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Walter Kaech
RHYTHM AND PROPORTION IN LETTERING
RHYTHMUS UND PROPORTION IN DER SCHRIFT
Walter Kaech
RHYTHM AND PROPORTION IN LETTERING
RHYTHMUS UND PROPORTION IN DER SCHRIFT
WALTER-VERLAG
OLTEN UND FREIBURG IM BREISGAU
English translation by Elizabeth Friedlander, London,
with the collaboration of Paul Standard, New York.
Ins Englische übersetzt von Elizabeth Friedlander, London,
unter Mitarbeit von Paul Standard, New York
Alle Rechte vorbehalten
© by Otto Walter Ltd., Olten (Schweiz), 1956
Gesamtherstellung in den Werkstätten der Otto Walter AG Olten
Der Text dieses Werkes ist gedruckt
in der 14 Punkt Bembo-Antiqua
CONTENTS
Rhythm in Lettering 11
Contrasts of Form and of Movement as Rhythmical Elements 20
Pen Position and the Shaping of Space as Proportion 22
Mismeasurement at the Beginning of the 16th Century 33
Some Historical Facts about the Roman Capital Script 35
Proportion in Nature and in Art 63
The Proportion of the Golden Mean in the Capital Script 67
ILLUSTRATIONS
Extended Rustic Capitals from the 3rd century (marble)
Reproduction after the original rubbing. Museo Civico, Bologna 9
Examples of Italic hands from the 16th and 17th century
Vicentino (Arrighi) 1522 15
Yciar 1566 16
Lucas 1577 17
Palatino 1576 18
Morante (el mayor) 1627 19
Pages written by the author:
Uncials 25
Irish Round Hand 26
Carolingian Minuscules 27
Roman Capitals 28
Humanistic Hand (Littera Antiqua) 29
Chancery Hand 30
Spanish Hand (Bastarda) 31
Gothic 32
Roman Capital Scripts (Reproductions of rubbings) 39-61
Proportions as drawn in upon classical examples . 65-66
Proportions as represented in the Roman Capital Script 71-79
FOREWORD
The technical age in which we live has cast a spell also upon lettering and one often meets with the erroneous view that lettering can exist only upon the foundation of technique and its requirements. Ever since the typewriter displaced handwriting, commercial scripts have been designed and when we consider the results we have continually to ask ourselves: Have these forms any artistic value or are they merely technical drawings? What about the idea that lettering is an artistic expression and that the shape of the letter is formed by the movement of the writing tool, and that lettering always was written and should be written? Writing and lettering are inseparable terms; not even the most perfect line made by the ruling pen can deceive us and no artistic performance is achieved by technical exactness alone. Recently I was asked which Sans Serif I would consider the ideal one and I could only answer that a Sans Serif does not deserve to be defined as ideal.
Throughout the centuries periods of decadence in the cultural field have always been combatted by a return to the cultivation of earlier and better forms. We are tied by language to the cultural tradition in all that we undertake in the cultivation of the letterform. The recognition of this has never been denied. These earlier forms, however, have always been written and experience has shown that none of the attempts made during the Renaissance on the foundations of design has brought about any improvements from the aesthetical point of view. When fresh starts were made with this cultural effort, they never went far enough back. Already the Roman capitals on the base of Trajan’s Column show illogical, technical tendencies and therefore they are considerably less beautiful in appearance than some forms of the earlier Roman Capitals. The impossible practice of constructing lettering with the aid of geometry (with compass and ruling pen) has been in vogue since the beginning of the 16th century, as if the laws of structure could give to dead matter the living beauty of lettering. Thus mistakes arise which have acquired an appearance of truth through their very antiquity.
The present essay on "Rhythm and Proportion in Lettering" goes back to the root of this matter and combats old and new sources of error. By investigating and clarifying the basic form from the beginnings of the Christian era, I shall attempt to show by illustrations the ideal proportions of letterforms. These we recognise only as we come to realise that form itself has its origin in movement.
Walter Kaech

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