here is a look at the installation.

The curator describes Neuenschwander’s work, “The chapel’s two large windows were encased in lanterns bearing writing, typography and the impressions of books. In the center of the space was a library of 500 black books, with the hands of the artist rising from them or sinking into their darkness. At the end of the chapel, on the axis of the black library, were six large panels of lines, texts and gestures rendered on Japanese kozo paper.”

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Brody Neuenschwander, Documentation (Koksijde, Belgium: Kapel Ten Bogaerde, 2012) Graphic Arts Collection. Gift of Alfred L. Bush.

in this book
the pen

under strain


tries to explain

tears the page

with blood black pain
pauses at the tip
to drip

a line

to love in vain

—Brody Neuenschwander

Fuse 1-20, with antimatter

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Neville Brody, Adrian Shaughnessy, and Jon Wozencroft, FUSE 1-20: From Invention to Antimatter: Twenty Years of FUSE (Köln: Taschen, 2012). 1 book (411 p.), 10 posters, 1 keycard. Graphic Arts GA2012- in process

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Adrian Shaughnessy writes, “Under Brody’s art direction, early Fuse stuck pins in the eyes of typo traditionalists and gleefully invited the displeasure of graphic design’s self-appointed ruling elite by simultaneously showing how typography, thanks to the computer, had become open to all comers and showing how it had been freed of its traditional purpose of conveying linguistic meaning.”

Launched by Neville Brody and Jon Wozencroft in 1991, FUSE was a forum for digital and experimental typography. Produced with FontShop International in Berlin and FontWorks in London, each quarterly issue was delivered in a cardboard box with a disk of new digital fonts, a couple large posters, and a colorful magazine (or booklet). Issues were constructed around a theme, through which the editors hoped would explore “the unmapped potential of the new digital technology.”

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Twenty years after that original launch, the out-of-print issues have now been reissued in this new limited edition. The box comes with a little credit card providing access to a computer database of fonts, which we are welcome to download and use as much as we want. There are ten poster from issues 19 and 20, and a 400 page glossy text of both old and new material, sure to shock the typographic community all over again.

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Unrecorded second edition of The Penman's Magazine

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George Shelley (ca. 1666-ca. 1736) and John Seddon (died 1700), The Penman’s Magazine, or, A New Copy-Book, of the English, French, and Italian Hands, after the Best Mode; Adorn’d … after the originals of the late incomparable Mr. John Seddon. Perforn’d by George Shelley … Supervis’d and publish’d by Thomas Read (London: printed by J. Holland …, 1709). 2nd ed. Bound in old quarter calf over marbled boards. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2012- in process

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Thanks to the research of Christopher Edwards, we recently acquired this unrecorded second edition of The Penman’s Magazine. The plates were selected by George Shelley but arranged by Thomas Read, one of his students. Read contributes a Preface to the Reader that states, “Seddon on his Death-Bed bequeath’d me his Remains,” desiring him to “Have them Perfected.” Read calls Shelley “a celebrated penman of the Age, who was so generous as to undertake it, and has so order’d the Ornamental Part, that it flows from the Pen by a swift Command of hand with the greatest ease imaginable.”

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Lucian Bernhard

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On February 19, 1923, the Germany artist Lucian Bernhard (1885-1972) arrived in New York City, already a successful graphic designer. The next year, when Elmer Adler (1884-1962) arranged to rent the seventh floor of the New York Times Annex for Pynson Printers, Bernhard sublet rooms from Adler and hung out his sign along the same hallway. Together, they designed beautiful books, invitations, and other printed material.


Bernhard continued to work for the Bauersche Giesserei (Bauer Type Foundry) and so, returned to Germany each year until 1927 when the firm opened a New York office with Bernhard and Adler at the Times Annex. Now permanently based in New York, Bernhard established the Contempora Studio with Rockwell Kent, Paul Poiret, Bruno Paul, and Erich Mendelsohn, expanding on his talents as an interior designer.

