Blog

Disappearing fore-edge painting

In May 2017, the Heritage Crafts Association launched the Radcliffe Red List of Endangered Crafts at the House of Lords. They listed over 170 traditional crafts and placed them in one of four categories (Currently Viable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, and Insufficient Data). There were seventeen Critically Endangered ... Read more


The Siege of Caerlaverock

Caerlaverock Castle is distinctive in many ways – for a start it is triangular! It is also distinctive in that it was the site of a siege between the attacking King Edward I of England and the defending Scots in 1300. In the grand scheme of things, this battle would ... Read more


Medieval and Renaissance Interiors

Medieval and Renaissance Interiors is a brilliantly colourful book published by the British Library and is generously illustrated with many high quality manuscript images. Eva Oledzka, the author, takes us beyond what we usually see – the figures – to the room that the people are in, their surroundings, the ... Read more


More Glittering Gilders

Another group of budding illuminators gathered at my studio to learn how to cut quills, make and lay gesso, treat vellum for painting, and the craft processes of the mediæval illuminator. I am always delighted when a random group of people get on so well – perhaps it’s that all ... Read more


Patricia Lovett: Exhibition at Sevenoaks Library 2017

I was delighted and honoured to be invited by Sevenoaks Museum to put on a small exhibition of my work at Sevenoaks Library. It is small because there are but two shelves in a display case. However, I was thrilled when Lord Sackville kindly came to see a piece I ... Read more


National Schools' Handwriting Competition 2017

Class A Winner, Age 5

At the recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education meeting, a number of us who did not have close links with teacher training were shocked to hear that over the three or four years ... Read more


Art and History of Calligraphy

The Art and History of Calligraphy, published May 2017 by the British Library, does pretty much what it says on the tin! It covers writing from what is thought to be the earliest known writing by a woman in Britain in the first century, to the present day (as ... Read more


Vellum and Acts of Parliament III

This is not one of my usual blog posts. There are no pictures as what has happened is, in my view, very serious and needs no illustration. A clear decision taken by MPs in the House of Commons has been overturned by 3 members of a committee. The result is ... Read more


A single shivering fleck of sunset-light

How fortunate we are as calligraphers not only to be moved by the words of authors and poets, but also to be able to interpret that text visually. I had the task of creating a number of pieces of the same artwork for a special occasion – what to ... Read more


The Lindisfarne Gospels

The Lindisfarne Gospels are, in the opinion of many (including me!) the greatest treasure we have. This manuscript had, of course, to be featured in my book The Art and History of Calligraphy, published by the British Library in May 2017. The Lindisfarne Gospels were written before 720 and the ... Read more


The Vespasian Psalter

The Vespasian Psalter is an Anglo-Saxon book written, it is thought, in the second quarter of the eighth century. The style suggests the south-east of England, possibly St Augustine’s or Christ Church, both in Canterbury, or Minster-in-Thanet.
The large full-page illustration on the right shows an intriguing mix of Insular ... Read more


Making pigments at Guédelon

The building of a mediæval castle at Guédelon in France involves much more than simply the construction of the building. They are also looking into how the rooms would have been decorated and how the pigments were made. Jill Robertson, from Australia, who subscribes to my free online monthly newsletter ... Read more


Work, my workroom and 'Landlove' magazine, December 2016

Photograph © Sussie Bell 2016

I was very pleasantly surprised and delighted when brilliant journalist Kerry Fowler contacted me about being featured in the popular lifestyle magazine Landlove. This was not the first time that I’ve been in a magazine, but that was usually ... Read more


Rustics – not that rustic!

