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Dating by Ductus: Differentiating Pen Stroke from Pen Angle in the Construction of Anglicana "d".

For some years Malcolm B. Parkes's English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 has defined Anglicana as a cursive script (1) written in a rapid duct facilitated by curved, connecting strokes, which developed a distinct and dateable morphology in several letterforms, including the "d." (2) According to Parkes, the downstroke of the looped ascender of the "d" transitions between the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century from a high-contrast diagonal (that is, wider than the vertical strokes, see Parkes's Plate 1 (i), late thirteenth century) to a relatively even stroke (proportional to the vertical strokes, see Parkes's Plate 1 (ii), mid-fourteenth century). (3) Parkes attributes this change in contrast to a change in pen angle, from "very oblique" to "almost upright":
Scribes changed the angle of the pen from very oblique to almost
upright. This is most immediately obvious in such details as the
elimination of the heavy diagonal stroke in the looped ascender of d.
The handwriting appears to be more vertical, and the strokes acquired
added dimension. (4)

Some questions arise from Parkes's claim, which has been accepted by other paleographers and manuscript scholars. First, what does Parkes mean by "angle of the pen"? Does he mean the angle of nib cut? (5) The angle of pen shaft? The direction of stroke?

Parkes argues that in the second half of the thirteenth century, as subsidiary features of letterforms were exaggerated for "calligraphic effect," the duct slowed and the pen was held at an oblique angle, constructing heavy contrast in diagonal downstrokes (see the loop of the Anglicana "d"). (6) In the beginning of the fourteenth century, as calligraphic reform reprioritized ease of writing and legible graphs, the duct quickened, and the pen was held at an upright angle, reducing the contrast in diagonal downstrokes. So, in the span of half a century, Parkes argues pen angle transitioned from about 45 degrees, or perhaps even 135 degrees, (7) to about 90 degrees. Is such a dramatic change in pen angle realistic? Is it possible to find the angle of the writing instrument in letterforms preserved on the manuscript page? (8) If so, do existing angles give evidence of this change in pen angle? If not, then what change in instrument or approach caused the attenuation of the downstroke of the Anglicana "d"?

This discussion takes a practical approach to the treatment of the Anglicana "d," drawing on the neglected study of calligraphy as craft. It involves some experiments that aim to recreate (as far as possible) scribal conditions to examine assumptions about the relationship between practice and purpose, input and output, conditions and style, in order to investigate how and why writing changes--what produces the new? Specifically, it seeks to test Parkes's claim that the attenuation of the downstroke of the Anglicana "d" followed on a change in pen angle and to challenge the assumptions behind this claim--assumptions about how paleography treats and relates to script, primarily as "image" and "visual model," as Parkes argues in his later text Their Hands before Our Eyes. (9) Although paleography's impulse to treat script as static facilitates ease of identification and dating, it privileges identification of received letterforms, the consolidation of any given script into a typeface, over investigation of "writing as a 'dynamic' process among, in competition with and as a constituent part of other social and cultural processes," (10) and, thus, deprioritizes methodological inquiries that seek to break down script into process. (11)

I first tested the effect of changing pen angles on the Anglicana "d" in an experiment I devised as part of Professor John Haines's Spring 2015 course "Practical Palaeography" at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. (12) I asked my classmates to draw "d's" at four different "increasingly upright" pen angles (30 degrees, 45 degrees, 60 degrees, and 75 degrees) with straight-cut nib quills in ink on a parchment-equivalent writing support secured to a writing surface angled at approximately 45 degrees. (13) If participants drew "d's" in the 45 degree quadrant with heavy contrast on the downstroke and progressed in the 75 degree quadrant to relatively even contrast, a one-to-one relationship between contrast and pen angle would be confirmed. However, when participants progressively moved their pens from oblique to upright (Fig. l)--participants tended to hold their pens at a similar angle in each of the four quadrants (Fig. 2)--this change did not affect the width of the stroke. Rather, participants' "d's" spoke to Parkes's point that individual scribes write in hands that introduce "personal features which give some [scripts] a highly idiosyncratic character." (14) Despite participants' varying successes, the result of writing on non-lineated paper, inexperience with calligraphy, and/or miscommunicated instructions, their evenly weighted letters suggest that the degree of contrast in the loop of the Anglicana "d" does not correspond to pen angle alone. Are we forgetting other critical factors in the composition of stroke width?

