Script Type Terminology: A preview of a new book

These pages are from The Roots of Script, the working title for a book on script typefaces that Abby Goldstein and I have been writing since 2010. They are part of the opening section titled “How to Look at Scripts.” Scripts are not like other typefaces. There is almost no existing terminology to describe their letter parts other than terms used in the world of calligraphy. We adopted many of them, but still ended up inventing others.

The first three sheets set forth the basic guidelines and positions within them for chancery cursives and roundhand scripts. These are the two basic strains of formal scripts. Chancery cursives are more commonly known as italics. They are influenced by the broad pen. Roundhand scripts are often described as copperplate or wedding scripts. They are influenced by the narrow or pointed pen. The vertical relationship between capitals and lowercase letters in scripts is very different than it is in roman types. This is exacerbated by the prevalence of swashed and flourished characters. We used Poetica for the Chancery Cursive sheet and Bickham Pro for the Roundhand sheet.

write something here

Chancery Cursive | Guidelines & positions

say something?

Roundhand | Guidelines & positions 1

what to say?

Roundhand | Guidelines & positions 2

The fourth sheet looks at some general characteristics of scripts. Slope and slant are very important concepts.


Case · Slope · Stress · Negative Space

The final three sheets are devoted to the parts of letterforms. We used a wide variety of typefaces to showcase the many aspects of script letters, including a host of terms not found in discussions of roman type.


Parts of letterforms 1


Parts of letterforms 2


Parts of letterforms 3

Scripts are fascinating. Although they have been part of typographic history since the 1540s, they have been marginalized until the past decade. From the beginning they have presented a technical challenge to type designers and manufacturers: 1. how to adapt letters that slant to pieces of type metal that are normally rectangular; and 2. how to convert letters that flow and join one another into independent letters that can be randomly assembled and still appear to be smoothly connected. Solutions—some simultaneously ingenious and  impractical—were found long before the advent of phototype and OpenType let loose the floodgates of script typefaces. These stories will be told in our book.