Rustics are very elegant letter-forms that have a distinctive diagonal feel to them, with the thickest strokes going from top left to bottom right. The fifth-century Vergilius Romanus, a manuscript now in the Vatican Library, shows one of the best examples of Rustics in book form. This is one of ... Read more


Making little boxes

There are occasions when you need a suitable container for a gift and there is nothing available. If the gift is small, why not make your own ‘wrapping’? These little boxes are really easy to make involving simple folding. They are so easy that children can make them if they ... Read more


A festive piece

Occasionally, just very occasionally, a project somehow seems to work without a great deal of effort, and this is what happened with this piece. I was asked by Landlove, a UK lifestyle magazine, to have ‘a festive piece’ ready to be photographed for their Christmas 2016 issue, when they were ... Read more


The Ramsey Psalter

The Ramsey Psalter (BL, Harley 2904) is a masterpiece of the tenth century; it was the manuscript identified by Master Calligrapher Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century as a good example of strong letter-forms to start to learn calligraphy. Psalm 1 in the psalter ... Read more


The Art of the Bible

This book published by the British Library is an amazing feat. The book is huge and the dimensions of it are as large as some of the manuscripts in their collections, with the result that the detail is quite amazing. Huge enlarged images fill whole pages, and it ... Read more


'Waters Rising' – Sheila Waters


This month, November 2016, marks the fiftieth anniversary of a devastating disaster in Florence. On the night of November 4th a series of disastrous weather combinations meant that a vast wave of water rushed through the city, with the narrow roads acting as funnels and the bridges ... Read more


More Sheila Waters' prints

There are more Sheila Waters’ prints available in the UK. The quality of the prints is amazing; all are signed by Sheila, all are in a clear protective sleeve and printed on high quality paper. See my previous post here for others. The first available is ... Read more


'Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts' – Christopher de Hamel

Any book written by Christopher de Hamel is always worth a second glance, but this new book – Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts – is one you will find hard to put down again! Christopher has such an easy writing style which, in this book, seems almost as ... Read more


Gilding and painting a miniature of a female martyr

I had been asked to speak at the Houghton Library, and teach and give a demonstration at Harvard as part of the wonderful ‘Beyond Words’ exhibition there. Taking a lot of tools and materials on a plane is not sensible, and so I decided to almost finish a ... Read more


The Brentwood Charters

One of the more unusual commissions I had recently was to copy out two thirteenth-century charters on to vellum panels, and write the translations underneath.

 

 

The charters granted the rights to a weekly market and an annual two-day fair to the district of Brentwood (Bois ... Read more


'Art of the Islands' by Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown is a prolific author, yet every additional book comes with new insights explained in her inimitable user-friendly way, and this volume is no exception. It covers the period from c. 450–1050 AD, that is from the departure of the Romans to the incoming of the Normans and ... Read more


Type is Beautiful

This new book by Simon Loxley ‘Type is Beautiful’ brings together fifty different fonts from Gutenberg (used from around 1454) to Zulia (designed in 2013) and many in between. It starts with a chapter explaining about type design, why we need more than one style, how letter ... Read more


An unknown book by Graily Hewitt


Graily Hewitt was a truly great craftsman. Not only did he write the ‘Illuminating’ section in Edward Johnston’s seminal work ‘Writing & Illuminating, and Lettering’ but his work is astonishingly fine, particularly his gilding on gesso. The gesso is usually laid exquisitely, with spine-tingling serifs, and ... Read more


Cobblers and cordwainers

The nursery rhyme says it all ‘Cobbler, cobbler mend my shoe’! It is cordwainers, not cobblers, who make shoes from new leather, and although the name is slightly archaic, it is still used by the Worshipful Company of Cordwainers, who received their first ordinance in 1272. There is ... Read more


Glittering Gilders

We had an early start at the London University Palæography International Summer School to ensure that the images of mediæval beasts were transferred on to prepared vellum, and the adhesive laid before a break for coffee. It was marvellous that everyone managed this, but hard and concentrated work!

 

 

The vast number of people involved in the First World War is being highlighted during these centenary years. This huge number is perhaps particularly exemplified  in the small Kentish village of Plaxtol. Over 150 men, all former pupils of the local village school, went to the front, ... Read more


Book of Hours greetings cards

So many people have asked about the Wolf Hall Book of Hours that I produced for the BBC series, and whether copies of the pages are available that I’ve had some little cards printed. They feature on the front the cutest red squirrel with long pointed ears ... Read more


Royal Regiment of Artillery Tercentenary scroll

Celebrating the 300th Anniversary of their founding, Wiltshire based Royal Artillery welcomed Her Majesty The Queen, Captain-General of The Royal Artillery, to Knighton Down in Larkhill, Wiltshire to attend a Review of the Royal Regiment of Artillery on 26 May 2016.
Raised ... Read more