A number of typefaces named for Bernhard continue to be used today, including Bernhard Gothic, Bernhard Fashion, Lucian, Bernhard Tango and Bernhard Brushscript. Here are a few of the specimen books offering samples.

bernhard7.jpg In 1928, Bernhard was asked to write an article for House and Garden on “Modernism in the Home,” in which he promoted his own work along with that of his German colleagues.


“This curious Art will teach you to take down,
The great Affairs of Government and Crown.”

James Weston (1688-1751), Stenography Compleated, or The Art of Short-Hand Brought to Perfection; Being the Most Easy, Exact, Lineal, Speedy, and Legible Method Extant … (London: Printed for the author, 1727).


James Weston (1688-1751) was a London teacher and practitioner of stenography. He published four books, here together in one volume, presenting his own geometrical system of short-hand.

Weston assures the reader that with his system words “can be joined in every sentence, at least two, three, four, five, six, seven, or more words together in one without taking off ye pen, in ye twinkling of an eye, and that by the signs of the English moods, tenses, persons, particles, &c., never before invented.”

He goes on to say, “By this new method any, who can but tolerably write their names in roundhand, may with ease (by this book alone without any teacher) take down from ye speaker’s mouth, any sermon, speech, trial, play, &c, word by word, though they know nothing of Latin. And may likewise read one another’s writing distinctly be it ever so long after it is written. To perform these by any other short-hand method extant is utterly impossible as is evident from ye books themselves.”

Congratulations to type designer Matthew Carter

“Matthew Carter is often described as the most widely read man in the world,” begins Carter’s 2005 New Yorker profile ( “He is universally acknowledged as the most significant designer of type in America, and as having only one or two peers in Europe. A well regarded type designer [once said], ‘There’s Matthew Carter, and then there’s the rest of us.’”

On Tuesday, another honor was added to Carter’s extensive resume when he received a MacArthur “Genius” award. “Matthew Carter … crafts letterforms of unequaled elegance and precision for a seemingly limitless range of applications and media,” states the MacArthur’s press release. “Throughout his career, which spans the migration of text from the printed page to the computer screen, he has pursued typographic solutions for the rapidly changing landscape of text-based communications.”

Here at Princeton, we know Carter as the designer of Princeton Monticello, the typeface responsible for updating Princeton’s graphic identity in 2008. The original Monticello font dates back to America’s first successful type foundry, which was established by Archibald Binny and James Ronaldson in Philadelphia in 1796.

For more, see Margaret Re, Typographically Speaking: the Art of Matthew Carter (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2003). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize 2004-1089Q

Charles Creesy, Monticello: The History of a Typeface.

Graphodromie. Etching the sound of the word.


F. J. Astier (active 1800s), Graphodromie, ou Écriture cursive applicable à tous les idiomes… inventée et adaptée à la langue française. Etchings by Ambroise Tardieu (1788-1841). (Paris: [Pillet for] the author, Pillet, Tardieu, Mme Vve Courcier, 1816). Graphic Arts (GAX) 2010- in process


F.J. Astier, the French Minister of the Interior, wrote this treatise on a new form of shorthand or phonetic writing, in which one records the sound of the word rather than transcribing the letters. In theory, this allowed those who could not read or write to copy spoken sentences. He asserts that the system can be learned in less than a month, would increase the amount of work accomplished, and would drastically cut down on administrative paper.

“Astier’s system resembles a printing method elaborated a few years later by Comte de Lasteyrie (1759-1849), who developed a system of printing for the masses that eliminated capital letters, accented vowels, and other ‘unnecessary sorts’ (described in Lasteyrie’s 1837 Typographie économique).” See René Havette, Bibliographie de la Stenographie Française (Paris 1906).


“Drawing [as a preliminary to the art of writing] is not only a pleasing amusement, but a genteel and useful accomplishment: and where there is a taste or inclination for it, youth seems to be the proper time to indulge it.”

Here are three new writing and drawing manuals, which offer “practical hints” and models for young penmen. These books are a gift from Donald Farren, Class of 1958, to whom we are sincerely grateful.

