The Rchive no. 2

Imperial R written with broad-edged brush by Father E.M. Catich (unretouched), 1961

Father E.M. Catich, a former Chicago signwriter who taught art at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, devoted much of his life to explicating the manner in which Roman Imperial Capitals (Capitalis Monumentalis) were created. In Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription in Rome (Davenport, Iowa: Catfish Press, 1961) he outlined each of the letters from the Trajan Inscription, based on the many rubbings he had made of it over the course of three decades. The book was followed by The Origins of the Serif (Davenport, Iowa: Catfish Press, 1968) in which Catich gave a vigorous explanation of his theory that such letters were initially created by the broad brush and that it was that tool, not the chisel, that was the origin of the serif. To demonstrate his theory he included brush renderings of each letter of the alphabet. This R is from p. 256.

The ductus (direction and sequence of strokes) for the letter involves five strokes: 1. the stem is made by pulling the brush down from the upper left serif to the lower right one; 2. the left serif at the bottom is then made; followed by 3. the curve of the bowl; then 4. the horizontal link of the bowl; and finally, 5. the diagonal leg with its tapered ending. For the inscription the lettercutter cleaned up any stray strokes and got rid of the “dimple” in the serifs created by the multi-stroke process. (The dimple is visible in two typefaces by calligraphers proficient in the Catich method of making broad-edged brush capital letters: Arrus by Richard Lipton (Bitstream, 1991) and Stevens Titling by John Stevens (Linotype, 2011)).