St Clement Danes and the RAF

St Clement Danes, an ‘island’ church in the Strand in London, is thought to be situated on a previous church founded by the Danes in the ninth century; it is named after St Clement, patron saint of mariners. The other island church is St Mary-le-Strand and they are ... Read more


Gold on Parchment, exhibition at Cornelissen in London

It was a great privilege to work with L Cornelissen & Son at 105 Great Russell Street in London (just along from the British Museum) to mount the very first exhibition they have had at the shop. They are on a very busy thoroughfare and most people ... Read more


Wang Dongling at the V&A, London Craft Week 2016

The second London Craft Week proved to be even better than the first, if that’s possible. At the launch at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the world-renowned great Chinese calligrapher, Wang Dongling, demonstrated his great art in front of hundreds of people. It must have been ... Read more


Orpiment – it glisters but isn't gold

Orpiment, the word derived from the Latin Auripigmentum, and also known as king’s yellow, has been known since Roman times, and was a treasured pigment used in mediæval manuscripts. Its particular value was because it was yellow and could not only replace gold when it was unavailable or too ... Read more


Schools' Handwriting Competition 2016

Class A winner

Is handwriting still important and should it be taught in schools? Isn’t it better to teach keyboard skills instead?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four year-olds. In each instance, the winner is on top, the runner-up ... Read more


Colour in the pen

Some people think that calligraphy is essentially black writing with perhaps a touch of red. How limiting! Calligraphy can be any and every colour. One way of using colour that I really like is where the pen actually mixes the colour, as on the right. It’s not one ... Read more


Sheila Waters – prints now available in the UK

When Sheila Waters, the ‘Queen of Calligraphy’, according to the great Hermann Zapf, visited last summer, she left me with some glorious prints of her works. Colour sings out from all but those in black and white, and the quality is so fine that you can really see ... Read more


Vellum and Acts of Parliament II

Great news! There was a vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday 20th April 2016, on whether to continue to print Acts of Parliament on vellum or not. This is the record of the debate in Hansard. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of continuing ... Read more


Graily Hewitt – some little seen works

Graily Hewitt was one of the first students to be taught calligraphy by Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century and did a great deal to advance the knowledge and practice of gilding using gesso and leaf gold. In fact he wrote the ‘Illumination’ section in Johnston’s book – ... Read more


Ultramarine – beyond all other colours

The intense blue of ultramarine, from lapis lazuli stone, is like no other colour, as Cennino Cennini, at the beginning of the 15th century, wrote in his book ‘The Craftsman’s Handbook’ – a colour illustrious, beautiful and most perfect, beyond all other colours. It was the colour adopted for the robes ... Read more


Gappy – a celebration of a great Indian poet

It must be really difficult to write about someone you have never met but who is remembered with great affection in the family. This was the challenge for the daughter of a close friend of mine. Her grandfather was Edward Mendonça, a celebrated Indian poet, and his centenary was last ... Read more


Vellum and Acts of Parliament

Vellum has been used for printing or writing Acts of Parliament almost since they were first recorded. In 1999 there was a move to print these Acts on paper, which was defeated. However, on 14th October this year, William Cowley, who are the last vellum and parchment makers in ... Read more


Marbling paper

As with so many other aspects of writing and book binding, it seems that the Chinese and then the Japanese have been marbling paper for centuries before the Europeans. Marbling consists of floating ink or paint on a surface to create a pattern. The colour may be simply dropped on ... Read more


Sheila Waters' wonderful interpretation of 'Under Milk Wood'

Once in a generation you come across a real tour-de-force, a masterpiece, and this is the case with Sheila Waters’ illustrated and calligraphic interpretation of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. It is simply stunning! In the accompanying notes to the book Sheila writes: I realised that the manuscript I ... Read more


Mad about madder

The gorgeous rose pink used in many mediæval manuscripts comes from the root of the madder plant – rubia tinctorum. In my copy of the miniature David as a psalmist from the Westminster Psalter (see right), it is used both for David’s thick and luxurious ermine-lined cloak as well ... Read more


