This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol1", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
Some workers of experience prefer a quill, but this is only to be recommended to those who know how to cut their own. It is not a difficult thing to do, but needs a little practice. Cut quills, as bought, are not generally of much value for the purpose until they have been recut, the slit being too long and the pen consequently too lissome. The slit is the first thing to attend to after the pen has been roughly shaped, and this should not be carried too far, an exceedingly sharp penknife being used to start it. The two nibs are then cut down towards it on either side symmetrically, and brought to a point exactly on the slit. The point can then be laid on the edge of a drawing board and cut off, either square or preferably at a slight angle, with a single sharp stroke of the knife. The slit need not, after the pen is finished, be more than about 1/16 of an inch in length, and any necessary breadth of line can be obtained according to the way in which the nibs are cut.
Italic lettering may be ruled for in the same way as block lettering. It should be inked in with a somewhat fine steel pen. It is a mistake, however, to make the up-strokes too fine, as this results in the lettering being difficult to read. It is better to use a pen such as Mitchell's "G" than the mapping pen or Mitchell's "F," which are favourites with the engineer, except for very small work where one or other of these is essential; and the down-stroke should not be very greatly thicker than the up-stroke, though sufficiently so for emphasis.
In all forms of capital lettering, based upon the Roman, which has the down-strokes thick and the upstrokes thin, attention is necessary to ensure thickening the right strokes. Beginners will even make the mistake of thickening the vertical strokes of the letter "N" instead of the sloped stroke, while the wrong sloped stroke of "Y" is frequently thickened, and even experienced draughtsmen have been known to thicken the down-stroke of "S" in two blobs instead of a' single clear stroke.
Renaissance lettering, such as that of which a sheet is given by way of illustration, is based very closely upon the Roman, and is capable of considerable variation. The alphabet of capital letters (illustration opposite) is very nearly that used upon the tomb of the Emperor Henry VII. in the Duomo at Pisa, the principal differences lying in slightly different curvatures of the little ticks at the letter terminals, known as "Serifs." It is a strong alphabet, very easy to read, the up-strokes not being too fine, but it takes a certain amount of time to write. The numerals are particularly pleasing, and can be made to combine well.
It may here be remarked that letters may often need slightly varying in order that they may combine properly with one another. As an example of this maybe taken the letters "g" and "y" in the small alphabet, which, if they were to follow one another, would have to be somewhat altered, else the tail of the "y" would penetrate that of the "g." Small letters of the Roman or Renaissance form are rarely used except in print, owing partly to their being more difficult to draw than the large letters, and also to their being less easily deciphered. Upon drawings and inscriptions, and in fact for most purposes for which letters are used except on the printed page, different sizes of capitals are employed in preference to using the lower case letters. On this sheet it will be noticed that the Italic alphabet follows very closely upon the upright, being merely a sloped modification of it with the necessary alteration of such letters as "A" and "K" to make them properly fill their spaces and have a pleasing appearance.
The title to the page has been deliberately made of open lettering of a slightly different form, perhaps somewhat stiffer in character, use here being made of three different sizes of capitals. It is often very useful to employ open lettering of this class, as it can be made large enough to be easily deciphered without being so heavy as to draw attention away from the drawing which it describes. It needs to be carefully drawn, as there is not the opportunity of correcting a mistake such as exists when the outlines are filled with ink.
Throughout the whole of this sheet considerable use has been made of the T- and set-square, while the curves have been put in with a steel pen.
The sheet of Gothic Lettering has been differently treated, having been almost entirely done with the quill and freehand. It will be noticed that the forms of the letters are essentially different from those based upon Roman characters. They have been adapted from such as were usual upon English manuscripts of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the German alphabet of capitals not being given except in the title at the bottom, as it is much less applicable to present-day work. These Gothic capitals are shown in outline only, but are capable of being highly finished either by blacking in or by the introduction of colour and gold, while few alphabets look better in carved woodwork. For cutting in stone, however, they are by no means so useful as Roman letters, whether of the ordinary or the block form, as they consist almost entirely of freehand curves, which, although easy to cut in wood, are difficult to incise in stone. The quill was used as being the tool employed in the Middle Ages, and giving best the freedom of line which such a system of lettering seems to demand, with a certain amount of variation in its thickness, precise enough for its purpose and yet devoid of hardness. It needs to be used almost more like a brush than a pen, as pen use is now understood by those who are accustomed to metal nibs, the strokes being put in rapidly and with a flowing hand.
Plate II . Details Of Front Elevation.