Books on Calligraphy

Here's some of what's in my library, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I've included as much info as I can, but the availability of any of these sources is up for grabs. Look around, try and order them if you want. The prices I have quoted are the ones on the back of the book, but bear in mind that some of these I've had almost forever, so they may cost more now. The same caveat applies to all the publishing info. Good luck.

Glosses and References

Manuscript Painting at the Court of France: The Fourteenth Century - Francois Avril. George Braziller, Inc. ISBN 0-8076-0879-3, US $9.95. This is a great book, concise and clear with an overview of the period (1300's) with black and white plates and then a series of color plates with detailed notes. A good selection of plates, too. This is part of what appears to be a series of books from George Braziller Inc.

Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms - Michelle P. Brown. J. Paul Getty Museum/The British Library, ISBN 0-89236-217-0 US $13.95 Ever wonder what the difference is between a historiated initial and a inhabited initial? What exactly is a cartulary? Here are the answers in a easy to use encyclopedia like form with lots of spiffy color plates. Extremely Useful, Highly Recommended

A History of Illuminated Manuscripts - Christopher de Hamel. Phaidon Press Limited, ISBN 0-7148-2949-8 US $49.50. Expensive, but worth it. Covers manuscripts from the Roman Empire to the Italian Rennaisance. It has a good text covering the history, and scads of great plates, both B&W and color, with very good notes.

Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Techniques - Marc Drogin. Dover Books, ISBN 0-486-26142-5 US $10.95. This is the medievalist calligrapher's bible, as far a learning a new hand goes. arranged in chronological order it has most of the major hands used in SCA period. It is also chock full of primary source photo's of actual documents, some great quotes from period scribes, and other useful trivia.

A Book of Scripts - Alfred Fairbanks. Faber Paperbacks, ISBN 0-571-11080-0, US $5.95. First published in 1949, and it shows. Other than for a couple of amusing plates It isn't good for much, and I wouldn't bother to go to any effort to find it. I would suspect that it is out of print anyway.

Illumination: A Sourcebook for Modern Calligraphers - Christopher Jarman. Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-7824-1 US $??.?? This is a latter day reprint of some Victorian works on medieval illumination. It can be good for some ideas, but for the most part it's another source that's not very good.

Writing and Illuminating and Lettering - Edward Johnston. A & C Black/Tarpinger, ISBN 0-8008-8731-X US $??.??. This is the other bible. First published in 1906, this is the man who revived the art of what he simply called writing, what we now call calligraphy. It is not the worlds greatest source for scripts, or primary source document stuff, but it has everything else you need to know from parchment curing to quill making to bookbinding, even some stuff on stone carving. Highly Recommended

The Illuminated Alphabet - Timothy Noad & Patricia Seligman. Running Press, 1-56138-458-5, US $24.95 this is a really good little book, with step by step how-to instructions on a lot of useful techniques. It's geared to a modern calligraphic artist, but it has a good selection of primary source stuff, divided into sections, and a good section at the front on different materials and techniques.

Alphabets and Numbers of the Middle Ages - Henry Shaw. Crescent Books, ISBN 0-517-66585-9. US $?.??. I've had this for a long time. It's not a great reference, being another of those Victorian half research, half makeup types of books, but it can give you a feel for some things. I don't recommend it in this day and age when other, better sources are available.

The Golden Age: Manuscript Painting in the Time of Jean, Duke of Berry - Marcel Thomas. George Braziller, ISBN 0-8076-0924-2, US $20.95. Another of that maybe series form Braziller Inc., and again a wonderful source. Same format as the other, variety of plates. My only gripe is that the plates they took from the Rohan Hours are not especially good ones, but that's my opinion.

A Brief Encyclopedia of the Materials and Techniques of Manuscript Illumination - Robert W. Trump. Potboiler Press, No ISBN, US $3.50. I picked this up at Pennsic many years ago, so I don't know if it can be gotten anymore. It's a nice little book in, as it says, encyclopedia form. It covers lots of esoteric stuff, derivations of color, tools and the uses of ear wax. It's a SCA publication, and on the cover it's attributed to a Master RSvP. Highly Recommended

The Art of Illuminated Manuscripts - J.O Westwood. Arch Cape Press, ISBN 0-517-66296-5 I paid US $12.00, but I got it at a remainder house. This is actually a pretty abysmal source. It was originally published in 1843 and it really shows. While I have used it in the past I would not recommend it for anyone who wanted to be serious about their work, though it can be good for beginners.