Perhaps paleography's tendency to set retrospective alphabets to identify scripts and to study letters as received forms curbs methodological innovation. In the words of twenty-first-century scribe Cheryl Jacobsen:
Palaeographers have for a long time studied the letters as given
objects to be identified and classified and to assist in transcription
and translation, but for some reason how it was done got overlooked or
even (dare I say?) snubbed. Why aren't pen angle, pen width, or letter
weight, common terms in manuscript study? Using these terms in
conjunction with an effective and clear analysis would give scholars an
excellent understanding of the character and process of a particular
letter form. (15)

Jacobsen points to a blind spot in paleographical research. For expedience, and because it is the way things are done, scholars tend to base new ideas about the genesis of script and letterform on the work of past paleographers, their auctoritates, at the expense of other modes of curiosity. Bernhard Bischoff, Michelle Brown, Albert Derolez, Jane Roberts, and Linne Mooney, and craftspeople such as Marc Drogin base analysis, dating, and reconstruction of English scripts on Parkes's English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500. (16) Parkes himself relies on terms (e.g., "oblique" and "pen angle") remembered from the work of paleographers such as Cyril E. Wright, Charles Johnson, Charles H. Jenkinson, Neil R Ker, and Leonard C. Hector on documentary scripts. (17)

In The Handwriting of English Documents, Leonard C. Hector describes the Anglicana nib cut as oblique, "the quill was cut to an oblique edge, so that as long as the pen was held naturally and at a constant angle to the writing-surface the strokes it made were thick or thin according to the angle they made with this edge." (18) Hector asserts that together nib cut and pen angle account for the writing angle recorded on the page in entrance strokes and at the tops of minims. This follows on calligrapher Edward Johnston's oblique-cut nib theory in Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering:
Most people are accustomed to holding a pen slanted away from the right
shoulder. The nib therefore is cut at oblique angle to the shaft, so
that, while the shaft is slanted, the edge of the nib is parallel with
the horizontal line of the paper, and will therefore produce a
horizontal thin stroke and a vertical thick stroke. (19)

As Johnston suggests, different nib angles can produce like letterforms. An oblique nib held at a straight angle and a straight nib held at a "slanted" angle can both produce "tilted" letters, (20) and an oblique nib and a straight nib can both produce "round, upright letters" (Fig. 3). Thus, the angle of the pen shaft, expressed on the writing support as the angle of the nib to the baseline, in combination with nib cut ultimately determines the angle of the writing instrument to the baseline.

Since pens with nibs cut at the same oblique angle can draw diagonals of varying width depending on their shaft slant, and similarly, pens held at the same oblique shaft angle can draw diagonals of varying width depending on their nib cut, it would be difficult to isolate either from the angle of the writing instrument preserved on the manuscript page. However, Parkes takes his predecessors' constant "oblique" nib cut as a given and concludes variable shaft angle (shifting from "oblique" to "upright") is responsible for the change between the end of the thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century in the downstroke of the Anglicana "d." (21) With nib cut held constant, we can see the effect of a changing shaft angle on this downstroke. For example, consider a pen with a straight-cut nib: if we angle the pen at 0 degrees (i.e., with the flat end of the nib parallel to the baseline) and draw a vertical line, the thickest part of the nib will pull down the thickest stroke the pen can produce (one nib width). If we angle it at 90 degrees (i.e., with the flat end of the nib perpendicular to the baseline) and draw a vertical line, the narrowest part of the nib will pull down the thinnest possible stroke. (22) As the pen angle moves from 0 degrees to 90 degrees, the flat end of the nib turns away from the direction of the stroke, reducing the surface area of the nib moving in the direction of the stroke, and thinning out the stroke. If the above example illustrates what Parkes means by "angle of the pen" (i.e., the slant of the pen shaft responsible for the angle of nib to baseline), then shifting it in an increasingly "upright" direction would reduce the width of the stroke.

