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Re: VMs: MS408 Character Development
At 22:56 04-07-05, Nick Pelling wrote:
At 13:31 04/07/2005 +0200, Maurizio Gavioli wrote:
Printing typeface design is not a semi-automatic activity as handwriting
is: it is very pondered, carefully planned beforehand and has to with
drawing much more than with writing.
Didn't the Quattrocento history of using pure geometric forms (like lines
& circular arcs) to construct alphabet shapes stem from Leon Battista
Alberti: but even if earlier than Alberti, surely it sprung from a similar
humanist / neo-classicist mindset? Printing just happened to be arriving
at the same (or a little later) time, IIRC?
You are right (I think the greatest example of this is the _De divina
proportione_ di Luca Pacioli), but the point does not change: these
practices had again little to do with writing, but with drawing, as it was
the case also for inscriptions.
It might apply to the _exempla_, yet to determine, that the VM script
author was familiar with and had in mind while devising his script,
particularly if we assume that, as it is the case in most script
creations, the script is a re-cast, with different glyphs and a few
oddities, of the writing system (and maybe of the linguistic system too!)
to which the author has been mainly exposed.
Given the multiple influences apparent within the VMs' alphabet, perhaps
"of the writing systems" might be more accurate.
IMHO, these "multiple influences" for the greatest part are more
suggestions of individual contributors (me included, of course!), some of
them quite peculiar, than established or 'grounded' acquisitions.
Anyway, I have no problems with the plurality you suggest, although I think
that one system is likely to predominate (I'll explain why in another post,
otherwise this will become too long).
There's definitely room for someone to try to deconstruct the individual
letter forms along the lines you suggest: a forensic analysis of the
alphabet, if you like.
Most of it has already been done by Barbara Barrett, if I remember correctly.
On one hand, we may safely assume that the VM script author was familiar
with the Latin abbreviation system (as he was familiar with the _littera
moderna_ stroke assimilation system). This is a point in favour of the
theory that those sings in the VMS are indeed abbreviations.
Or similarly, that these Latin abbreviations were also things within the
This is more or less what I was trying to say in my next paragraph...
On the other hand, many of those abbreviation-like signs, like for
instance EVA 'g' or EVA 'm' (but also 'r', 's' or 'u'), are very obvious
'pen turns' which may come quite spontaneously to anybody with the
penmanship of a late Middle Age scholar. This might mean that those signs
do not have the same meaning (or at least a similar function) they had in
the 'normal writing', but that they are simply common, or well-practiced,
graphic material borrowed into the script, like many 'full characters' of
Perhaps the most interesting page in this regard is f105v: I get the
feeling from this page that the writer was finally starting to enjoy using
the alphabet/script - the writing feels fluid to me here, with generally
more subtle flourishes than elsewhere, and with a letter size comfortably
intermediate (I believe?) between Herbal A and Herbal B, which are
respectively too big and too small.
Well, you have a far greater familiarity with the ms. than I have, and I
can easily share your feelings.
Maurizio M. Gavioli - VistaMare Software
via San Bernardo 5, I-16030 Pieve Ligure, ITALY
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