Illumination – Gold and Colour

It is always a great relief when a book is published and rough drafts that have been worked on for so many months or even years all come to fruition. This is exactly how I feel about my latest book – Illumination: Gold and Colour. This is just about ... Read more


Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache

It is often very confusing when starting out in calligraphy to be faced with bottles of different inks, some specifically for calligraphy, some for drawing and some for fountain pens. What’s best to use? To avoid any confusion I would strongly recommend paint rather than ink, and, in some ... Read more


Calligraphy and Ashes

Occasionally, it is so pleasing to abandon guidelines, formal letter construction, working out differences in size and script for design, incorporating illustration with lettering, and simply take a pen ‘for a walk’. I do this now and again after I’ve had a period of formal writing, as in the last few ... Read more


National Schools' Handwriting Competition 2015

In early June this year, there was an item in the news about crowd-funding to raise money to develop a font for computers. The font was based on the handwriting of Albert Einstein. The hard work had been done, but the designers wanted to add variations to letters so ... Read more


The St Cuthbert Gospel – new studies

I have already written about this gem of a book on my blog here, but this blogpost is about fesh studies on the manuscript in a new publication from the British Library edited by Claire Breay and Bernard Meehan – The St Cuthbert Gospel: Studies on the Insular Manuscript ... Read more


Teach Yourself Calligraphy

Teach Yourself Calligraphy was described by one reviewer as doing ‘exactly what it says’. It is, of course, always best to learn calligraphy from a good tutor, but for many people this isn’t possible. This book, then, could be the next best thing! It consists of the main four alphabets ... Read more


Vellum and Parchment, and a special offer

Most people are not aware that there is a difference between vellum and parchment – both being animal skin (not pretend ‘parchment’ paper). The names of skins are often used interchangeably and it can be quite difficult when looking at mediæval manuscripts to determine whether the substrate is vellum ... Read more


Eadui Basan – Edwin the Fat or Parchment?

Eadui Basan was a monk who worked from Canterbury in Kent during the earlier part of the eleventh century, and his distinctive hand has been identified in a number of manuscripts. One of the ones I particular like is that of the Eadui Psalter, on the right. The whole ... Read more


Mediæval Monsters

The British Library have done it again! This delightful little book on Medieval Monsters by Damien Kempf and Maria L Gilbert is the perfect introduction to all those fascinating creatures which delighted the mediæval mind as much as many of us today. Sometimes the monsters are familiar – the ... Read more


His Hands Magic – Michael Renton

Michael Renton was a jack-of-many-trades and a real master of all of them!  He started as wood engraver, having left Harrow Art School to ‘do’ rather than study. His apprenticeship lasted five years, but rather than the pedestrian engraving of his training, he wanted to do things more imaginatively. His ... Read more


David Kindersley Centenary Celebrations

I happened to be waiting in Exhibition Road to go into the Victoria and Albert Museum many years ago, and noticed the letter-cut sign on the wall. The more I looked at it, the more intrigued I was. The lettering looked so perfect and so even; it was cut over ... Read more


State Postillion's Jacket

At the launch of London Craft Week, Keith Levett, Director of Henry Poole & Co, tailors of Savile Row, was making a state postillion’s jacket – it was in pieces when The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall looked at it (click on the link ... Read more


The Double Crown Club

Before paper sizes were standardised as A1/2/3/4 etc, paper was named according to weight and size. Some may remember foolscap, and other paper names were Imperial, Elephant, Atlas and Antiquarian. Paper that was uncut, usually for printing had different names – Royal, Double Pott, Demy and Double Crown being some. ... Read more


Cotton to Gold Exhibition 31st January–19th April 2015

Two Temple Place is a fascinating building – it looks rather like a castle outside, built of Portland stone with a crenellated roof, stone carvings by Nathaniel Hitch, stone windows and a magnificent golden galleon weather vane of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ ship. The weathervane is significant in that it represents ... Read more