Assuming a constant nib cut, such changes in the angle of the pen shaft would correspond to changes in the overall writing angle, the combined angle of shaft slant and nib cut that determine the angle of the writing instrument to baseline. Thus, to investigate Parkes's claim that a change in pen angle attenuated the downstroke of the Anglicana "d," I attempted to identify the overall writing angle in use in Parkes's plates. According to Jacobsen, this angle can "be seen in the writing itself in the ends of strokes and in the thickest part of a curved letter," which captures the "width of the nib of a broad-edged pen," (23) that is, in the thickest and thinnest strokes of a letter. Using professional onscreen measuring tools, PixelStick and ScreenScales, (24) I delineated and measured the angle parallel to the thinnest strokes (the approach stroke at the lobe) for a selection of "d's," (25) and I checked these angles against the serifs of neighboring minims and the opposite side of the lobe of the "d." (26) As a subscript of Gothic and a calligraphic script in its own right, Anglicana would have been written at a constant angle (of about 45 degrees), as Hector notes above. However, I found a range of angles in both plates and no indication of the writing angle changing, as it would if the shaft slant shifted from oblique to upright, from the end of the thirteenth to the middle of the fourteenth century, from Plate 1 (i): 31 degrees to 60 degrees (aside from one outlier, 31 degrees to 49 degrees) to Plate 1 (ii): 36 degrees to 45 degrees (Tables 1 and 2, right column).

If not pen angle, then what caused this visible diminution in the width of the diagonal downstroke? A freer style of writing? The fast cursive duct? As Jacobsen notes, as speed increases "there are fewer actual horizontal or vertical lines." (27) A reduction in nib width? (28) A deliberate change in pen pressure? Differences in fixation parameter? Fixation parameter, the degree to which the pen turns against the direction of the stroke, as demonstrated by Inkscape, a "professional vector graphics editor," (29) controls the contrast in a script (Fig. 4). Fixation parameters range from a stable, constant pen angle to a flexible, yet still constant angle (the pen turns only "a little"), to a freely rotating angle (the pen is "always perpendicular to the stroke"). (30) Thus, a fixed, constant pen angle (i.e., the pen does not turn against the direction of the stroke) might account for the high-contrast, calligraphic aspect (diagonals drawn at one nib width) of Parkes's Plate 1 (i), and a semi-fixed pen angle (i.e., the pen turns a little) might account for the mid-contrast aspect (diagonals drawn at or less than one nib width) of Plate 1 (ii). Although it might make sense to tie contrast to fixation, as I have shown, angles are ranging and inconstant in both plates--both likely have a semi-fixed pen angle--and fixation parameters may simply reflect a scribe's skill, experience, and/or writing conditions. So, then, if pen angles span a similar, flexible range in both plates, what accounts for the higher contrast in the diagonal downstrokes in Parkes's Plate 1 (i)?

To answer this question, I broke down, analyzed, and recreated my "d" letterform using Edward Johnston's seven-step method of script analysis (recommended by Jacobsen). (31) The method entails identifying (1) "weight of letter form," (2) "pen angle," (3) "geometric shape of letter," (4) "number of strokes," (5) "order of strokes," (6) "direction of stroke," and (7) "speed." The final five steps in this method were apparent or had already been satisfactorily worked out by others; however, the first two steps were unknown. To determine "weight of letter form," or the ratio of nib width to x-height (minim height), I needed to first identify either the nib width or the ever elusive "pen angle," which "can be seen after the fact by looking at the clear ends of strokes and axis of circles." (32) I took the median angle of both ranges in Parkes's plates (approximately 40 degrees) as the pen angle and used that to find the weight of the "d." A pen angled at 40 degrees draws its thickest possible stroke (one nib width) at 140 degrees (i.e., when the direction of the stroke is perpendicular to the pen angle), and I found (again, using PixelStick and ScreenScales) that the flourished "v" was the only letter in both plates containing a straight stroke at 140 degrees (Fig. 5). I measured the width of the 140 degree stroke and the x-height of each word, and found that the nib width to x-height ratio for both plates is approximately 1:4 (i.e., minim height was approximately four times the width of the nib). (33)

