Roman letters don't adhere to a nib angle do they?

AbiRasheedAbiRasheed Posts: 206
edited December 2020 in Technique and Theory
I'm surprised I haven't noticed this before. I was drawing up some letters and noticed letters like Z/N don't really follow the nib angle. So I got my PP out and wrote it just to be sure and sure enough the diagonal in /Z has little weight on the diagonal based on the nib angle and the stroke weight on /N has far more weight than lets say comparing to T's arm. It's as if the nib angle needs to change to accomodate that stroke weight. Pretty sure the change in nib angle is to compensate for weight but is this how roman letters were designed where nib angles changed between letters? 

Comments

  • "We must respect ductal logic in type."
         "Why do your Zs have thick diagonals?"
    "They look better that way."
         "Yup. Now start over."
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 1,100
    edited December 2020

    I once wrote a pangram about someone having this exact realization:

    Quill vet Jo flummoxed by Z glyph's awkward contrast.
    Things get even more interesting in italics, where often the lowercase z will venture a thin diagonal even when the longer slant in the uppercase form sticks to the thick like the roman.
  • AbiRasheedAbiRasheed Posts: 206
    edited December 2020
    Very interesting @Nick Shinn. I haven't used Goudy Old style in any of my work so hadn't seen that before but that is cool he stuck to the nib angle for the lc /z. Makes perfect sense even though it kinda looks out of place since it looks like reverse contrast but I guess in chunks of text it likely fits in. @Craig Eliason Yeah seen that when I played with script but I'll try that pangram out. So by the looks of it there were a lot of compensations made just to make it look "right" as opposed to the nib angle dictating how it looks. @Hrant H. Papazian I see what you mean by ductal logic because it clearly breaks that rule here.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 1,302
    It is very easy for us in modern times to overlook the common practice of nib twirling to write letters. Even the Trajan column has variations in form to accommodate adjacent letters and fit of the line.
    The Z is one of those quirks that makes us question the rigidity of pen angle.  I don't think it ever was quite as rigid as some modern day folk portray. As usual, use your eyes as the final arbiter.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    “nib twirling” —love it!
  • Matthijs HerzbergMatthijs Herzberg Posts: 74
    edited December 2020
    Here's two videos of master calligrapher John Stevens throwing out a few Trajans with a flat brush. There's clearly a huge amount of nib rotation involved, but this is probably how the Romans did it too.
    As for the Z, it didn't exist in the Roman days (along with J, U, W), so our later interpretations can only guess. I do think a thick stem makes for a better texture in classic roman type, even in lower case, but admit the calligraphic form is fun. Poor Frederic Goudy was despised by many of his contemporaries.
    Somewhat related: I attempted a reverse-nib-angle typeface a while back. I didn't continue with it as the whole thing is just too ugly, but the Z is the most natural looking letter because it can finally be true to itself.
  • Matthijs HerzbergMatthijs Herzberg Posts: 74
    edited December 2020
    This also reminds me of Gerrit Noordzij’s “The Stroke”, in which he briefly mentions rotation as a stroke vector alongside expansion and translation. Thinking of it as such helps analyzing calligraphy and type, and allows for some interesting experimentation (a good example being OhNo’s recently released “swear”)


  • This is why those perennial announcements of new digital tools that emulate nibs tracing skeletons always lose their luster so quickly. 
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    edited December 2020
    Matthijs Herzberg
    Poor Frederic Goudy was despised by many of his contemporaries.
    Names and quotes, please.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 563
    edited December 2020
  • Matthijs HerzbergMatthijs Herzberg Posts: 74
    edited December 2020
    @Nick Shinn George Thomas' letter excerpt was primarily what I was referring to.
    From an earlier letter from Morison to Updike:
    "Your note to FWG's latest (I say 'latest' but no doubt he has already done it once more elsewhere) piece of brag. I think it is time that we took some notice of Goudy in the Fleuron. We hope to do 5 numbers and then close up...why not a critical summing up of Goudy & his work (sans portrait) in wh. the truth wd. be told? This cd go in No 5. After this we would take to the woods or otherwise flee from the wrath to come.
    Updike responded:
    "...if I were you, I should be rather disinclined to flatter Goudy by including him; though on the other hand I should be tempted, when you tell me that the truth would be told, because it would be such fun to have the truth told for once in that quarter!"
    Most of this criticism and gal may have come from the fact that the Brits felt threatened by their talented and successful American competitor. I got all this info from Simon Loxley's "The Hidden History of Type". An excerpt:
    "...[Goudy] set up the Village Letter Foundery--a spelling that caused ribald remarks in some quarters, in which Goudy was regarded as just an under-educated ex-accountant from the Midwest. Resembling an amalgam of Lionel Barrymore and Henry Travers, braces holding his trousers up to his midriff, Goudy looked both amiable and contentious. In the Goudy household argument was seen as the highest form of social interaction, but to some his personality was to prove a constant irritation. He was condemned by his detractors as a self-publicist, but although he loved public speaking and applause, he was, essentially, merely non-elitist. He would give a talk to anyone, not just those within the professional boundaries of his world. He was not as learned as some of his contemporaries, and not as original in argument, but his writing and lecturing were by no means uninformed or unsophisticated."
  • AbiRasheedAbiRasheed Posts: 206
    edited December 2020
    Thanks for all the info. I'm still surprised I haven't noticed this all these yrs. I've seen nib manipulation with Blackletter variants, didn't think roman letters did it until I started working on one. The fact manipulating the ductus was common and acceptable among all sorts of calligraphy styles changes a whole lot of things in typedesign for me. Kinda embarassing I didn't know this though lol but I guess you're never too old to learn things even if you're 40. So, trusting your eye to do most of it is true I guess with type in general and not rely on strict nib angles and the works.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,641
    edited December 2020
    Well Abi, as we’re talking about Goudy, he is well known as a late starter and was still breaking new ground in his ’40s and beyond—he was 46 when his first “signature” style, Kennerley, was published. He had had some success before with Copperplate Gothic and Pabst, but it was Kennerley that established the historicist vein that Goudy Old Style, Deepdene and Californian (“Berkeley”) followed.
Sign In or Register to comment.