This section is from the book "Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry, And Building", by James C. et al. Also available from Amazon: Cyclopedia Of Architecture, Carpentry And Building.
In any letter cut in stone, or cast in metal, it is not the outline of the letter that is seen by the eye of the observer, but the shadow cast by the section used to define the letter. This at once changes the entire problem and makes it much more complicated. In incising or cutting a letter into an easily carved material, such as stone or marble, we have the examples left us by the inventors, or at least the adapters, of the Roman alphabet. They have generally used it with a V-sunk section, and in architectural and monumental work this is still the safest method and the one most generally followed. One improvement has been made in adapting it to our modern conditions. The old examples were most often carved in a very fine marble which allowed a deep sinkage at a very sharp angle, thus obtaining a well-defined edge and a deep shadow. In most modern work the letters are cut in sandstone or even in such coarse material as granite, where sharp angles and deep sinkage of the letter-section is either impossible, or for commercial reasons influencing both contractors and stonecutters, very hard to obtain. To counterbalance this fault a direct sinkage at right angles to the surface of the stone before beginning the V section has been tried, and is found to answer the purpose very well, as it at once defines the edge of the letter with a sharp shadow. See the two large sections shown in the upper part of Fig. 31.
This section requires a letter of pretty good size and width of section, and, therefore, may be used only on work far removed from the eye, as is indeed alone advisable. An inscription that is to be seen close at hand must rely upon the more correct section and be cut as deeply as possible. For lettering placed at a great height, an even stronger effect may be obtained by making the incised section square, and sinking it directly into the stone.
Such pleasant grading of shadows as may be attained by the other method is then impossible, and there are no subtle cross lights on the rounding letters to add interest and variety, but the letter certainly carries farther and has more strength.
Fig. 22. Classic Roman Alphabet. From Marble Inscriptions in the Roman Forum.
In Fig. 21 is shown a photograph from a model of the incised V-sunk letters cut in granite on the frieze of the Boston
Fig. 23. Fragments of Classic Roman Inscriptions.
Public Library. This photograph indicates the shadow effect that defines the incised form of the letter, and will assist the student somewhat in determining the section required for the best effect. It will be observed that this letter is different in character from the one used by the same architects in a different material, sandstone, shown in Fig. 24.
In Fig. 22 is shown an alphabet redrawn from a rubbing of Roman lettering, and in Fig. 23 are shown portions of Classic inscriptions where letters of various characters are indicated. These letters were very sharply incised with a V-sunk section in marble, and were possibly cut by Greek workmen in Rome. It is on some such alphabet as this that we must form any modern letter to be used in a Classic inscription or upon a Classic building. These forms should be compared with the letters shown in Fig. 24, on the Architectural Building at Harvard, by McKim, Mead & White, architects, where they were employed with a full understanding of the differences in use and material. The Roman letter was cut in marble; the modern letter in sandstone. Both were incised in the V-sunk section, but the differences in material will at once indicate that the modern letter could not have been cut as clearly nor as deeply as the old one. The modern letter was done a little more than twice the original size of the old one, which explains certain subtleties in its outline as here drawn. The sandstone being a darker material than the marble, the letter should of necessity be heavier and larger in the same location, in order to "carry" or be distinguishable at the same distance; while the Classic example, being sharply and deeply cut in a beautiful white material which even when wet retains much of its purity of color, would be defined by a sharper and blacker outline, and therefore be more easily legible, other conditions being the same, even for a longer distance. In both these figures, the composition of the letters may be seen to advantage, as in even the Classic example, where they are alphabetically arranged, they are placed in the same relation to each other as they held in the original inscription. A complete alphabet of the letter shown in word use in Fig. 24, is shown at larger size in Fig. 25.
Although the lettering of the Italian Renaissance period was modeled closely after the Classic Roman form, it was influenced by many different considerations, styles and peoples.
Fig. 24. Lettering from Harvard Architectural Building. McKim. Mead & White. Architects.
Fig. 25. Complete Alphabet. Redrawn from Inscription on Architectural Building (See Fig. 24).
Fig. 25. (Continued)
Fig. 26. Fragment of Italian Renaissance Inscription. From the Marsuppini Tomb in Florence.