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Welcome to "The Scriptorium"

(aka my Calligraphy Page)

3rd August, 1998 (Added Calligraphy Ring & Latin Resources).
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Apologies to those of you using lower resolutions

Hi, and welcome to my Scriptorium. You are visitor number since I started this page on October 1st, 1996.

This is my small corner of sanctitude, where I can be creative (or not), and get cramp in my hand, arm, shoulder, and back, from my terrible posture, and improper facilities. Don't talk to ME about Studios!

NB - Please be warned, this page is not intended to portray my work as a Portfolio, but is merely a "tongue-in-cheek" admission of my ineptitude, when it comes to Calligraphy. This whole was started purely and simply as an experiment in HTML, and was never intended to serve any serious purpose.
<--! (That's a little HTML humour there!) -->

I intend to include links and info here, that other Calligraphers, Scribes, or Pen-Pushers, may or may not find interesting and/or amusing. Also, I shall be posting some of my favourite (?) bits of work, that I have done, for you all to see, criticise, or just have a good laugh at (I know I'm no good - you don't need to tell me).

Free Guestbooks by Phaistos! If you DO have any comments on my work, or my homepages, please take the time to sign my guestbook, and leave your comments there.

A little bit about me... (the long boring bit - feel free to skip this if you aren't in a reading mood)

I started Calligraphy in April 1993, when I bought my first fountain pen with a set of 5 nibs. I started off by learning 'Sans Serif' and 'Seriffed' versions of the basic Roman style. (see sample below) Always one to run before I can walk, I quickly got fed up with changing nibs, and/or refilling the squeezy cartridge with different coloured inks, so I bought a set of three further pen bodies with their nibs duplicating three of the five I had already got. I could now have two B2s with different coloured inks, or a B2, Medium, and Fine of the same colour, all ready to use at a moments notice. I then wrote to Platignum (in calligraphic style, of course), the manufacturers of the pens and nibs, asking if they did any other sizes, and was pleased to receive not only a full list of the available range, but also a B4 nib 'with their compliments'.

Our youngest son was born that May, so my first 'project' was the completion of the birth announcements. I wasn't up to doing the whole thing from scratch, so we bought some suitable pre-printed ones, which I completed with all the appropriate details. I also wrote out the envelopes. Of course, the next project was the Christening Invitations, scheduled for Jan '94. I had been inspired by a layout I had seen in a book for a party invitation, which used the same writing style throughout, but mixed different sizes and orientations. After some experimentation, I came up with the layout below with the words 'Christening Invitation' in large heavy lettering up one side, and the remainder of the details in a centred layout in the remaining whitespace. (see sample below)

My sister got married later in 1994, and I decided that I might be able to take on the preparation of placecards and a seating plan. By now, I had worked in Sans Serif, Roman Seriffed, a form of Italic, and Uncial/Half-Uncial types, and had mastered none. After some discusions with my sister and her husband to be, they decided that they liked the Uncial & Half-Uncial design, but there were some individual letters they didn't like. After casting around several books from the library, I came up with some alternative forms of those letters, and we finalised the look of 'their' alphabet. (see sample below)

The next problem arose when the stationery arrived. The cards had a glossy finish to them, and my normal ink just wouldn't dry on it. This necessitated the purchase of a bottle of acrylic ink, and since this could not be used in my fountain pens, some 'dip' nibs, reservoirs, and holders, with nibs corresponding to the ones I already had (of course, being Mitchell nibs, these had a different size numbering system).

I had a list of the names of all the adults, but only had christian names for the children. This caused a bit of trouble knowing what surname to use where some of the parents weren't married, or the children were from previous marriages, but I compromised by just ensuring that kids were placed by their appropriate parents, and just omitted surnames on all the children's cards.

I used a mapping pen to draw out the seating plan, and to draw a border around the whole thing. I drew fancy corners to the border which resulted in a small inward pointing square. In each of these, in gold ink, I did a little monogram combining the initials of my sister and her husband. My heart dropped on the day, when I saw that the plan had been put up with 4 drawing pins, and guess where they had put them... Yep, right in those little boxes! Never mind, my sister and her husband were grateful, and I overheard a few people actually commenting that 'these cards were hand-written, not printed'. I took it as a sort of back-handed compliment.

Subsequently, I have done a few pieces for personal pleasure, a poem for my wife, a few Christmas cards one year, and a couple of certificates for a friend. These were from the station at the top of Mount Snowdon in Wales. A colleague and two of his sons had walked to the top, where they purchased these 'exclusive' certificates, available from this one place on earth only! He asked if I could complete them for him. Wouldn't you know it, I made a mistake on one. A quick phone call to the Snowdon Mountain Railway, and somewhat disillusioned, I found that anyone could request these certificates by mail-order! Anyway, I got a couple of spares, and completed the job for him, as well as 'hacking' one of the spares for his wife, who only made it half way.
(In July/August of 1996, my brother-in-law and his wife also walked to the top of Snowdon, and bought back the same certificates. I completed these for them on the evening before they departed our shores, returning to Oz. It was a very nervous scribe that did this bit of work! I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when I finished them.)

I suppose that I am a bit of a 'Techno-Junkie' Calligrapher, and am never far from my computer. Consequently, I subscribe to a Calligraphy e-mail Listserver called CALLIG. This is a very active list of Calligraphers of varying standards from raw beginners (or worse - like me) to professionals, and also includes members from related professions, such as suppliers of various 'arty' type materials that we use. Members are from all walks of life, and from all around the world, so the discussions can be quite 'illuminating'. A small tradition of the group is that (usually) we all end our messages with a weather report for our vicinity. I usually get upwards of 20 messages a day from other members. I guess I am what is termed a 'lurker', but sometimes feel compelled to throw in my two pennies worth, too. CALLIG also have a Website, on to which Listserver members can post information. At the time of writing, this was restricted to just a couple of subjects, but it is early days yet.