Edwin D. Babbitt (1828-1905), The Science & Art of Penmanship (New York: Newman & Ivison, 1852). Graphic Arts (GAX) 2010. in process

Howard’s Large and Small Round Text Copies: with the New Rules for Learners (Newburyport [Mass.]: Pub. & sold by Thomas & Whipple booksellers, 1805). Graphic Arts (GAX) 2010. in process.

William Edward Shinton, Lectures on an Improved System of Teaching the Art of Writing: by the Aid of which It May Be Acquired, Both in Theory and Practice, in One Third of the Time Usually Devoted To It Under the Rules of the Old System: to which Are Added Practical Hints to Young Penmen (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown …, 1823). Graphic Arts (GAX) 2010. in process.

Jan van den Velde I (1568-1623), Spieghel der schrijfkonste (Mirror of the Art of Writing): in den welcken ghesien worden veelderhande gheschriften met hare Fondementen ende onderrichtinghe Wtghegeven (Amsterdam: Willem Iansz, inde vergulde Zonnewyser, 1609). 25 x 34 cm (oblong folio). Fifty-seven engravings including the engraved title page, an engraved portrait, and fifty-five leaves of calligraphic samples. *Note the putti pulling goose feathers to make writing pens.

Thanks to the assistance of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, graphic arts recently acquired a rare, complete third edition of this important Schrijfmeesterboek (writing-master’s book) from the Golden Age of Dutch art. Written and designed by Jan van den Velde I, this edition was printed by cartographic publisher Willem Janszoon Blaeu (1571-1638) with a title page cartouche designed by the artist and art historian Carel (Karel) van Mander (1548-1606) and engraved by the engraver and publisher Jacob Matham (1571-1631), along with fifty-five sample plates engraved by Simon Wynhoutsz Frisius (also written Vries, ca. 1580-1629).

The first edition appeared in 1605 published by van den Velde’s brother-in-law, Jan van Waesberghe II, in Rotterdam. The same year a second edition was published in Amsterdam by the printer and publisher Cornelis Claesz. The third edition was published by the no less famous printer Willem Janszoon Blaeu, after Blaeu acquired the original plates from the Claesz heirs. For an unknown reason, an extra plate by van den Velde has been added to this particular copy.

From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, two types of writing books predominated in Europe: the writing manual to offer instruction in how to make, space, and join letters as well as how to choose paper, cut quills, and make ink; and the copybook with engraved plates of writing models to be copied. Writing manuals and copy books are a top priority for library graphic arts collections, including Princeton University, to serve as a resource for the international study of letterforms.

Van den Velde’s volume is both a writing manual and a copy book, offering instructional texts as well as an extensive set of model plates with examples of all the different hands in use throughout Europe at that time. Written in Dutch, German, French, English, Italian, Spanish, and Latin, van den Velde not only covers the alphabets but also includes ornamental penwork confirming his dazzling mastery in the fusion of script with the calligraphic decoration.

As with many of these beautiful writing books, Spieghel is at once an artifact offering exceptional examples of high Dutch engraving and a research tool for undergraduate and post-graduate instruction in the history of letterform.

To his credit, van den Velde himself provides analysis as to the type of study his book would or should receive. In part three, he begins with a sustained discussion of the national hands that function both as treatise and manual, defining the criteria of mastering penmanship and diagramming, stroke by stroke, how different alphabets are formed. He justifies his reputation by noting that mastery consists not in specialization but in the ability of wield multifarious hands “I know well that what I teach here will be examined scrupulously by many fastidious souls, who will gravely proof my writing specimens as well, preferring to find fault rather than improve; I pray them to observe the good differentiation of hands before blaming the liberality of my pen, for though there will be those who have flown beyond the limits of my instruction, so they will find my book well governed, containing neither confusion nor scandal. Poets have their license, philosophers their exceptions, and painters their ornaments, so too with the pen, by degrees the quick and supple hand spreads its wings wider than that hand which writes an upright or heavy letter.” (Translated by historian Walter Melion in his wonderful article “Memory and the Kinship of Writing and Picturing in the Early Seventeenth-Century Netherlands,” Word & Image 8, no. 1 (January-March 1992))

