The Proper Art of Writing (1655)
I stumbled upon these calligraphy examples on The Public Domain Review. They are taken from a 17th Century German book. Some of the characters are so highly decorated aren’t even recognisable anymore.
The volumes’ full title is as extravagant as the examples it shows: The Proper Art of Writing: a compilation of all sorts of capital or initial letters of German, Latin and Italian fonts from different masters of the noble art of writing. See more here
I found some comfort in this poem from the Middle English period.
“There blows a colde wynd todaye, todaye,
The wynd blows cold todaye;
Cryst sufferyd his passyon for manys saluacyon,
To kype the cold wynd awaye.
Thys wynde be reson ys called tetacyon;
Yt rautghth both nyghth and daye,
Remember, man, how the Sauyor was slayne
To kype the colde wynde awaye.
At the last ynde, man, thou schalt send
And kype both nyghth and daye;
The most goodlyst tresyor Cryst the Sauyor
To kype the cold wynd awaye.
Here let vs ynde, and Cryst vs defend
All be the nyghth and be daye,
And bryng vs to hys place where ys myrthe and solas
To kype the cold wynd awaye.
[in A Sacrifice of Praise]
Choosing a Typeface
Are those your only options?
They’re all disappointing
That can’t be it.
It feels like you need something
More thoughtful, more monumental
You’re not a conquering Roman general
Or an inter-office memorandum;
You’re a gardener, a painter,
A musician, a chef,
The only fitting choices
Would be something gentle, sturdy—
Ascenders and descenders that aren’t timorous,
Counters neither insipid nor distended—
Yet at peace,
All with more than a hint of ridiculousness.
Anything from Mr Carter
He has worked in all types
Maybe Messrs Hoefler and/or Frere-Jones
With their patient fortitude
Attending to all the details
And never giving up the fight
To see the font to its fitting end
What it was meant to be.
Don’t think that the words
These characters show
They are signs pointing
To more famous names
Written on gates and foundations
Of unreal houses
And to your name
Which nobody knows
Its Roar Is Thunder
“When mothers lay down their lives for children, when brothers die for sisters and sisters for brothers, when fathers die for wives and children, when heroes die for strangers on the street, they do not pour out their blood because the one they save deserves such a sacrifice. Nah, lad. Love burns hotter than justice, and its roar is thunder. Beside love, even wrath whispers. Not one of us snatching breath with mortal lungs deserves such a gift, and yet every day such a gift is given. To love is to be selfless. To be selfless is to be fearless. To be fearless is to strip your enemies of their greatest weapon. Even if they break our bodies and drain our blood, we are unvanquished. Our goal was never to live; our goal is to love.”
[N. D. Wilson, Empire of Bones]
One realizes that everything about the world that seems so unexceptional and drearily predictable is in fact charged with an immense and imponderable mystery. In that instant one is aware, even if the precise formulation eludes one, that everything one knows exists in an irreducibly gratuitous way: “what it is” has no logical connection with the reality “that it is”; nothing within experience has any “right” to be, any power to give itself existence, any apparent “why.” The world is unable to provide any account of its own actuality, and yet there it is all the same. In that instant one recalls that one’s every encounter with the world has always been an encounter with an enigma that no merely physical explanation can resolve. One cannot dwell indefinitely.
As I see it, the ultimate function of the Five Ways [of Aquinas] is to make it plain, by calling attention to five outstanding features of finite being, what the fundamental characteristic of finite being is. And that fundamental characteristic is a radical inability to account for its own existence. In other words, finite being is being in which essence and existence are really distinct; in which, therefore, existence is not self-maintained but is received from without and, in the last resort, is received from a being whose existence is not received but is self-inherent. The Five Ways are therefore not so much five different demonstrations of the existence of God as five different methods of manifesting the radical dependence of finite being upon God, of declaring, in Dom Pontifex’s phrase, that the very essence of finite being is to be effect-implying cause. … The Five Ways are not really five different methods of proving the existence of God, but five different aids to the apprehension of God and the creature in the cosmological relation; they exhibit the cosmological relation under five different aspects.
One day soon, he will wake up
Time for walks
For a pelican skimming just above the water of the lake
Boats of men fishing before the dawn
The locusts and the sparrows will go on
Like they have done every day
Did not every thing stop?
