Basics of a Gothic Font.

Late 14th cent. style legs I received an email asking what font I used for the etched text on these legs. I am far from a font expert but have had an interest in medieval illuminated manuscripts and fonts for a number of years. I look at them as a wonderful works of art and have always wanted to start collecting them. I tried my hand at illuminating manuscripts myself but was never very good at it.

I have used a number of fonts when etching armour but my favourite is the Gothic script. The one I most commonly use is one that I have developed mainly from memory. It is a font I learned from a "Speedball" calligraphy textbook my dad gave me when I was a kid. Over the years the book was lost and I am sure my interpretation of the Gothic script has drifted away from being exactly proper.



Pen strokes The font is based in total on six pen strokes. At all times the pen is held at a 45 degrees from a horizontal reference line.



letters with numbered stroke types This image illustrates how variations of the 6 strokes can be assembled in order to create the letters. Keeping the pen in contact with the writing surface when transiting from stroke 1 to a downward stroke 2 yields a very plain Gothic script.



Gothic "W" By lifting the pen after a stroke 1 and slightly offsetting the starting point before making a type 2 stroke one can achieve a myriad of different variations of the font.



Manuscript from 1420 The stylization of the font used in this page from the Bedford Psalter and Hours c1420 uses 5 of the 6 strokes I illustrate above. Here the artist substituted all of the number 3 strokes with stroke 6. This appears to be the norm rather than the exception and I probably should do the same on future projects. Also their execution of the letters "S" and "D" are much better than mine hehe. I have always had trouble with my S'. I am a product of the public school system ;)

When etching, I use a brush to paint a tar like substance called asphaultum on the surface of the metal. The armour is then placed in a mild acid. Anyplace that the "resist" is not applied is eaten away from the metal, leaving a recessed background highlighting the lettering.

My rendition of the Gothic font, when etching, often does not look exactly like the ones shown in this essay though it is still based on the same 6 strokes. The variation is due to the fact that the text needs to warp along the contours of the edges of plates. I also make all letters the same height to better cover the brass. This requires me to kick the top of L's to the left rather than to the right so that they may be discernible from C's. Other similar accommodations need to be made with the other super or subscript letters.


Again, I am not at all a font expert but I love to learn. I welcome corrections and comments.

Further Reading

http://fonts.lordkyl.net is a website dedicated to historical fonts. They have wonderful information and some downloadable fonts for Windows and Mac. There are even instructions on how to make your own scalable computer fonts.


Two books about illuminated manuscripts and historical fonts that I recommend are:
The Illuminated Manuscript - Janet Backhouse. ISBN 0-7148-1969-7
Illuminated Manuscripts - Giulia Bologna. ISBN 1-555-84275-5

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