Based on the information gathered from Johnston's work, I drew my guidelines (34) and then replicated the thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Anglicana letterforms outlined by Charles Johnson and Charles H. Jenkinson in English Court Hand, AD. 1066-1500 (see Fig. 2: 8,9,10, and 12). (35) Johnson and Jenkinson's 8 and 9 correspond to the predominant forms in Parkes's Plate 1 (i); 10 and 12 correspond to the predominant forms in Parkes's Plate 1 (ii) (Fig. 7 and 8). When studying and practicing the direction of the stroke, I noticed that the late thirteenth-century plate (i) tends to finish the stroke at the base of the lobe (pulling its stroke down diagonally at approximately 140 degrees, perpendicular to pen angle at 40 degrees), whereas the mid-fourteenth-century plate (ii) finishes the stroke at both the base and head of the lobe (pulling its stroke across horizontally at approximately 180 degrees and finishing it on an upward flourish, parallel to pen angle at 40 degrees). My experiments with the effect of this change in direction on the width of the downstroke of the loop of Hector's 10 (Fig. 8 [double pencil], Fig. 9 [quill and ink]) demonstrate the predictable fact that as the downstroke moves from parallel to perpendicular, the stroke is drawn not with the thickest part of the nib but with the thinnest, and the width of the stroke decreases. The change in the contrast of the diagonal downstroke of the Anglicana "d" does not reveal a change in angle of pen shaft (from "oblique" to "upright"), but rather a change in ductus (from a downstroke finished on a diagonal to a downstroke finished on a horizontal) on a more or less constant writing angle.

This conclusion affirms the work of Johnson and Jenkinson in English Court Hand, A.D. 1066-1500, which, in a discussion of different forms of "d" found in English documents of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, describes the slope of the downstroke of the current form of the "d" as transitioning from "oblique" or diagonal in the early thirteenth century to horizontal in the middle of the fourteenth century, after rounding out in the latter part of the thirteenth century. (36) Now the question is why did this letterform round out? Why did the finishing point of the stroke raise itself from the base to the head of the bow? Why did the script take on a new style? My findings support the claim that as Anglicana became commonplace as a book script, the practice of cursive writing "contaminated" it: the two-stroke form of the "d" "with the loop turning to the left for increased cursivity" consolidated into a single stroke, as Jane Roberts argues in Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to 1500, (37) and the finishing point of the downstroke moved from the base to the head of the bow to simplify the writing process. That is, the script's calligraphic ideal gave way to changing production conditions and to the difference in speed and style of book as opposed to documentary writing. (38) This raises another question. Do paleographical forms inevitably change when scribal conditions do? If so, the new might be understood as the path of least resistance, as evolution rather than innovation. That, in turn, suggests that a letter's given form--the idea that there is constancy before there is change--is a paleographical fiction.

University of Toronto


I would like to thank Alexandra Gillespie for her guidance in preparing this article for publication and her keen editorial insight, and John Haines for his support in the early stages of this project and his comments on an early draft. Any errors are mine alone.


(1.) Malcolm B. Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969). Parkes, like Gerard I. Lieftinck, uses "cursive" to denote "a category of script with certain distinctive letterforms." Braxton Ross, "Review of English Cursive Book Hands, 1200-1500," Modern Philology, 69.3 (1972), 250. See also Gerard I. Lieftinck, "Pour une nomenclature de l'ecriture livresque de la periode dite 'gothique'," in Bernhard Bischoff, Gerard I. Lieftinck, and Giulio Battelli, Nomenclature des ecritures livresques du [ix.sup.e] au [xvi.sup.e] siecle (Paris: Service des publications du Centre national de la recherche scientifique, 1954), 19 in Parkes, xiv, note 4. Lieftinck uses cursiva to indicate a category of Gothic script distinguished by a single-compartment "a," loops on ascenders, and descenders on "f and "s." Jan W. Burgers, "Palaeography and Diplomatics: the Script of Charters in the Netherlands during the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries," Quaerendo 38.1 (2008): 15-16.

