Guild of Book Workers Newsletter
Number 112
June 1997

Calligraphy notes

by Nancy Leavitt

Fran Manola is retiring as the GBW Calligraphy Correspondent. I spoke with Fran recently about her career as a calligrapher and bookbinder and would like to share a bit about her life and work.

After serving as a WAVE during WWII, Fran studied art under the GI bill. She studied with Paul Standard at Cooper-Union in New York in 1948 and with the help of Edward Johnston's book Writing, Illuminating, & Lettering began to develop her own calligraphic hand. She attended the Workshop School of Advertising and Editorial Art on 5th Avenue, where she studied with Bob Boyajian. In 1950 she took a job as Secretary Director of the Whitney Museum where she remained until 1962. In the late 1950's she joined the Guild of Book Workers and began studying bookbinding with Laura Young. It is a difficult task to master bookbinding AND calligraphy but Fran developed a way to balance a freelancing career in both. She said summers were too hot to letter, so she "bound in the summer and lettered in the winter." In 1966 she began teaching calligraphy and bookbinding at the Craft Student League in New York. She became interested in gilding and studied with both Wendy Selby Westover and Donald Jackson in England in 1973. In 1974, when Jackson came to the U.S. to teach, Fran took his first workshop in New York. Prior to that time she felt isolated in her calligraphic studies and was so delighted to make contacts with other scribes.

Two of Fran's students, Emily Brown Shields and Anna Pinto, currently carry on Fran's teaching at the Craft Student League. Anna, who is a freelance calligrapher living in Hoboken, took her first class with Fran in 1976. She found Fran to be an enthusiastic and encouraging teacher. Anna speaks admiringly about Fran's current work, her boxes, which are an innovative combination of bookbinding, calligraphy, and gilding. Fran exhibits her work annually at the New Jersey Center for Arts.

In 1984 Fran moved from New York City to her family home in New Jersey. Still just an hour away from the city she is "trying to get rid of things" and to keep working. Fran has a keen interest in gilding and has a book collection of illumination manuals. In the current 1997 Society of Scribes Journal, Nicholas Yeager, president of the society has written an article about the five calligraphers in New York who have been lettering for 50 years. This group includes Fran, who is still working at her art, happy with work and life. The timbre and strength of Fran's phone voice belies her 80 years. To be full of vigor and purpose at such an age gives us all something to look forward to.

I would like to brieXy mention some interesting summer calligraphic study tours occurring this year. Mark Van Stone is offering an inexpensive tour of "Magna Graecia - Athens to Constantinople", during June 16 to 30. You may phone Mark at 512 323-0505, fax 512 323-0402, or write him at 7502 Paxton, Austin tx 78752. You could follow up Mark's tour from July 2 to 15 with "Crossroads, a Calligraphic Symposium in Istanbul" with Thomas Ingmire, Suzanne Moore, Brody Neuenschwander, and Hikmet Barutcugil. Contact Marcia Friedman, 1126 Fourth Street, Studio Six, Novato CA 94945, 415 892-1273. "The Lindisfarne Legacy: A Practical Exploration of Calligraphy in North East England from 698 A.D. to the Present Day" with Ewan Clayton and Susan Moor runs from September 21 to 29. Contact Rev. Robert Cooper, Rectory, Middleton Road, Sadberge, Darlington dl2 1 rp, U.K. The "Legacy of Letters: Tour of Rome" will run from September 28 to October 5. Guides will be Paul Shaw and Garrett Boge. Contact Paul at: 212 666-3738, fax: 212 667-2163, email: or Garrett at: 206 467-1353, fax: 206 467-7275, email:

Although I am particularly interested in calligraphic manuscript books, I hope to cover all aspects of the lettering arts. I am interested in calligraphers' comments and suggestions concerning this column. You may contact me at nanleavitt, or, write to Nancy Leavitt, P.O. Box 330, Stillwater me 04489, 207 827-6088.