Stanley Morison, writing in Calligraphy 1535-1885, commented, “The Spieghel’s format is of exceptional size. Van den Velde’s book is a magnificent specimen, not only with regard to the specific period it represents, but also in relationship to the entire history of calligraphy as an art. Of special note are the plates containing the Gothic letters, showing unique mastery in the fusion of the script with the calligraphic decoration.” Walter Melion wrote, “In scale, richness of ornamentation, and sheer number of specimens, the Spieghel is the most elaborate of these exemplaer-boechen.” Victor I. Carlson, in his essay for the Baltimore Museum’s 2000 Years of Calligraphy summed it up, “Van den Velde’s copy-book … is usually considered the most important work on calligraphy to be printed in Holland.”

Calligraphy in its Entirety

Anton Kuchenreiter, Die Calligraphie in ihrem ganzen Umfange, geschrieben in Stein (Calligraphy in its entirety, written in stone) (Neuburg an der Donau, 1831). 35 x 51 cm.

This is the first and only edition of a German writing album containing thirty-three plates printed lithographically by Anton Kuchenreiter. It is a dedication copy for Princess Therese von Thurn und Taxis (1773-1839) and the bookplate bears the Thurn und Taxis arms. The dedication is signed “Anton Kuchenreiter lithograph.”

Kuchenreiter is not listed in any of the standard indexes to printmakers. However, there was a Swiss firm named Kuchenreiter known for their elaborately engraved firearms, led by Andreas Kuchenreiter I (1716-1795). It seems likely that Anton learned engraving from members of the family and incorporated the detail of the cut line with the ease of lithography.

The book was printed in Neuburg an der Donau (Neuburg on the Danube River), the capital of the Neuburg-Schrobenhausen district in the state of Bavaria, not far from the first quarries of Bavarian limestone, which was the favored stone of the earliest lithographers.

Princess Therese was born Duchess von Mecklenburg-Strelitz before marrying Prince Karl Alexander von Thurn und Taxis. Her younger sisters were Louise, Queen of Prussia; Duchess Charlotte von Saxe-Hilburghausen; and Princess Friedrike of Prussia. In the volume’s final plate, Kuchenreiter has drawn three names as though they were printed on top of each other: Louise, then Charlotte, and finally Therese. If you look closely, you will see additional words inside the letters of Therese’s name.

One more point of interest, the work is an example of lithographic engraving, or engraving on stone. A coating of grease-resistant gum arabic is painted on the stone and the artist scrapes away the text with a steel point. The exposed stone is inked and the rest is treated like lithography. This means that it would be written laterally reversed. For more, see Michael Twyman’s Early Lithographed Music (1996), p. 504. Mendel Music Library Ref SV ML112.T89 1996

Lessons for Children

Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825), Lessons for Children, in Four Parts. Wood engravings designed by S. Pike and engraved by Alexander Anderson (Philadelphia: Benjamin Warner, 1818) Graphic Arts Collection (GAX), Hamilton 265

Anna Laetitia Aikin (later Mrs. Rochemont Barbauld) and her brother John began publishing small books in 1773. When Anna adopted John’s son, Charles, she began writing a series of books for children, including Lessons for Children in 1778 and Hymns in Prose for Children in 1781. Anna was a dedicated teacher and hoped these volumes would introduce “elements of society’s symbol-systems and conceptual structures, inculcate an ethics, and encourage [children] to develop a certain kind of sensibility.”

As depicted in the image shown above, the text is meant to be a personal dialogue between mother and child. The books were printed in large type with wide margins making them easy to read for all ages. Their popularity led to numerous editions in several languages. Anna and her brother also collaborated on the six-volume Evening at Home, or The Juvenile Budget Opened; The Farm-Yard Journal; and Books of Stories, or, Allegorical Instruction and Entertainment, from Animated Creation, for Children.

Graphic Arts is fortunate to hold copies of all these books as well as the original wood-engraved block for one illustration from Lessons for Children.

She's pretty but how is her handwriting?

