Michael Harvey’s Teaching Notes 1983–1995, part 8A

This is the last set of teaching notes that Michael left me. He grouped them in a folder labeled Reading 1995, but some of the pages are dated 1996, 1998 and 1999. It appears that his thinking about the contents of his Letterforms course had crystallized in 1995 and that after that he felt no need to prepare his usual set of notes. Instead, he amended his existing ones as new ideas for exercises or new insights came to him.

READING 1995–1999 : Letterforms
Michael starts these notes with an investigation into the proportions and techniques behind the Imperial Roman capitals. As usual, he emphasizes serifs and junctions.

Reading 1995#1

Reading 1995#2


Reading 1995#3

Reading 1995#4Michael, despite his acceptance of Catich’s theory about the role of the flexible, broad-edged brush in the making of the Imperial capitals, did not use a brush to write out his inscriptions. But then again, the letters that he carved were never in that vein, but instead were deeply informed by Eric Gill and what Alan Bartram labeled “the English letter”.

The next set of notes follow the evolution of the Roman capitals as they shift from being carved into stone to being written out on papyrus and later animal skins. Then Michael shifts to his ongoing theme of how the letters evolve into type and how the sans serif comes into being.

Reading 1995#35

Reading 1995#5



Reading 1995#36Reading 1995#6

Reading 1995#7

Michael then shifts gears and looks at the minuscule or small letter. As usual, he compares broad-pen written letters to their typographic counterparts. These notes were amended in 1998 as can be seen by the pasted-on yellow sheet on the left-hand page.

Reading 1995#8

Reading 1995#9Michael then segued into a history of the basic calligraphic hands from the 3rd century to the Renaissance: Uncial, Half-Uncial, Versals, Textura, Rotunda, Schwabacher [sic], Fraktur, Chancery Italic.

Reading 1995#10 Reading 1995#11

Reading 1995#12This is the end of the calligraphic segment of the Letterforms course. From here Michael shifted to drawn letters. Those teaching notes will be in a separate post.