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SYMBOLISM INDEX
RHYTHM AND PROPORTION
INDEX OF PAPERS
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MISMEASUREMENT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE 16th CENTURY
The letterforms written until the 15th century are to be regarded as an expression of lettersigns issuing directly from the hand and joined together in a rhythmical sequence. The influence of the principal bookhands and of the respective current hands of different epochs lent liveliness to lettering, and the individual scribe’s own form of expression could emerge.
The invention of moveable type in the art of printing (1450) put the previous culture of lettering into a completely new plane. The scribe was replaced by the punch cutter and living forms were replaced by rigid printing types. It is true that at the beginning of this development the written model was still skilfully copied in punch cutting, notably evident in the printed work of Nicholas Jenson (1470), Aldus Manutius (1495) and Ludovico degli Arrighi (152-3). The fact that in punch cutting the form of the letter was determined from without very soon brought about a divergence from the written model and its rhythmical aspects. The culture of lettering went into decay.
When at the beginning of the 16th century, the science of geometry was applied to letter forms, lettering came to be regarded as a technical product. Moyllus (1483), Pacioli(1509), Fanti (I5I4) and Albrecht Dürer (1525) began to construct letters in copy books with the compass. There began the unhappy measuring of things on the basis of technical science. Squares were divided vertically and horizontally and the whole split up according to the decimal system. For the fixing of the thick and thin parts of the roundings in the letter O, Moyllus and Dčrer set a diagonal into the square, although such a strong slant (45í) never occurred in the Capital Script. The movement of writing had no longer any validity: even the little free outswinging feet at the upper and lower ends of the stems were now fixed from without by the compass. Yet it is a truism that these so-called serifs are determined from within, both in the written and in the chiselled lettering, by the outward sweep in movements of the corresponding tools. No architect would dream of drawing the façade of a building before drawing the ground plan, for everything in art which is to be taken genuinely in earnest evolves from within outwards. Though Dürer reaffirmed most emphatically the old Greek theory of proportions in his writings, yet it was he who tore the culture of lettering out of this context, and by his substantial contribution to geometric drawing reduced the status of lettering as an artistic form of expression.

Walter Kaech, Rhythm And Proportion In Lettering [Rhythmus Und Proportion In Der Schrift] Olten Und Freiburg Im Breisgau : Walter-Verlag. Copyright Otto Walter Ltd., Olten (Schweiz), 1956.

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