Did not the world his world our world
Change all its colors and sounds
And mark that dark
Sitting at the counter facing away from
The many windows—the glare
Off the lake is too bright
There is no more mist
He will eat his cereal and
Drink his tea
From now on
The dog looking on expectantly hoping
For a scrap from his meal
“What will we do today?
Spend all day at his
Pull the dandelions from the garden?
Forget to eat another lunch?”
The phone rings as a
Family of house wrens flits to
The tray feeder, and he
tells them, “Yeah,
One day, maybe in August (once this deal closes)
I’ll be back up to visit”
9 March 2014
The First Ever Seen and Recognized
“Who can design a new leaf? The patterns from bud to unfolding, and the colors from spring to autumn were all discovered by men long ago. But that is not true. The seed of the tree can be replanted in almost any soil, even in one so smoke-ridden as that of England. Spring is, of course, not really less beautiful because we have seen or heard of other like events: like events, never from world’s beginning to world’s end the same even. Each leaf, of oak and ash and thorn, is a unique embodiment of the pattern, and for some eye his very year may be the embodiment, the first ever seen and recognized, though oaks have put forth leaves for countless generations of men.”
[J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” in Tree and Leaf, 56]
The Ruthless and Great Age
“The full Victorian panoply of top-hat and frock-coat undoubtedly expressed something essential in the nineteenth-century culture, and hence it has with that culture spread all over the world, as no fashion of clothing has ever done before. It is possible that our descendants will recognise in it a kind of grim Assyrian beauty, fit emblem of the ruthless and great age that created it; but however that may be, it misses the direct and inevitable beauty that all clothing should have, because like its parent culture it was out of touch with the life of nature and of human nature as well.”
[Christopher Dawson, Progress and Religion, 58; cited in J. R. R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf, 64]
Here Be Monsters
I noticed this wonderful Icelandic project of illustrated type inspired by medieval maps featuring fantastical sea creatures.
Design by Reykjavík based Stella Björg, these decorated capitals remind me of the Victorian illustrations I’ve written about recently. I love that several of the creatures appear to be based on specific Icelandic mythical beasts, as named at the bottom of the print. I also really like the print colours and flecked paper that gives the final work its antique look.
My “Here Be Monsters” illustrated letters started from the simple idea of writing “MONSTER” but having finished it just didn’t seem like there was much left to complete the alphabet. I was in no hurry to complete it, so very slowly monstrous letters got added and finally there appeared a complete alphabet. - Stella Björg
Statues are often idealized works of art. They are ideological, political or religious representations and attempt to turn their subjects into fascinating, eternal figures. Even when erected to keep alive the memory of a single person, a statue that lasts many generations will eventually establish itself as a symbol for the community.
Statues are even more influential when they are monumental. An edifice can be said to be monumental when it is unusual, extraordinary and physically imposing. It has to be abnormal — as exceptional as the political or religious power itself — and also inseparable from its symbolic aspects.
The series “Colosses” is a study of the landscapes that embrace monumental commemorative statues.
SoP | Scale of Environments
In this light, she refers to the work of the controversial physicist Paul Davies, who views science’s refusal to question the origin of physical laws as an article of faith much like religion.
"The kind of thing that Paul Davies has dwelt on, about the improbability of all this order, seems to me to be sensible. So that one has to say that from the big bang onwards there’s some sort of tendency towards the formation of order and in certain stages of order towards proceeding to life and to produce more and more perceptive life as it were. Well this talk about a life force seems to me highly suitable and I don’t see anything superstitious about it. It’s still very vague but of course that’s getting you quite near to ‘well of course that means there’s a God’. People talk about the origin of having gods was just that you wanted to explain things or have something to placate us, but it seems to me one important source of it is gratitude. You go out on a day like this and you’re really grateful. I don’t know who to."
Given her nebulous gratitude, I wonder why she rejected religion. “I didn’t exactly reject it,” she says. “I couldn’t make it work. I would try to pray and it didn’t seem to get me anywhere so I stopped after a while. But I think it’s a perfectly sensible world view. It caused my parents and people like them often to make what I think were good choices. And I notice this particularly with Buddhists, the notion that there is some kind of force that makes for righteousness, as Matthew Arnold said, is on the whole a helpful one.”
After 90 Years, JRR Tolkien’s Translation of Beowulf Will Finally Get Published
Before he was a fantasy author, JRR Tolkien was an incredibly gifted linguist with a focus on early Old English and Norse. Now, we’ll get to see more of his translation work first hand, because his version of the 10th century epic poem Beowulf will soon be available.