This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
By Lewis F. Day.
The two volumes which we choose this month as additions to our "Practical Aids to Art Workers" are not new. The title-page of each, indeed, bears the date of three years ago, and the words "eighth thousand " appear on that of the one under notice. That
Alphabet by Lewis F. Day.
(From "Alphabets Old and New.")
Cyphers in Christian art.
(From " Lettering in Ornament.") Both Books are by Lewis F. Day.
(Courtesy of B. T. Batsford, Publisher.) this little book had already passed through many editions is not surprising, for such a collection of alphabets was and is indispensable to every art worker. There has been much improvement of late years in decorative lettering in this country, but that there are thousands of capable craftsmen who have yet to learn their "Abc" is only too evident. To the improvement we note, Mr. Day has doubtless largely contributed. In what department of the applied or decorative arts, indeed, has he not left his mark ? One who reviews the fruits of his strenuous and useful life can but be impressed not only by his indefatigable industry and versatility, but by the soundness of his judgment as an artist and the lightness of his touch as a writer. Not that the present volume in particular presents anything out of the common. The actual letterpress is comprised within forty pages, and is little more than a historical introduction to the alphabets given, but it is pithy and suggestive.
There is nothing especially sacred about our alphabet, except what it may be said to derive from its antiquity. The letters are the result of evolution and selection; so there is no reason why the artist should not still modify them to suit his taste. But, as our author points out at the start, there are only two conditions on which he may tamper with the alphabet: "Whatever he does ought, in the first place, to make reading run smoother, and, in the second, to make writing satisfactory to the eye. Neither of these desirable ends should, however, be sought at the expense of the other. The way to make reading easier is to mark whatever is characteristic in the letter; to develop what is peculiar to it; to curtail, or it may be to lop off, anything which tends to make us confound it with another; to emphasise, in short, the individuality of each individual letter and make is unmistakable." At the same time, beauty is to be considered, but, as Mr. Day justly observes, there is not the least reason why beauty should interfere with use: "Beauty does not imply elaboration or ornament. On the contrary, simplicity and character, and the dignity which comes of them, are demanded in the interests alike of practicality and of art."
Among the nearly two hundred alphabets given are several by Mr. Day, and others by Walter Crane, Patten Wilson, and A. Beresford Pite. The alphabet by the author which we have reproduced fulfils so well the conditions he names as essential to good lettering, that we are sorry he did not give the uncials as well. (London: B. T. Batsford, 94, Holborn. Price 3s. 6d. net.)