The Roman Letter: A Study of Notable Graven and Written Forms from Twenty Centuries in Which Our Latin Alphabet Moved toward Its High Destiny as the Basic Medium of Printed Communication throughout the Western World

The Roman Letter: A Study of Notable Graven and Written Forms from Twenty Centuries in Which Our Latin Alphabet Moved toward Its High Destiny as the Basic Medium of Printed Communication throughout the Western World

The Roman Letter: A Study of Notable Graven and Written Forms from Twenty Centuries in Which Our Latin Alphabet Moved toward Its High Destiny as the Basic Medium of Printed Communication throughout the Western World

The Roman Letter: A Study of Notable Graven and Written Forms from Twenty Centuries in Which Our Latin Alphabet Moved toward Its High Destiny as the Basic Medium of Printed Communication throughout the Western World

Excerpt

The exact time of the transformation of Roman monumental capitals used for inscriptions on stone and metal into written forms made with pen and ink on vellum and parchment, is not clearly defined from the evidence at hand. It is believed that the inscription letters were usually written on stone with a brush, and then cut with a chisel. The Greeks and Romans wrote with reeds on papyrus, and stylus on wax. An early example of the written capitals in pen form dates from the first century and was written on papyrus (Fig. 15). These pen capitals were a more cursive form of capital letter, called rustic capitals , and there are many examples of such letters in stone and metal, especially the latter. There appear to be no written versions of the monumental forms like the Trajan letters dated earlier than the fourth century.

1. SQUARE CAPITALS (1-500)

That the Roman letter, even in its monumental form, has the characteristics of a pen-written letter is well demonstrated by the Roman square capitals. The letters of the Codex Augusteus (Fig. 14) are commonly believed to have been written about 375-400. Executed with the edged pen on vellum, the direction of the nib is almost parallel with the base line. This gives thin substrokes and serifs with heavy verticals and shading. Here is an obvious effort to copy the Roman inscription letters. To write such letters consistently took much effort and concentration, and it was therefore not a speedy kind of writing. Vellum took precedence over papyrus about this time, and it was the use of the reed on its soft surface that made the straight strokes and shading of the square capitals possible. The square capitals were difficult to write, they wasted vellum on account of their size and proportions, and they had a short life. No square capitals have been found written on papyrus. They were used mostly for the works of Virgil.

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