It contains instructions for how to write 100 different alphabets. He also discusses the tools of the craft, including pens, brushes, and paper; and gives solid advice on paying attention to composition and layout.
Each alphabet contains an example of each letter, complete with stroke order, as well as instructions for pen angle and how to handle other, specific nuances. The book is organized chronologically and the author makes sure to point out the evolution of western scripts throughout time.
One thing to be aware of is that, in the more modern alphabets, he presents some scripts that are intended to be used with brushes or drafting pens, but the majority of the book is dedicated to those alphabets created with pen and nib.
I consider it an extremely valuable resource, and continue to refer to it time and time again as I try my hand at new scripts.
The other book I've started to use is The Bible of Illuminated Letters. This presents examples and patterns for the wonderful illuminated capital letters that one sees in illuminated manuscripts. The author, Margaret Morgan, begins by explaining the techniques used to create illuminated manuscripts, including a discussion of the specific tools and media used.
Then she breaks down the characteristics of lettering by time period and letter shape. She provides an in-depth example of one letter in each group, and then provides patterns for each of the others. She also points out which scripts are appropriate to use with the letters from each time period.
The result is a great reference for practicing the art of illuminated lettering. I can heartily recommend both books - they've provided valuable instruction and inspiration for me, and hopefully will for you, too.
Would you recommend an ink pen to start with Italic writing?
I have seen videos of the Maby Todd pen with the gloriously flexible nib.
refer to video linked at http://youtu.be/Z_hB8IYR69Q
Is that one too advanced for a beginner like me?
What is a starting pen of Italic writing?Excellent question! While italic and flexible nibs are both capable of producing significant line variation, there is a definite difference between the two. Italic nibs look like a chisel – they are wide and thin and generally not flexible. The produce line variation based on their angle on the paper. I use a Lamy Joy with a 1.9mm italic nib for most of my ink reviews, and is what you can see in the example below.
Flexible nibs, like the one in the video linked above, are generally the same width as a normal fine, medium, or bold nib, but the tines of the nib respond to the pressure of your hand. They separate, allowing more ink to flow, and thus produce a wider line. While there are some pen manufacturers that produce flexible nibs today, like the Namiki Falcon, vintage flexible nibs generally have a much higher degree of flex. Many nibmeisters will also modify modern nibs to add flexibility to them. For the example below, I actually used a flexible nib on a dip pen.
Personally, I think that italic nibs are much easier for a beginner to learn with. It’s much easier to control the angle that you hold your pen than to control the pressure as you’re learning. Plus, most calligraphy hands are designed for italic nibs, not flexible ones – so if you’re interested in learning classic italic, uncial, and roman scripts, then that’s where I’d recommend that you start.