(2.) These connecting strokes, "the finishing movement of one stroke and the approach movement to the next," appeared as single strokes on the writing support, and evolved into auxiliary letterforms (Parkes, xiv.)

(3.) The two facsimiles, Plates 1(i) and 1(ii), demonstrating this change span about 75 years and an entire subsystem of Gothic (Parkes, 1.)

(4.) Parkes, xv-xvi.

(5.) Nib cut can account for pen angle: "if the edge of the nib were cut at right angles to the shaft, obviously the horizontal stroke would not be thin, and the true thick and thin stroke would be oblique." Edward Johnston, Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering, 8th ed. (London: Spottiswoode, Ballantyne, 1917), 66, note 1. Parkes was aware of Johnston's work, citing it in his selected bibliography, although not in his footnotes.

(6.) Parkes, xv. Parkes follows Leonard C. Hector who argues in The Handwriting of English Documents that in the twelfth century "the perpendicularly ascending d of the orthodox text hand has been definitively replaced by the form in which the ascender is bent backwards." Leonard C. Hector, The Handwriting of English Documents, 2nd ed. (London: Edward Arnold, 1966), 55.

(7.) Both obtuse and acute angles qualify as oblique, "Geom. Of an angle: less than 180 degrees but not equal to a right angle" ("oblique, adj., n., and adv."). Oxford English Dictionary Online, March 2015, While an obtuse angle would work with Parkes's backwards-slanting script theory, modern calligraphers suggest an acute angle would be more feasible for a right-handed scribe, "the most natural and traditional for right-handed calligraphy" ("Angle and Fixation," Inkscape Tutorial converted from DocBook source by tutorial-htmlxsl, last modified April 30, 2005,

(8.) That is, is it possible to find the combined angle of the writing instrument (the angle of nib cut and shaft slant) in letterforms preserved on the manuscript page?

(9.) Malcolm B. Parkes, Their Hands before Our Eyes: A Closer Look at Scribes, The Lyell Lectures Delivered in the University of Oxford 1999 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008), 127-145, as cited in Daniel Wakelin, "Writing the Words," in The Production of Books in England 1350-1500, edited by Alexandra Gillespie and Daniel Wakelin, 34-58, Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 37-38.

(10.) Wakelin, "Writing the Words," 38.

(11.) This is not a new criticism. Albert Derolez raised similar concerns about the "crisis of palaeography" in his introduction to The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books: from the Twelfth to theEarly Sixteenth Century, "drawing attention to the problematic nature of the scientific status of the discipline and the weakness and fragmentation of its methodological assumptions." Albert Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books:from the Twelfth to theEarly Sixteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2003), 7, as cited in Orietta Da Rold and Marilena Maniaci, "Medieval Manuscript Studies: A European Perspective," in Writing Europe, 500-1450: Texts and Contexts, edited by Aidan Conti, Orietta Da Rold, and Philip Shaw, 1-24, Essays and Studies 2015 (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2015), 17-18, note 56. Da Rold and Maniaci echo Derolez's concerns in "Medieval Manuscript Studies: A European Perspective," arguing, "research in palaeography has long remained substantially faithful to methodologies of ancient and deep-rooted tradition, and poorly permeable to the application of new techniques of investigation" (Da Rold and Maniaci, 14.)

(12.) Thanks to my eleven classmates in Practical Palaeography, taught by Professor John Haines in Spring 2015 at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. Thanks particularly to Ben Durham and Lane Springer for the collaborative pen-carving sessions and to Maria-Claire Apostoli for the use of her verdigris.

(13.) The "d's" were drawn according to modern calligrapher Marc Drogin's Gothic Littera Bastarda model. Marc Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy: its History and Techniques (Montclair: Allanheld and Schram, 1980), 155. The pens were turkey feather quills hand-carved according to the advice and YouTube demonstrations of modern calligrapher Dennis Ruud, who taught a Carolingian calligraphy workshop I attended in 2014 (Dennis Ruud, How to Cut a Quill Pen, 2011,, 9:37). The ink was handmade verdigris or Speedball super black calligraphy ink. The writing support was white Strathmore Parchment. The page was divided into quadrants marked with angle degrees and symbols. The writing surface was a clipboard. The writing surface angle was about 45 degrees, a comfortable writing angle used for Gothic scripts (Johnston, 61.)

