Presentation details
English vernacular revisited

James Mosley

Saturday 15 September | 13:15 – 14:00
Location: Sallis Benney Theatre

Keynote | Theme: | Duration: 45 minutes

The historical idea of an ‘English’ style in lettering is reflected in the names by which the writing of British calligraphers, engravers and lithographers became known in several different languages during the 18th and 19th centuries – l’écriture anglaise, la lettera inglese, etc. It is based on the ‘swelling line’ of the new Italian calligraphy of the 16th century which was made with a pointed pen, a technique which is the basis of the types of John Baskerville (a professional calligrapher) and Richard Austin (an engraver), and many leading punchcutters and type-makers, and which was also followed by the makers of painted and incised lettering.

A century ago the calligrapher Edward Johnston declared in his writing book that the broad pen was the basis of good letterforms. While he meant well, and his teaching undoubtedly helped the appreciation of certain historical scripts and printing types and led to the making of some distinguished modern lettering, this simplistic idea has tended to discourage the use of the ‘vernacular’ forms that were formerly widely used, and has thus impoverished the range of examples for modern makers of letters to draw on and done damage to a distinguished tradition.

The balance needs to be restored. This presentation examines the traditional forms and some examples of their survival.

Speaker details

James Mosley Visiting Professor Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading | UK

James Mosley is Visiting Professor in the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading. Until 2000 he was librarian of the St Bride Library, London. He writes and lectures on the history of type and letterforms and teaches courses on these subjects at Reading, Lyon, and Charlottesville (Virginia). Among his recent writings are studies of the Italian 16th-century calligrapher Giovan Francesco Cresci, the origins in England of the modern sans serif letter, and notes to a facsimile edition of the Manuel typographique (1764–6) of Fournier le jeune.

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