Painted Prayers: The Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art - Roger Weick. George Braziller/Pierpont Morgan Library, ISBN 0-8076-1418-X, US $??.?? I got it as a gift, and it's not listed. This is a great source for Book of Hours pages, with lots of color plates, some of which are quite unusual, and a detailed explanation of what makes up a Book of Hours. A fabulous reference.

Early Spanish Manuscript Illumination - John Williams. George Braziller, ISBN 0-8076-0867-X, US $9.95. Another from G. Braziller. I'm going to have to write for their catalog. Anyway, there's a lot of Wildly colorful plates, along with the usual extensive notes on each plate. A fabulous source on a very under represented part of the art form.

Mirror in Parchment: The Lutrell Psalter and the making of Medieval England - Michael Camille. The University of Chicago Press (1998), ISBN 0-226-09240-2, US $??.?? (It was a gift!). Just got it, haven't read it, but WOW. It has B&W plates of details, color plates of some of the full pages, and a really nice collection of ancillary images of 'stuff from around that time'. I'll put more here when I've read it.

Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work - Jonathan J.G. Alexander. Yale University Press (1992), ISBN 0-300-06073-4, US $??.?? (I just don't remember) This is a really nice book, with lots of information as to how things were done, works that were never completed showing the process in different stages. My only problem is that the date is not included with the information for the plates.


The Tres Riches Heurs of Jean, Duke de Berry - Jean Longnon & Raymond Cazelles. George Brazillier, ISBN 0-8076-1220-0, US $24.95. This is a reproduction copy of most of the Tres Riches, all color plates, in order of their appearance (I think) This is a nice repro, acceptable color resolution and informative notes, and as I do not know of any other on the market, it will have to do if you want this style, eh? I think the miniatures alone justify the price, but I like Miniatures.

Das Jagdbuch des Mittlealters - Commentary by Wilhelm Schlag and Marcel Thomas. Academische Druck-u. Verlagsanstalt, ISBN 3-201-01612-8, US $100.00. A complete facsimile copy of Gaston Pheobus' 'La Livre de la Chasse', including the boring pages. A beautiful piece, and the highlight of my collection, this has literally hundreds of pages of fantastic color plates. Mostly with hunt themes, but all with great initial capitals and foliate borders. The commentary, unfortunately is in German...I'm now informed, much to my distress, that an edition is available at that has the text in English, and costs about half what I paid.

The Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry Prince of France - Introduction by James Rorimer, Commentary on the Plates by Margaret Freeman. Metropolitan Museum of Art (1958) No ISBN, US$25.00. An incomplete facsimile of the Belles Heures (32 color plates), but nice enough. This is unfortunately out of print, but can be found on-line at out-of-print booksellers (I got mine at at prices ranging from $15 to $45. Happy hunting.

The Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry - Introduction by Millard Meiss, Commentary on the Plates by Millard Meiss and Elizabeth H. Beatson. George Braziller (1974) No ISBN, US$45.00. A much more complete facsimile (200+ color plates, and some black and white ones at the back). I love this book, it's possibly my favorite of all the de Berry books of hours, and a perennial favorite source for illuminations. This is another find, as it to is out of print.

The Visconti Hours - Introduction by Millard Meiss and Edith W. Kirsch, Commentary on the plates by Edith W. Kirsch. George Braziller (1972), No ISBN, US $65.00. Well, this one wins my vote for most clever use of Neon Fuscia and Key Lime Green in a medieval manuscript. Seriously though, it's a very nice reference, with some truly lush page layouts.

The Rohan Master - Introduction by Millard Meiss, Introduction and Commentaries on the Plates by Marcel Thomas. George Braziller (1973), ISBN 0-8076-0690-1, US$75.00. I'll be honest I got this mostly for the use of architectural forms in the backdrops, as I don't really care for the way the miniatures are done in general. Still and all it's got some nice plates, and some very vibrant miniatures.

The Grandes Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry - Introduction and legends by Marcel Thomas. George Braziller (1971) ISBN 0-8076-0613-8, US$120.00. Certainly the largest facsimile I possess, it's a bit larger than the top of a standard TV tray. It cant be beat for marginal grotesques and drolleries, it's huge and lush, perhaps the finest example of the International style (though I still prefer the Belle...), last I checked, was selling this new for @ US$200.00, I got mine 'Slightly Foxed' for quite a bit less.

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