Images © Ross F. George/Hunt Manufacturing Company.

The division of lettering (and type) into groups or classes is a tricky business, and one with lots of confusion, as there are many conflicting systems and names. I find George’s three basic groups unhelpful. What he calls Gothic are all letterforms with strokes of equal width. To me, Gothic suggests the kind of letterforms he calls Text, which I would classify as Blackletter. He claims Roman as the name for all styles with thick and thin line weights, but his category right below that has them too. Yes, traditional Roman styles like Trajan have thick and thin weights and serifs, but so do many other styles. What he calls Text, as I said, is what I call Blackletter, coming from the medieval manuscripts of Germany and other European countries. I do like his examples of how different serifs change the appearance of letters. In type, the most common basic division between letter forms is Serif and Sans-Serif. Beyond that, you can tease out subcategories like Slab Serif, and styles like Art Deco, but it’s all rather subjective and unscientific, and many styles cross boundaries.


But now that I know George’s classifications, his examples make more sense, like these for the even-weight lines of his B pen points. To me, the hardest thing to do with either a brush or a pen is create a perfect or apparently perfect circle. I admire his ability! When I had to do them, I generally used a circle template and technical lettering pens. Practice strokes are boring, but like any kind of practice, necessary to develop the motor skills for good lettering. I particularly like his ideas about drawing the letter S, always difficult to get in good balance.


This style is closer to comics lettering, although with much thinner strokes. I say that because it has a looser, more relaxed feel, with shapes that are not as perfect. By Manuscript, I think George means what you might use to letter a large area of text.


The facing page has lower case in several styles, first connected letters, or cursive, then unconnected, what we used to call “printing” in school. All these forms are clear and easy to read with lots of air.


These alphabets are a little more controlled. The thicker one is even closer to comics lettering, and a style that Ira Schnapp would have recognized as similar to his balloon lettering, I think. There are some very small notes you probably can’t read: “At first make all letters at least one inch high.” “Where a curve is combined with a straight line to form a single stroke – pause slightly at the junction without lifting pen to insure a well-formed element.” and “Do not turn pen sideways for lateral strokes.” All good advice.


The second alphabet here is made with the round B point, then the corners are squared with a C-6 wedge-tipped point. I did the same thing with comics display lettering sometimes, but I used a small technical pen point for the squaring. Same idea. I love the bottom alphabet. In fact, it’s rather close to one I thought I made up! Nothing new under the sun, I guess.


These alphabets are the liveliest we’ve seen yet, almost cartoony. I don’t really like the lower alphabet made with the square-tipped A point, but I can see it working in some situations.

To be continued.

Other parts of this series can be found in the LETTERING/FONTS category of my blog, along with more articles on that subject.


3 thoughts on “SPEEDBALL TEXT BOOK 14TH EDITION Part 2

  1. Ian Miller

    Great series of posts, Todd. To the layperson like myself it’s easy to forget that lettering and calligraphy are an art all their own.

    One think I noticed about these pages you posted: On page 8 the letters V and W are reversed in the alphabet. I wonder if that was an accident or meant to be.

  2. Austin

    It’s because ‘V’ and ‘W’ wouldn’t have fit on that line! ‘V’, the next letter, would have fit and so would another letter, but not the extra-long ‘W’ which normally follows. Sensible thing to do would be to put ‘V’ and ‘X’ up there with ‘W’ below, or skip ‘V’ till next line– which is what he has done.

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