Monday, April 2, 2018

The Art of Hand-Lettering: Techniques for Mastery and Practice

I know Dover Publications mostly from their clip art books.  What I didn't know is that Dover also has an extensive list of reissued out-of-print books.  This one on hand lettering is from their Lettering, Calligraphy, and Typography catalogue, but they also have hundreds of art instruction, anatomy for artists, and other books about art.  (You can review their titles here.)  Most of them are very affordable at under $20.  The Art of Hand-Lettering is one of many priced at $14.95US.

This book was originally published in 1952.  Although lacking the rich color photographs we have come to expect in art books today, it is a both a broad and dense look at the materials, methods, history and techniques for mastering and critiquing hand lettering.  Helm had extensive years of experience in the advertising business when he wrote this book and this shines through in the tips he provides on every page.

After discussing materials, Helm looks at the basics of good lettering and how to critique your own and other people's efforts.  He then analyzes the Roman alphabet, which is the basis of most other alphabets.  A brief history of the Roman alphabet is provided, as well as the Italic, Gothic, Script, and Block styles, which he maintains are the five styles on which all lettering is based.

He provides lots of examples, although his goal is clearly to have lettering students develop their own styles rather than parrot the exemplars of other letterers.  He provides more discussion of spacing and layout than I have seen in many books.  In the Handy Hints section I was pleased to see some pages on brush lettering.  Again, he emphasized the basics of handling the brush rather than providing a brush alphabet to follow.

Although my lettering and calligraphy library is not large, this is a welcome addition.  I noticed while tending the Westcoast Calligraphy Society's library the other evening that they have an original edition of this book, and someone borrowed it.  So, it may be an older book, but its value lives on.

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