Images © Ross F. George/Hunt Manufacturing Co.

Continuing my examination of this 1941 edition of the very popular guide to hand lettering. This page shows suggested alphabets for architects and draftstmen. I haven’t seen any architectural plans from the period, so I can’t say if this came into use. Plans from the 1960s I’ve seen used a simpler and more angular lettering style.


This takes the same styles, using Speedball B-5 or B-6 points, in more fanciful directions, the kind of thing I would call display lettering. It’s meant to show off the skill of the letterer and attract eyes to the piece. With most display lettering there’s a tendency to move away from the most readable letter forms toward more artistic but less readable ones, so you have to be aware of that.


Here’s a handsome style sheet using the Speedball D or oval-shaped points. It allows you to create letter forms that have some thick and thin variations of stroke, but are still bold and easy to read. Versions with and without serifs are shown, and arrows indicating stroke direction are on all of them. Some letters have been left out of the last example. they can be easily interpreted. And I like the way he added a smaller Z there where he ran out of room.


In addition to an italic alphabet using the D points, for the first time George shows us some sample poster layouts. In other words, how to design with lettering. His small note says, “Copy these posters on cards 14″ or 17″ high. Note how layouts are balanced.” Gray tones are added to the mix for the first time, not something one could do at home with black India ink, but it does help the designs, and could be done with colored ink or paint, for instance.


Here’s another handsome style he calls Modern Roman (kind of an oxymoron) that I like a lot. Clearly he was working much larger than printed size on these examples. He’s recommending C-1 or C-2 Speedball points, the largest of the wedge-tipped ones. Working large and reducing for print is always helpful, it minimizes any small imperfections.


the other half of the spread focuses on the capital letters. The “Roman” style is based on the one used on the carved capital letters on Trajan’s Column of ancient Rome, photo below.


Those letters had thick and thin strokes and small serifs, George’s Modern Roman has exaggerated those elements, but they are similar. George gets into great detail on how to make each letter, including how to twirl the pen point to create certain strokes.


An Italic version, which like all good italics is considerably different than the Roman one. They tend to be a narrower and have elements of cursive writing, more curves and curls.


George has called this page “Evolution of Letter Styles,” which I think is a bit ambitious. He’s really pointing out the relationship of cursive or connected writing to non-cursive or unjoined letters. It’s a nice selection of styles, all the same.

To be continued. Previous chapters can be found in the LETTERING/FONTS category on the right sidebar of this blog.

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