After acquiring a sufficient knowledge of letter forms, the student is ready to begin the study of "lettering." While a knowledge of architectural beauty of form is the first essential, it is not the vital part in lettering, for the composition of these separate characters is by far the most important part of the problem.




Fig. 16. Cover Announcement, by Addison B. Le Boutillier.

Composition in lettering is almost too intangible to define by any rule. All the suggestions that may be given are of necessity laid out on merely mathematical formulae, and as such are incapable of equaling the result that may be obtained by spacing and producing the effect solely from artistic experience and intuition. The final result should always be judged by its effect upon the eye, which must be trained until it is susceptible to the slightest deviation from the perfect whole. It is more difficult to define what good composition is in lettering than in painting or any other of the more generally accepted arts, and it resolves itself back to the same problem. The eye must be trained by constant study of good and pleasing forms and proportions, until it appreciates instinctively almost intangible mistakes in spacing and arrangement.

This point of "composition" is so important that a legend of most beautiful individual letter forms, badly placed, will not produce as pleasing an effect as an arrangement of more awkward letters when their composition is good. This quality has been so much disregarded in the consideration of lettering, that it is important the student's attention should be directed to it with additional force, in order that he may begin with the right feeling for his work.

An excellent example of composition and spacing is shown in Fig. 16, from a drawing by Mr. Addison B. Le Boutillier. The relation between the two panels of lettering and the vase form, and the placing of the whole on the paper with regard to its margins, etc., are exceptionally good, and the rendered shape of the vase is just the proper weight and color in reference to the weight and color of the lettered panels.

In this reproduction the border line represents the edge of the paper upon which the design itself was printed, and not a border line enclosing the panel. The real effect of the original composition can be obtained only by eliminating the paper outside of this margin and by studying the placing and mass of the design in relation to the remaining "spot" and proportions of the paper. Perhaps the simplest and most certain way to realize the effect of the original is to cut out a rectangle the size of this panel from a differently colored piece of paper, and place it over the page as a "mask," so that only the outline of the original design will show through.

The other example by the same designer, shown in Fig. 15, is equally good. The use of the letter with the architectural ornament, and the form, proportion, spacing and composition of the lettering are all admirable.

The title page, by Mr. Claude Fayette Bragdon, shown in Fig. 17, is a composition including the use of many different types of letters; yet all belong to the same period and style, so that an effect of sim-plicity is still retained. In composition, this page is not unlike its possible composition in type, but in that case no such variety of form for the letters would be feasible, while the entire design has an effect of coherence and fusion which the use of a pen letter alone makes possible, and which could not be obtained at all in typographical examples. The treatment of the ornament incorporated in this design should be noticed for its weight and rendering, which bear an exact relation to the "color" of the letter employed.

In Fig. 18 is a lettered panel that will well repay careful study. The composition is admirable, the letter forms of great distinction - especially the small letters - and yet this example has not the innate refinement of the others. The decorative panel at the top is too heavy, and the ornament employed has no special beauty of form, fitness, or charm of rendering (compare Figs. 15 and 16), while the weight of the panel requires some such over-heavy border treatment as has been used. Here, again, in the slight Gothic cusping at the angles a lack of restraint or judgment on the part of the designer is indicated, this Gothic touch being entirely out of keeping with the lettering itself, and only partially demanded by the decorative panel. Of course, it is easy to see that these faults are all to be attributed to an attempt to attract and hold the eye and thus add to the value of the design as an advertisement; but a surer taste could have obtained this result and yet not at the expense of the composition as a whole. It is nevertheless an admirable piece of work.

Fig. 17. Title Page, by Claude Fayette Bragdon.

Fig. 17. Title Page, by Claude Fayette Bragdon.

Fig. 18. Advertising Announcement.

Fig. 18. Advertising Announcement.

In Fig. 19 is shown an example of the use of lettering in composition, in connection with a bolder design, in this case for a book cover, by Mr. II. Van Buren Magonigle. Note the nice sense of relation between the style of lettering employed and the design itself, as well as the subject of the work. The letter form is a most excellent modernization of the classic Roman letter shape (compare Figs. 22 and 23).

Fig. 19. Book Cover, by H. Van Buren Magonigle.

Fig. 19. Book Cover, by H. Van Buren Magonigle.

The student must be ever appreciative of all examples of the good and bad uses of lettering that he sees, until he can distinguish the niceties of their composition and appreciate to the utmost such examples as the first of these here shown. It is only by constant analysis of varied examples that he can be able to distinguish the points that make for good or bad lettering.