Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 99
April 1995

Calligraphy News

"Letterforum", the 15th International Conference of Lettering Artists, sponsored by the Washington Calligraphers Guild, will be held from July 22nd to 29th, 1995, at St. Mary's College of Maryland. If you are interested in attending, send a $100 check as a deposit to Letterforum, c/o Judy Hoyle, 15212 Redgate Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20905, or request a brochure.

Roehampton Institute offers a B.A. degree program in Calligraphy and Bookbinding at Froebel College, Roehampton Institute, Roehampton Lane, London, SW15 5PJ, England. Tel: 081-878-1706.

The Society of Scribes held their 20th Anniversary party and one-day exhibition at the Grolier Club on December 14th, 1994. The Society had its beginning with a persuasive suggestion from Donald Jackson of England, when in June 1974 he taught a three-week workshop organized by Louis Strick in New York City, as a kick-off to his newly organized school, The Calligraphy Workshop. The celebration recognized and honored the nineteen founding members who were students in this workshop. There was a buffet lunch and several works each on exhibit by many of the founding members. Those in attendance were given an opportunity to give their reminiscences, mainly about Donald's workshop twenty years ago. Donald Jackson came with his wife and daughter, and also Louis Strick, whose generosity gave many of us calligraphers an opportunity to teach in his school. Louis spoke briefly and was obviously touched by our recognition of him, and Donald summed everything up with a few brief and entertaining words which brought warm applause. Lili Wronker had given a fitting introduction to each speaker. The whole affair was great entertainment for all of us. The affectionate greetings among founding members, some of whom had not met in the intervening twenty years, was quite wonderful. The three-week workshop back in 1974 was the realization of Louis Strick's dream of a school that would teach calligraphy and illumination. This workshop brought together people in many stages of calligraphic skills, all of them intrigued with the idea of learning how to do that beautiful gilding seen in medieval illuminated manuscripts. The classes included many tips on design, good taste, and much practical advice, with emphasis on cutting quills, mixing gesso, and laying gold leaf. We even designed an alphabet. The weather was hot and humid as we labored over our assignment to copy a page or detail from a reproduction of an illuminated manuscript and to get into the skin of the medieval scribe and interpret what he did. Wisps of turkey and goose feathers were everywhere, and flecks of gold leaf floated in the air. Donald shuddered at the waste of gold -- he had brought the double-thick gold from England and included the cost in the workshop. This technique has to be mastered in the quiet of one's own studio, and we wrote down every detail of Donald's instruction. Because I had a special interest in illumination, having studied it earlier with Enid Eder Perkins, and in 1973 in England with Wendy Selby and David Graham, Lou Strick asked me to teach two classes in Illumination, along with my scheduled calligraphy classes. I also added an Illumination class or workshop to my Craft Students League schedule from time to time. As Donald visited the U.S. more and more often, teaching in many different localities, his methods and skills became more available to Americans. And then, several other calligraphers across the country began teaching illumination techniques -- and so, Donald Jackson's legacy continues. Even though the number of people willing and able to perfect this gilding technique is limited, it is no longer a dark secret which must be searched out in Cennini's book, written in 1437. Several books have been written by skilled calligraphers on the subject, but the most thorough is The Calligrapher's Handbook in which Donald Jackson has written the chapter on gilding. His own book, The Story of Writing, adds more insight into it.