(14.) Ross, 251.

(15.) Cheryl Jacobsen, "A Modern Scribe Views Scribes of the Past," in Scraped, Stroked, and Bound: Materially Engaged Readings of Medieval Manuscripts, edited by Jonathan Wilcox, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 23 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), 81.

(16.) Bernhard Bischoff in Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages cites Parkes's English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 in support of his brief description of "anglicana." Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands, xiv, in Bernhard Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages, translated by Daibhi O Croinin and David Ganz (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1990), 142, note 106. Albert Derolez in ThePalaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books in a "discussion of a wider European category he calls Cursiva Antiquior" argues "only Anglicana within this grouping, 'precocious and long lasting' and 'a highly idiosyncratic script' developed into 'a canonical book script'." Derolez, The Palaeography of Gothic Manuscript Books, 133-134 in Jane Roberts, Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to 1500 (London: British Library, 2006), 161, note 2. Jane Roberts in Guide to Scripts Used in English Writings up to 1500 categorizes and dates English cursive scripts according to the evolution of letterforms detailed by Parkes and others; she comments that the Anglicana "d," constructed in a single stroke, "derives from a two-stroke form with the loop turning to the left for increased cursivity" (Roberts, 162,166-168.). Marc Drogin in Medieval Calligraphy: its History and Techniques misrepresents script categories. Drogin, citing Parkes, conflates Gothic cursive scripts from Bastard Anglicana and Bastard Secretary to Cadel Capitals into a single functional script that he calls Gothic Littera Bastarda (Drogin, Medieval Calligraphy, 64-67, 153-164.)

(17.) Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands, xiv-xvi. Parkes expands Neil R. Ker's formal book script "Anglicana" in Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries into a subsystem of Gothic used in both books and documents, an Anglicana system that breaks down into Anglicana (the cursive scripts in England previously referred to as "Court Hands" or "Charter Hands"), Anglicana Formata (Ker's "Anglicana"), and Bastard Anglicana (scripts containing elements of both the cursiva and formata). Neil R Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, i (Oxford: Oxford University, 1969), xi, in Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands, xvi, note 7.

(18.) Hector, 19.

(19.) Johnston, 65-66.

(20.) Johnston, 44.

(21.) Parkes's consideration of the combined impact of nib cut and shaft slant on the formation of strokes is evident in his definition of "duct." Parkes defines duct as "the distinctive manner in which strokes are traced upon the writing surface: it represents the combination of such factors as the angle at which the pen was held in relation to the way in which it was cut, the degree of pressure applied to it, and the direction in which it was moved" (Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands, xxvi.) When we investigate pen angle, we investigate duct.

(22.) Jacobsen, 84.

(23.) Jacobsen, 83.

(24.) "Pfxelstick," Plum Amazing, accessed April 19,2015,; "Screenscales," Talon-designs, accessed April 19, 2015, http://sur.1v/o/

(25.) I first identified and extracted all variant forms of the Anglicana "d" in use in Parkes's plates, following on the example of Jean Preston and Laetitia Yeandle in English Handwriting 1400-1650: An Introductory Manual. Preston and Yeandle created alphabets, including all the variant forms of each letter, particular to hands in their manuscripts. This facilitated study of scripts' representative letterforms and demonstrated the particularities of any given hand. Jean F. Preston and Laetitia Yeandle, English Handwriting, 1400-1650: An Introductory Manual (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992). I pulled ten model "d's" out of the 39 Anglicana forms (44 total) in Plate 1 (i) (Table l), and five model "d's" out of the 25 "d's" in 1 (ii) (Table 2). I then measured the pen angle used to draw each exemplar "d."

