Sunday, 31 January 2010

Notes on Renaissance calligraphy

Since Greek antiquity the distinction between uncial (all caps) and cursive (joined minuscules) hands was that the former was used for literary works and the latter, for correspondence. The surviving Roman minuscule cursive hand came to be known as Carolingian minuscule. The Renaissance humanists revived this form to replace Gothic medieval calligraphy.

The ‘roman’ typeface, then, came from a combination of the Carolingian minuscule and Roman majuscules, and was first seen in 1465: German printers in Italy, Arnold Pannartz and Konrad Sweyheym, published an edition of Cicero’s De Oratore using a roman typeface.

From 1495 Francesco Griffo worked with the main printer of Venice, Aldus Manutius, and developed cursive typefaces for him including Bembo. He is also recorded as the inventor of the italic form.

In the 16th century Francis I brought Italian calligraphers to Fontainbleau to assimilate the common Italian form of correspondence, cancelleresca corsiva, into the Gothic French hand, cursive française, to create ‘ronde’. ‘Ronde’ had three forms: financière (upright), bǎtarde (inclined) and coulée (script). This was the French national hand for centuries later.

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