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‘…humble greeting to all true and devoted Lovers of well-formed Letters’

28/11/2012

So wrote Geofrey Tory as introduction to his 1529 volume Champ Fleury, The Art & Science of the proper & true Proportions of the Attic Letters, which are otherwise called Antique Letters, and in common speech Roman Letters.  (All quotes from the 1967 Dover edition of the translation published by The Grolier Club, 1927.) Part two of this book considers the letters and proportions in context of the human body, or, more precisely, ‘compared to those of the natural body and face of the perfect man’. His method is geometry – the circle, square and triangle – and when I was starting out in letter carving I filled my notebook with examples of this system. Why? I forget, for the letters are, to the modern eye, stale, dull and passionless. Nevertheless, there is sometimes need to look back and reflect on how things were once done; maybe even learn something. (Such as to be reacquainted with the nine muses and the seven liberal arts – see page 38 of the Dover edition.) As for Tory (1480-1533), Steinberg writes that ‘… not least of his achievements – [he was] the teacher of Garamond’. (Five Hundred Years of Printing, Penguin, 1955, p35.) The first two illustrations are from the 1967 volume, the last is my effort back in the 1990s.

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