Learning Index >> Calligraphy: an education in letter form

What is calligraphy? >> Calligraphic marks
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Irene Wellington
The foundational hand

In the Roman tradition of writing the marks made by one particular tool have had a dominant influence. This tool is the broad edged pen which has a straight cut writing edge, like the end of a chisel, rather than one that comes down to a narrow point like a needle. If the pen is moved sideways, along its edge, it will make a very thin stroke, if it is pulled down towards your body it produces a broad mark. This is why Roman upper and lower case letters have thick and thin parts to them - it is the result of the use of this tool to write letters with in the past (see image C84.68.a). If you use this tool to write with, it will automatically place all the thick and thin letter parts in their customary positions. The broad edged pen is thus a real help in producing well formed letters quickly and easily, though it does take a little while to get used to handling it.

Care must be taken to keep the whole edge of the pen in contact with the paper at all times. You will also find that it is difficult to push the pen, most strokes have to be pulled, this means making letters from a combination of strokes with pen lifts in between. The letter O for instance is made in two parts. Starting at the top you move in the shape of a crescent moon to the left, down and to the right, this makes the left-hand half of the letter. Taking the pen off the page you place it back at your original starting place but now move in a crescent shape in the opposite direction.

Practical task



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