Cosmati pavements

The Cosmati pavement at Westminster Abbey, laid down in 1268 on the orders of Henry III, was covered by a carpet for over 100 years. It has recently been restored and the wonderful colours and riot of swirls and whirls has now been revealed. The pavement is particularly special because it is ... Read more


History of the Book in 100 Books

It would be difficult enough selecting 100 books just in Britain to represent the history of the book from scrolls to codices, to manuscripts to printed books to e-books. And then there’s what’s in the books – fiction, scientific books, company reports, instruction manuals, religious books – and what religions? ... Read more


Gilding and painting a mediæval letter

If you ever wanted to learn how to cut a quill, what the difference is between vellum and parchment, how to deal with real gold leaf and use it in mediæval miniatures and illuminated letters, and how to paint them, then this course is for you. We shall be ... Read more


MacDonald Gill's Westminster maps

Going in to the House of Commons through St Stephen’s Porch you pass two huge and magnificent wall maps painted by MacDonald Gill. On the left-hand side is a plan of the Houses of Parliament (see right) and on the right-hand side is a map of ‘The Cities of ... Read more


Memento mori – remember (that you have to ) die

Children dressing up as skeletons, skulls made out of sweet jelly and white chocolate bones are all part of Hallowe’en, but, as with so many of our customs, these sorts of symbols are not new. It was thought that the veil between heaven and earth was particularly thin on the night ... Read more


The stages in creating a simple commission

Calligraphy is a broad church, and just as there is a place for complicated, ‘designed’ pieces, with layered and textured backgrounds, and blocks of text of differing sizes and styles to create an exciting piece of work, so there is a place for pieces where the lettering is foremost ... Read more


The Art and History of Globes

Even around the time of Pythagoras in the 6th century BC, the ancient Greeks thought that the earth was a sphere, with Plato (c.429–347BC), a little later, likening the earth to a leather ball. Similarly, the heavens were considered to be spherical in form, and the Farnese Atlas (right) ... Read more


A sea of red poppies

Bright red poppies have become synonymous in the UK by marking the sacrifice given by those who have lost their lives in conflict. Many of us wear a poppy on Armistice Day (November 11th) having made a contribution to military charities to remember this.

 

A stunning display of brilliant ... Read more


Vellum 'music' book

I am always on the lookout for suitable quotations to write out, and, as I am keen on music, when I had a collection of phrases on the topic, I decided to do something with them.

 

 

 

 

 

It took quite a few years before I could get round to it, but I ... Read more


Mediæval stained glass at St Mary's, Fairford

Imagine what it must have been like for the typical mediæval worker in the 16th century. Rich dyes for clothes would still have been reserved for the wealthy, so the lives of ordinary people would have consisted of a palette of browns, dull dark blue, rust red, and a ... Read more


Holy Writ

Great calligraphy exhibitions in superb venues don’t come around very often. The last one, in my very biased view, was the terrific Calligraphy Today exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum Museum in Cambridge which I co-curated with the Keeper of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Dr Stella Panayotova. This was an exhibition ... Read more


Wall Memorials in Bath Abbey

We live in a different era now, and for many of us, name and life dates, and perhaps that we were a mother, father, daughter, son etc would be all we would want on our memorial. Not so in the eighteenth century when ostentation was evident not only in ... Read more


National Schools Handwriting Competition

Four year-olds hand writing

Each year schools up and down the country focus on encouraging their pupils to write their best handwriting for the National Schools Handwriting Competition, run by SATIPS and sponsored by the Manuscript Pen Company. The huge advantage of this competition ... Read more


Sand, sanders and writing

We’ve seen it so many times before. Someone in mediæval or slightly later costume picks up a full feather with a flourish, pretends to write on paper or skin, looks at what’s been written, then picks up something that looks like a salt pot, shakes a powder on the writing, looks ... Read more


Codex Amiatinus – a very English book with an Italian name


Abbott Ceofrid (pronounced Chalfrith) must have been a remarkable man. At the beginning of the eighth century, he was in charge of the twin foundations of St Peter’s at Monkwearmouth (now Sunderland) and also St Paul’s, Jarrow (right), both on or very close to the coast on the far ... Read more