Another thing that I am experimenting with, is the use of my PC to create Calligraphy. I like all the fonts that can lend a more 'beautious' look to a standard document, but baulk at their excessive use, because every instance of an 'e' (for example) looks exactly the same as every other 'e' on the page. It seems artificially 'too' exact - lacking the variations that creep into hand-lettered work. A bit of software I discovered just recently is Daub by TOPline Software. It is actually a Calligraphically oriented Paintbrush type of package, but with guidelines, and 'rounding' options to get rid of shaky hand-eye-mouse coordination. Check it out - it's worth a look.

Some of my work

OK, as promised, here is some of my work - a potted history of the development of my limited skills since I started. While I am practicing a new style, I generally copy passages from books, rather than repeating fixed phrases or just writing out alphabets (although I do quite a bit of that too). These are all just 'bits of stuff' that I pulled out of my folder, rather than specially prepared for public display, as I said before, this is NOT my Portfolio.
Once you have found my pages, please re-visit them from time to time, since I intend this to be an on-going project.

Click on the thumbnail images, to see the full size versions.

June '93
This is just a little practice piece that I copied from the lyrics of 'Trick of the Tail' by Genesis. The 'sans serif' form seen here is the first style that I learned. Some may not consider this style as truly 'Calligraphic', but I feel it has a value in helping to learn the basic letter forms, and also as a clear, uncluttered hand, which I now tend to use for presentations at work.

August '93
This extract was also executed in the first style I learned, during the summer of 1993. The extract was copied from the fourth 'book' of Windsor Castle. As you can see - I write from my mind's eye, rather than my real eyes! I saw 'Catherine', instead of the letters ... t h a r i ... (return to 'Biography')

September '93
This is a practice run of the Christening Invitation which shows some of the guidelines, nib sizes used, and other comments. Practice was done in black, but the final work was done in a dark blue on a cream coloured cartridge quality paper. I was particularly pleased with my first centred layout, and by the time I had finished the twenty or so invitations, I had almost got it right!
(It's OK - I noticed it said Paris instead of Parish, before the final product!) (return to 'Biography')

April/May '94
This is some early practice using the Uncial & Half-Uncial based characters chosen for my sister's wedding. The poor quality of the paper I was using, and the resolution of the scan don't do it justice. The final work was done using acrylic ink, on card with a satin finish, giving beautifully crisp definition to the letters.
I am also using this style of lettering for my current projects, based on the Welsh language. (return to 'Biography')

April/May '94
Here is the design of the full alphabet for the wedding work I did for my sister.

February '95
This is a sample practice piece for a Valentines card to my wife. I spent half of 1995 in France, hence the french flavour. I practiced various spacings for successive lines of the background phrase, and found this to be the most pleasing. With hindsight, I think I would have used a stronger colour for the foreground "Je T'aime", which to my mind, does not stand out enough.

August '95
I learned this particular hand (labelled 'Informal Script' by the book from which I am learning), while living in France, so it is rare to find an example in my work folder that is in English. Again, it is an extract of lyrics from 'A Trick of the Tail', from the Genesis album of the same name.

August '96
Experimenting with a circular layout, after a holiday in Wales inspired me to try out some Welsh. Most of my Welsh stuff has been executed in the Uncial hand described earlier, but I decided to use a basic Roman Seriffed hand for this particular experiment. As you can see, the spacing didn't quite work out either in the inner or outer circles. The inner circle left me with a gap (which I conveniently filled with the date, while the right side of the outer circle took slightly more than half the circle, so the left side got slightly compressed. Overall though, I am fairly pleased with my first attempt.
By the way, the word is...
which is actually the name of a small town on the island of Anglesey, North Wales. The station is the place by which the town retains its fame, as the longest station name in the UK. There is a visitor's centre, where you can buy a platform ticket (that has to be about six inches long to fit the name on it), and you can get your passport specially stamped, too.

(Well, that's all for the moment, since I am getting close to my 2Mb limit.)
I am sorry that I have been unable to post anything new recently - I have lost access to a decent scanner, but will rectify the situation just as soon as I can.
btw - Thanks to all of you that have left me such kind messages of encouragement in my guestbook. I am surprised to see so many, entries, and also to see that the 'Hit' counter is still creeping upwards. I never dreamed that my site would still be a going concern a year later, and I owe that to you all. Thanks again.

Here are a few Calligraphic sites of interest...

  • Vellum Gallery
  • CALLIG Listserver Homepage

    The Calligraphy pages of some of my friends...

  • Catherine Whiteman is my cyber-pal from Scotland. She is a gifted Calligrapher and Artist, and I envy her greatly. I spend far too much time chatting to her via e-mail, so neither of us get our work done! She is a dear friend who has given me much support and encouragement.
  • Mel Ahlborn is one of my many cyberian friends, from the US. She is based near LA in California, and specialises in beautifully Illuminated Calligraphy (I envy her too!)

    And some other items of interest...

  • Online Dictionaries
  • Numerous Latin Resources - Dictionaries, Grammar, etc.
  • Some interesting Windows TrueType fonts
  • Winsor & Newton's Homepage

    I have only just applied for membership of the ring, so although I have the code for the buttons/links, they may not work for a few days. Apologies if you find this to be so...

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    Graham Smith
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