Well, I haven’t seen one of these for a while! Either I’m not being sent them, or calligraphy books aren’t as thick on the ground as they were a few years back. Certainly, I had to check this carefully to make sure it wasn’t a reissue, but I can find no previous trace and the author’s name is new to me. It originates with the packager Quarto, who have an excellent track record in illustrated instructional books and manage to make the whole process highly efficient and visually appealing while at the same time admirably easy to follow.
The structure of the book is much the same as any other with an identical or wildly similar title. The cover strapline is “everything you need to know, with 20 beautiful lettering styles”, which both confirms that and also sums the book up. There’s an introduction to materials and equipment and basic methods of working, along with the rudiments of design as you’ll need to know them. The rest is progressive, with a series of step-by-step demonstrations of commonly used scripts, showing you how the letterforms, both Roman and italic, are built up. What is different, though, is the much wider use of colour. This isn’t just to make the book more appealing than if it was black only and is a genuine departure. As well as simply being there, it also allows Vivien Lunniss to show the different penstrokes that go into a single letter, greatly increasing clarity.
Did we need another book on letterforms? Well, time, styles and book production move on and I’d say this nicely updates the literature without simply repeating what’s been done a hundred times before. It’s an attractive and innovative addition you should definitely look at.
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