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Beginner’s Guide: Calligraphy and Illumination

Beginner's Guide Calligraphy and Illumination

Beginner’s Guide: Calligraphy and Illumination
by Cari Ferraro
Walter Foster Publishing, Laguna Beach 2007
10.25 x 13.75 inches, 32 pages

Beginner’s Guide: Calligraphy and Illumination is a full-color instructional book featuring step-by-step directions for the basic techniques to make letters with a broad-edged pen and draw intricate borders and decorated capitals to embellish your designs. It offers thirteen alphabets and four projects combining lettering with simple illumination techniques. The oversize book lays flat for practice and its size makes the models easy to copy. It is still available in the secondhand book market, and goes in and out of print by the publisher.

Foundational MinusculesThis was my first commercially published book, released by Walter Foster for the education market in January 2007 in their signature large format size. It was issued shortly after the October 2006 publication of my beginner’s kit, Discover Calligraphy and Illumination, which was later republished in 2009, and also picked up by Barnes and Noble to be reprinted in their own version (red to distinguish from the original purple case). The kit, which included tools and materials to complete all the projects, was discontinued in 2012. The booklet made originally for the kit, about 10 x 7 inches in size, was repurposed into the content of this much larger Beginner’s Guide a few months later. They reproduced the exemplars (the letter examples) at the size I created them which was the size they could be made with the pen that came with the original kit. The Mitchell or Chronicle size 1 is the equivalent of a Speedball C-2. This was the nib size I learned with from the first edition of Written Letters by Jacqueline Svaren, the same year it was published in 1977. I sometimes traced those exemplars and still believe it is the best way to grasp the mysteries of pen angle and letterform while attempting to use a broad-edged pen for the first time. The Discover kit is now out of print but a very few are available from me in my Storefront.

Download How to Draw a Medieval Border

This is a PDF lesson from my book. Free!

I can remember Walter Foster art instruction books from when I was a kid. Just last year the company celebrated their centennial. Since their founding in 1922, Walter Foster has been a premier art instruction book purveyor, often found in art stores in their unique metal rack to hold their oversize books. Walter Foster is now part of the Quarto Publishing Group.

The Complete Book of Calligraphy and LetteringWhen they contacted me to work with them in 2006, I agreed. It was a “work for hire” contract, so I was paid a set fee and that was it. I provided their copywriters my explanatory material and they rewrote it to be more understandable to beginners, but in truth, the content I submitted was often left pretty much intact. I retained the copyright to the artwork and all the images including those made with a local photographer of my hands at work. I often used the book when I taught classes.

Over the years Walter Foster has put my instructional content in many of their other books. At last count, I’ve been republished in The Art of Calligraphy and Lettering (2011), The Little Book of Lettering and Word Design (2018), and The Complete Book of Calligraphy and Lettering (2018). It was gratifying for me to recently get the sales figures from Quarto Publishing (who bought Walter Foster in 1996) showing the books, taken all together, have sold about 80,000 copies. Many of these combined my content with that of other artists, among them John Stevens, Eugene Metcalf and Arthur Newhall.

In the last few years my book has been translated into French, Dutch, Polish and Russian. Library locations for these and the original English version can be discovered by looking them up on WorldCat, the global library resource, under my name.

The Table of Contents from the original book is pretty much what you will find in these other books. My section is usually the “traditional” lessons, as that is how I was trained.

The Art of Calligraphy and Lettering

Table of Contents:
Tools, Materials and Setup
Getting Started
Skeleton Hand
Foundational Hand
Uncial Hand
Blackletter Hand
Italic Hand
Planning Your Designs
Working with Color
Designing a Quote
Illuminating Letters
Modernizing Ancient Styles
Exploring Decorative Techniques
Taking the Next Step

I have written more about my experience in Learning and Teaching Calligraphy by the Book, on the occasion of one of the first reprints of my work in 2011.

The Little Book of Lettering and Design

Of all the iterations of the work I created for this publisher, the Beginner’s Guide continues to be my favorite. It has always been one of the most affordable instruction books for learning this craft. There are now, as there were not when I learned, many good manuals of calligraphy on the market and I am pleased that my book is sometimes among them.

I am especially glad that the focus of the book includes illumination, a field I have loved exploring for its combination of history and opportunity to play around with paint and gold leaf, as well as develop my drawing skills.

It has also been invaluable over the years when I have given workshops in the art of calligraphy and illumination, one of which was  a memorable workshop I taught in Sequim, Washington, on the northernmost tip of the Olympic Peninsula.

This is part of my work in the world, to share the craft that has brought me so much enjoyment and fulfillment.

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