Thursday, June 11, 2009
First Sample Setting
Throughout Æthelwold Etc. there are repeated references to the work of the pre-Victorian Portuguese writing master Joaquim Jozé Ventura da Silva. Ventura worked in that vibrant period of lettering history between the Romantic and the Industrial eras. While his immediate (Spanish) predecessors, notably Servidori and Torio de la Riva, utilized a thorough pedagogical approach, Ventura seems to have been hell bent on having fun. As such, his work, particularly his manual Regras Methódicas para le Aprender a Escrever, is suffused with an enthusiasm lacking in the work of both his elders and his contemporaries. In the Regras there is a small specimen of Typo Portuguez nestled between examples of Ventura's incomparable Bastrdinho hand and his fantastically ornamented capitals. The specimen is a sober pause in the manual's kinetic exuberance and it displays seven optical sizes of a roman alphabet from the large Parangona I to the minute Breviario Primeiro. ¶Since I first encountered Ventura's manual I have developed a kind of inexplicable lust for his lettering which I allow to play out in Æthelwold. The digital rendering of his Leitura Primeira (above) will be used in the Æthelwold I to set To Ianthe by Lord Byron at a miniscule point size.
Monday, June 1, 2009
The 26 letters in Æthelwold Etc. are born partly of the belief that the communal form of the alphabet is as responsible for a letter's legibility as that letter's specific form. If, for instance, you were to come upon a basket weave pattern in the Duomo floor, your mind would not necessarily view it as an O even though it is circular. If you came upon the same basket weave pattern printed in a book, preceding a P and following an N, there would be no doubt that it was an O. Further, the disparity between the letter's contextual legibility and the form's alphabetic ambiguity might "open a lane"* to a fresh appraisal of our typographic assumptions. The complex relationship between the letter and it's form might also broaden our understanding of the relationships between communal responsibility and individual prerogative, free will and determinism, heredity and experience – though, admittedly, that is a leap.
*The reference is to Auden's line "And the crack in the tea-cup opens/ A lane to the land of the dead" from As I walked out one evening.