(26.) Pen angle can also be found in the angle perpendicular to the thickest strokes. Since there are fewer thick strokes, and Parkes's dating theory is tied to the relative width of the ascenders, I first analyzed the perpendicular angle. I used PixelStick ("Pixelstick," Plum Amazing) to draw lines parallel to the thickest part of each diagonal, lines perpendicular to those lines, and then horizontal lines ("the baseline" of the pen) through the intersection of the first two. I then used ScreenScales ("Screenscales," Talon-designs) to measure the delineated angles. Despite both scripts' visible inconsistencies, variations in the slope of the ascenders, in the height of the bows, and in the shape and size of the negative spaces, or counter shapes, inside the loops and bows, I was suspicious of the wide ranges of pen angles I found: Plate 1 (i): 36 degrees to 66 degrees, and Plate 1 (ii): 33 degrees to 82 degrees (Tables 1 and 2, left column). This wide range in pen angles may be due to the fact that the thickness of a given stroke does not only correspond to nib width; as Jacobsen warns, "extra pressure on the quill, which is easily applied, will yield an extra wide mark" (Jacobsen, 83). Moreover, the curving downstroke of the ascender of the Anglicana "d" is not a true diagonal, and thus does not have one single pen angle perpendicular to it.

(27.) Jacobsen, 85.

(28.) As Michelle P. Brown notes in Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms under the entry for "pen," the wider the nib, the more calligraphic the script; "cursive (i.e., more rapidly written) scripts were generally produced with a thin pen and formal bookscripts with a broad pen." Michelle P. Brown, Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum and British Library, 1994), 97.) Reduction in nib width would reduce contrast in a script at large, not in a single graph, so this cannot explain the attenuation in the downstroke of the Anglicana "d."

(29.) "Inkscape," Inkscape, accessed April 21, 2015,

(30.) "Angle and Fixation," Inkscape Tutorial; "Calligraphy Tool," Inkscape, accessed April 21,2015,

(31.) Jacobsen, 83-85. Edward Johnston's seven-step method of script analysis applied to the Anglicana "d" letterform: (l) the "weight of letter form," or ratio of the nib width to x-height, is 1:4. (2) The "pen angle" is 40 degrees. (3) The "geometric shape of letter" moves from an angular or ovular/vertically sloping shape to round/horizontally sloping shape. (4) The "number of strokes" needed to construct the letterform is one. (5) The "order of strokes" is not applicable since there is only one. (6) The "direction of stroke" is as follows: the stroke curves down and to the left from the top of the x-height, then curves to the right (forming the lobe), and then curves up and to the right, passes the top of the x-height, curves up and to the left, and then (now, further left than the entrance stroke) curves down and crosses over to the right side of the lobe of the d (closing the loop of the ascender). (7) The "speed" used to compose the letterform is a quick, cursive duct.

(32.) Jacobsen, 83-84.

(33.) Using this ratio, I determined that the guidelines used in Parkes's plates are proportional to the cursive guidelines Rosemary Sassoon recommends in The Practical Guide to Calligraphy: an x-height of about four nib widths, and capitals, ascenders, and descenders of up to eight nib widths. Rosemary Sassoon, The Practical Guide to Calligraphy (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1982), 41.

(34.) I drew guidelines for my two writing tools, a double pencil and a hand-cut quill. I placed a semi-translucent sheet of parchment over a lineated sheet of paper (guidelines for the baselines at 0 degrees and guidelines for the pen angle at 40 degrees), secured both to my writing surface (clip board) angled at 45 degrees, and drew "d's" with my writing tool angled at 40 degrees.

(35.) Johnson and Jenkinson, English Court Hand, 11-12.

(36.) Charles Johnson and Charles H, Jenkinson, English Court Hand, A.D. 1066-1500 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1915), 11.

(37.) Roberts, 166-168.

(38.) As Michelle P. Brown notes in A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600, as documentary scripts were adapted for book use (from the late thirteenth century), "a predictable scenario of contamination of scripts occurs" and "'compromise' book hands increasingly supplanted the original textualis hierarchy in all but the most formal or conservative of works" (from the late fourteenth to sixteenth century). Michelle P. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1990), 80-81.
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Author:Conwell, Amy
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
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Date:Jan 1, 2018
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