Kitao Masanobu (1761-1816), The courtesan Chōzan seated at a Chinese writing table copying poems from a book while Hinazuru stands talking to her, (also called Chōzan and Hinazuru), 1784. Double ōban tate-e color bookplate from 吉原傾城新美人合自筆鏡; Yoshiwara Keisei Shin Bijin Awase Jihitsu Kagami (A Comparison of New Beauties with Samples of their Calligraphy). Graphic Arts collection, GA2009- in process.

This is one in a series of woodblock prints offering the Japanese public a look at the leading prostitutes of the Yoshiwara (pleasure district). Along the top of each sheet is a waka (thirty-one-syllable) poem written in the women’s own hand to show her abilities in calligraphy. Handwriting was only one of the many attributes expected from a high-class courtesan at that time.

The artist Kitao Masanobu was only twenty-two when he produced what would become his most famous work, Seirō meikun jihitsu-shū (Collection of calligraphy by celebrated Yoshiwara courtesans). The seven double ōban woodblock prints each depict two bijin or beauties along with their kamuro (eight to twelve year old attendants learning the business).

According to Cecilia Seigle’s book Yoshiwara (Firestone HN730.T65 S45 1993), Masanobu practically lived in the pleasure district during the 1780s and may have drawn these images from life. The following year, the artist teamed up with publisher Tsutaya Jūsaburō to reformat the series into a book, newly titled Shin Bijin Awase Jihitsu Kagami.

In this sheet, Hinazuru is on the right, showing her New Year kimonos. Chōzan is seated on the left at a writing desk. She has a calligraphy primer, a copy of the book Eiga monogatari (Tales of Glory), and strips of paper waiting for her to write New Years poems.

The Penographic

…the writer is enabled to use it for 10 or 12 hours with the same ease as with a pencil…!

Patent Penographic or Writing Instrument [broadside] (London: W. Robson & Co., ca.1819). Graphic Arts division GAX 2008- in process

Scheffer’s Penographic, patented in 1819, was one of the first workable fountain pens. Its secret was a flexible tube made of a goose quill and pig’s bladder. Pressure was exerted on a lever and a knob to propel ink into the nib when desired.

Palatino's Tools of Handwriting

Giovanni Battista Palatino (ca.1515-ca.1575), Libro di M. Giovambattista Palatino cittadino romano: nel qual s’insegna à scriuere ogni sorte lettera, antica, & moderna di qualunque natione ([Rome: M. Guidotto & D. Viotto, 1556]). Graphic Arts division GAX 2008- in process

Originally published in 1540 with the title, Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere, Palatino’s writing manual/encyclopedia of current writing styles became an immediate and popular success. It was reprinted several times and then, in 1545 a new revised and enlarged edition was published with 15 additional plates and more exotic alphabets.

The first printed writing manual was published in Rome by Ludovico degli Arrighi in 1522. The audience for this and others that followed was mostly secretaries. Palatino’s book somehow attracted a wider audience, with its chapter on cryptography and lettera mancina (mirror writing), recipes for ink, illustrations of a variety of writing implements, and so on.

According to Ewan Clayton in his essay “A History of Learning to Write,”

Palatino’s book is interesting for what it tells us about the ordinary writing of that time. Most documents in the sixteenth century were still written in varieties of Gothic cursive and Palatino illustrates examples of such hands from Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence, Sienna, and Genoa. …Writing was not as homogeneous as it is today and there were many different styles in use concurrently.

For other editions and translations at Princeton University, continue below.

The Excellency of the Pen and Pencil

The Excellency of the Pen and Pencil, Exemplifying the Uses of Them in the Most Exquisite and Mysterious Arts of Drawing, Etching, Engraving, Limning. Painting in Oyl, Washing of Maps & Pictures … (London, Printed by T. Ratcliff and T. Daniel, for D. Newman and R. Jones, 1668). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) 2003-1344N

The coming of the seventeenth-century brought a proliferation of drawing manuals, beginning with Henry Peacham (1576?-1643?), The Art of Dravving vvith the Pen and Limning in Water Colours (London: Printed by Richard Braddock, 1606) [available online as an electronic text]. These books were written for an aristocratic audience of men and women who had the time to train their eyes and improve their mind.

