Miscellaneous writing


The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes— 
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands—
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Snow by Louis MacNeice


calligraphy Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

Something very graphic for the weekend

I confess  the name Marian Bantjes is one with which I am unfamiliar. But then I am sure, too, that she has not heard of John Pitt. We bumped into each other (or rather me her) when I plucked her book I Wonder from one of our bookshelves where it had lain dormant for some years. My partner (another Marian) had brought the book back from a visit to New York, and it’s signed by the author. It’s a lovely volume, richly illustrated and superbly designed by Marian (the NY one). I’d love to hear from other readers who share my enthusiasm. This illustration is but one of many I could have chosen.

marian bantjes

Humour lettering Typographic ephemera

Something chalky for the weekend

Continuing a tradition that began way back and has been discontinued a while…this seen locally (by which I mean the east coast of Australia) and entirely hand-drawn. Not much else to add, except, enjoy your weekend wherever you may be, and remember that the Olympics in London begin this time next week. I shall have something to write about that soon. (But do I write that so I may got more viewers? Not a chance. I will only be writing about the 1948 games and showing [shewing] some advertising from that period.) This blog, as I hope you now appreciate, is anything but predictable.

lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Lettering on stone – Latinists on stone

It seems stone carving brings out the Latin in people. I declare that I was guilty of this, as demonstrated by this example (17cm x 10cm). Why? Something about the Roman heritage of carving? Something about the permanence of the object that befits a dead language? Any other suggestions most welcome. (The inscription reads: Now I know what loves means. Would that have been better expressed in English? I think not. But then I am a romantic.)

History of Lettering

Sunday’s with a vintage Penrose

There’s nothing better than spending a fine summer Sunday with a Penrose. Often when I’m preparing a light lunch I’ll pull out one of the Penrose Annual’s and have a browse while something’s simmering on the hob. Today I had the 1964 volume out, blew off a covering of dust, and at the back, among the advertisements (which are often the greatest source of delight) came across this. It’s for GF Smith & Son (London) Ltd of 2 Leathermarket, Weston St, SE1, though the firm had branches too in Hull (Lockwood St) and Birmingham (Gazette Buildings, 168 Corporation St). The purpose of the ad was to promote a cover paper (Caslon Duplex Bright White/Blue Ripple, for the record); but that’s subsidiary to this typographic gem.

[If, like me, you love a Penrose click here for other posts.]

lettering Typographic ephemera

Typewriter art

The typewriter was invented in the 1870s and flourished during the mid-2oth century. When I first started in journalism everything was typed, in duplicate, and then retyped on the Linotype or Monotype. Now you can adapt an old typewriter as a keyboard for your iPad.

The typewriter’s letters are uniform in width. This led to experiment with the machine as an object to produce art. Concrete poetry used the typewriter extensively, as demonstrated by Alan Riddell’s book Typewriter Art (1975, London Magazine editions). From that volume come these illustrations. The first by Richard Kostelanetz (1970), called Mullions. 


The next by Timm Ulrichs (1962) called Typotexture. 

Finally Alan Riddell’s Two Flags (1968).



alphabet calligraphy Elements of Lettering History of Lettering lettering lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework typography

Arnold Bank, The Craft of Lettering, Penrose Annual, 1955

The image that follows is taken from the Penrose Annual of 1955. I chose it because it is good lettering’. It is titled: ‘The beginning and the end of the letter’s repertoire” and was printed offset by The Kynoch Press. (I shall have more on Arnold Bank, from an article printed in Art Education, March 1985, including a photo, very soon.)

A quick Google search gave this information on Banks:

Arnold Bank Collection of Calligraphy and Letter Arts

“Calligraphy is the autographics of alphabetics. . . . Calligraphy is simply the art of writing,
or of sketching and drawing transferred to the use of letter design, on the beautiful blank
of a fine sheet of paper. . . . Now in doing it, it has to be clear and it has to be beautiful.”
Arnold Bank (1908-1986)

Arnold Bank, Carnegie Mellon University professor in the Design Department from 1960-1984, was a calligrapher of international stature. His career spanned the fields of education, publishing, advertising, printing, and architectural lettering. Bank, as a Senior Fulbright Fellow, taught at the Royal College of Art in London from 1954-1957, and was art director in the Time magazine promotion department from 1941-1947.

In 1985 the University Libraries acquired Arnold Bank’s professional papers. The collection is rich in drawings for his major works and commissions, historical samples of calligraphy, teaching tools and lectures, correspondence, and samples of work from his students and colleagues, world-wide. A finding aid to the collection is available.

The work of Arnold Bank includes the lettering for the inscription on the memorial to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. at Rockefeller Center, the editorial lettering for the serialization of The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway in Life magazine, and the masthead used for more than forty years by the weekly journal Printing News.


Anatomy of a design

I will be showing you how I design for stone carving.

It begins with a pencil sketch. This is it.Preliminary sketch for stonecarving

The sketch is at half scale in this instance, with the carving to be done on a piece of sandstone, 300mm by 300mm. The text is a line from a Louis MacNeice poem. You will notice the free flowing lettering, with letter  height at c40mm, for the ascenders.

This may be adjusted as the drawing develops into a final version.

The letter design is my own style, with use of a capital G prominent and the ampersand (in the original text this is spelt out, and).

The drawing is done on tracing paper, using a 2H pencil.