The manuals provided instruction with an emphasis on art as an intellectual endeavor. Drawing is always the essential practice, with the arts of printing and painting coming later. Linear or contour models of the body parts are offered for copying, teaching the popular practice of limning.

The Excellency of the Pen and Pencil was published anonymously, printed by Thomas Ratcliff and Thomas Daniel, and sold by them at the Chyrurgeons Arms and at the Golden Lyon. The text is based in part on the writings of Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein. The title page introduces it as “A Work very useful for all Gentlemen, and other Ingenious Spirits, either Artificers or others.” A second edition was published in 1688 with the significant edition of a section on the mezzotint, a process that came into use just after the first edition had been released.

Other seventeenth-century drawing manuals available at Princeton include: Sir William Sanderson (1586?-1676), Graphice. The Use of the Pen and Pensil. Or, The Most Excellent Art of Painting (London: Printed for R. Crofts, 1658). Marquand Library (SA) NE910.G7 F17 1658

John Evelyn (1620-1706), Sculptura, or, The History, and Art of Chalcography and Engraving in Copper (London: Printed by J.C., 1662) Graphic Arts Collection (GAX), NE1760 .E94

William Salmon (1644-1713), Polygraphice: or the Arts of Drawing, Engraving, Etching, Limning, Painting, Washing, Varnishing, Gilding, Colouring, Dying, Beautifying and Perfuming (London: Printed by A. Clark, for John Crumpe, 1675). 3rd ed. Marquand Library (SAX): Rare Books, NE910.G7 S45 1675x

Amadou Bamba Day in Harlem


Touba / New York (New York: Khelcom Press, 2004). Edition: 45; printed on Kumohadamashi paper. Graphic Arts GAX 2008- in process.

Touba / New York is an examination of the Murid Brotherhood, a Sufi Muslim movement dedicated to the promotion of peace. The word Mouride in Arabic means “one who desires,” and the Mourides are one of the fastest growing religious movement in West Africa.

Once a year, Sheik Mourtada Mbaké, the youngest son of Amadou Bamba and the spiritual leader of the Mourides, travels to Harlem. The growing community of Senegalese expatriates gather around a red-brick building named the House of Islam on 137th Street and Edgecombe Avenue. They come to pay homage to the Sheik and receive his blessing. The week-long celebration begins on July 21 and ends on July 28, Amadou Bamba Day, with a huge parade down 116th street, through Little Senegal. The overwhelming majority of the men and women in this parade were originally from Touba (pronounced ta-wa-ba), the second largest city in Senegal and the location of Bamba’s sacred burial place.

This book grew out of the artist Peter Bogardus’ encounters and travels with descendants of Sheik Bamba and his foremost student, Ibra Fall. Text is printed from woodcuts cut by Peter Bogardus after calligraphy by Sherif Fall and Shaykh Ndiguel Fall. Illustrations include 35 photogravures by Bogardus.

Brody Neuenschwander, Calligrapher

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Princeton University alumnus Brody Neuenschwander, class of 1981, has a new book, Textasy (Ghent: Toohcsmi, 2007), which is reviewed in the most recent issue of baseline magazine (Paul Shaw, “The Work of Brody Neuenschwander,” baseline 53 (autumn 2007) Firestone Oversize Z250 .B37q). The book is in process and will be housed in Marquand Library.

Born in Houston 1958, Neuenschwander was appointed University Scholar while at Princeton, a position that allowed him to devote almost all his time (when he wasn’t rowing) to art history. He graduated in 1981 with high honors for his thesis on the techniques of medieval manuscript illumination. His graduate work was completed at the Courtauld Institute in London, writing on the methodology of German art history.

More importantly, while in London, Neuenschwander began studying calligraphy at the Roedhampton Institute. It was as a calligrapher, rather than an art historian, that he made a career for himself.

Over the last two decades, Neuenschwander collaborated on numerous projects—films, operas, and installations—with the English film director Peter Greenaway, including “Prospero’s Books”, “Pillow Book”, “Flying over Water”, “Bologna Towers 2000”, “Columbus”, and “Writing to Vermeer.” Greenaway contributed one of the essays in Textasy, noting that the artist stretches the boundaries of calligraphy, “exploring the possibilities of text in motion, and of writing as a filmed performance.”

How to Make Writing Ink 1659

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Edward Cocker, The Pen’s Triumph: being a copy-book, containing variety of examples of all hands practised in this nation according to the present mode, adorned with incompatable knots and flourishes… (to be sold with other of the authors works, by John Dowse Stationer, at the great north door of St. Pauls Church London, 1659). 23 (of 27) engraved plates.

This new year’s eve, instead of drinking three pints of wine, why not use it to make your own batch of writing ink? Here’s a recipe written by Edward Cocker (1631-1675). Cocker was a London mathematician and engraver, who taught writing and arithmetic. His extraordinary talent as a calligrapher enabled him to create over 20 copy books, which included alphabets in “German”, “Italian”, “Roman”, and “Print” hands. In addition, his manuals offered instruction in cutting pen nibs, holding the pen, and the making of ink. These actual recipes are rare and Cocker’s continues to be a resource to contemporary artists and historians.

A slightly earlier recipe can be found in the online text A Booke of Secrets: shewing diuers waies to make and prepare all sorts of inke, and colours … Also to write with gold and siluer, or any kind of mettall out of the pen … newly translated into English, by W.P. (London: Printed by Adam Islip for Edward White, and are to be sold at his shop at the little north dore of Pouls, at the signe of the Gun, 1596). Search the title in the main catalog or use your Princeton ID to log into

Cocker is perhaps best-known for his manuals on basic arithmetic, reissued in dozens of editions over several centuries. Graphic Arts holds: Cocker’s Tutor to Arithmetick: being a new and most easie method, so easie that the meanest capacity may understand it at first sight, written and invented by Edward Cocker master in writing; there is also sold with this book that excellent copy-book called The tutor to writing. (London: Printed by R. D. and are to be sold by Tho. Rooks stationer at the Lamb and Ink-bottle at the East-end of S. Paul’s Church, where is also sold all sorts of blanck bonds, [1664]). GAX 2004.3217N

Penmanship in the Seventeenth Century


Top: Louis Senault, Livre d’écriture representant naïvement la beauté de tous les caracteres financiers mainten[an]t a la mode. Avec un traité, contenant les veritables moyens pour apprendre facilement à bien escrire, et parvenir en peu à la connoissance de cet art (Paris: chez N. Langlois, [1668]). Bottom: Louis Senault, L’écriture en sa perfection: representée naiuement dans tous caractères financiers et italiennes bastardes nouuellement à la mode (Paris: chés F. Poilly, [c. 1670?])

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, “writing masters” would produce manuals of perfect calligraphic script that students would copy over and over until they had a perfect hand of their own. Often the masters would try to out-do each other with elaborate flourishes and decorative elements added to the standard alphabet. The engravers who produced these manuals were superb technicians, able to cut even the most complex italic curves with equal amounts of flamboyance and grace.

The graphic arts collection is fortunate to have acquired two early writing books engraved by Louis Senault. We can see the date 1668 in one plate from the top volume and so, date it accordingly. Senault engraved approximately ten similar books between 1660 and 1693. None of the writing books published under his own name are dated, and, as David Becker remarks in his wonderful reference source, The Practice of Letters, their bibliography is further complicated “by both the apparent interchangeable use of engraved writing samples in different publications and the existence of different engraved versions of writing samples having deceptively similar texts.”

Each of these volumes includes a complete alphabet, along with decorative grotesques and animal figures. The second edition above gives particular emphasis to “Italian bastarde,” the hand used in French archival documents from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, notable for the characteristic wavy, free lines of the letters.

Senault is also noted for producing a fully engraved and very decorative book of hours, first published around 1680, and also available at Princeton University.

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  • Olivier: Hello Diane, If you are still looking for an examplare read more
  • Stella Jackson-Smith: I have a framed picture by A.Brouet, signed with the read more
  • John Podeschi: I remember Dale fondly from my days at Yale (1971-1980). read more
  • Joyce Barth: I have some or all of this same poem. I read more