Apples of Gold

Being a scribe and illuminator, I usually work in 2-D, but love, and am fascinated by, lettering in 3-D. I decided that I would experiment with the various ways of working when lettering isn’t flat and chose A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver from Proverbs ... Read more


Character Traits – Jean Larcher

Jean Larcher is one of the world’s great calligraphers. His skills and expertise in creating wonderful letter-forms is shown in many of his works, which always have an enviable  liveliness and vibrancy. He is also extremely generous. When I used to run a charity for children, schools and carers ... Read more


Shakespeare and writing

It is so heartwarming when production companies take their projects seriously enough to ensure that things are done properly, and this was the case with the forthcoming production of Shakespeare in Love in London’s West End.

I was asked to teach actor Tom Bateman (right), who is William Shakespeare in the ... Read more


A very special Book of Remembrance

I am often asked, when I’m talking to arts, general interest and history groups, what project or commission I have done which has meant the most to me. Without a doubt it’s the Books of Remembrance for Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. This year I have been ... Read more


London Tube Typeface

The London Underground has a very distinctive and unifying look with the names of the stations, directions, and the distinctive roundel. This is due to one man, and he was the calligrapher Edward Johnston. Johnston could be said to have been the father of modern calligraphy working in the first ... Read more


Masters and Apprentices

The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust’s exciting new shop and gallery space at Snape Maltings in Suffolk has a new exhibition – Masters and Apprentices. It emphasises the importance of passing on skills, and focuses on the seven letter carving apprentices funded through the Trust, as well as four generations of ... Read more


Thomas Cromwell and quills

Writing with a quill is similar to, but not the same as writing with a metal pen. It takes a bit of time to get used to the pen being ‘featherlight’ and also to control the ink flow. As part of the preparations for the BBC TV Series Wolf ... Read more


A new Book of Hours (well 6 pages!)

Over the years I have produced a number of props for television programmes and films, and have also been filmed writing as historical figures with a quill or pointy pen, or demonstrating what I do – illumination with gold and egg tempera, and writing on vellum with quills – ... Read more


Marking the Magna Carta

The original Magna Carta, or the Great Charter of the Liberties of England, was sealed (but not signed) under oath by King John in 1215 on the bank of the River Thames at Runnymede in Surrey. It limited the powers of the king and accepted that no-one could be punished ... Read more


Sixty minutes make one hour, but why?

As children, when we start to count, we usually use our fingers. We have ten of them and so ten and multiples of ten would seem to be the most natural counting system. Yet time, and the angles in a circle, don’t use the decimal system. So, why is ... Read more


St Albans' Psalter

Christina of Markyate (c1096–1155, and probably on the right, closest to Christ), first called Theodora and born in Huntingdon, was clearly a stunner, as it is recorded that various men were attracted to her. The story is that she fled from Burhred, her husband, on their wedding night, having, ... Read more


The pound in your pocket

UK £1 2013-E

It is not easy to design something meaningful which is less than a couple of cm across, but those who work on our coinage do just that. A new set of pounds coins, based on the flowers and plants of the four countries of the UK, have been released ... Read more


What's on show at the British Library?

I thought it would be helpful to have an easy link to the manuscripts on display at the British Library. Thanks to Dr Kathleen Doyle for supplying the list. I plan to update this when new manuscripts are added or are removed.

These are they:

Harley MS ... Read more

Girdle Books

Taking a book with you to read on a journey was rarely an option in mediæval times. Vellum or parchment pages, oak boards and metal hasps and clasps all resulted in a heavy book, usually far too heavy to carry around easily – as with the book on the ... Read more


Any umb-er-ellas to MAKE today?


It was the son of a shuttle weaver in Derbyshire who gave us the umbrella shape that we are so used to today. Before Samuel Fox (1815–1887), a wire drawer, developed the u-shaped frame, the ribs of umbrellas and parasols were straight, with a hinge which allowed them ... Read more


Making paper

The Chinese clearly knew a thing or two and there is evidence of paper used for wrapping (hemp wrapping paper from about 100 BC on the right) and padding from the 2nd century BC. Finishing it so that it could be used for writing had to wait until the ... Read more


Children's Handwriting

To me, the value of teaching children to write is undisputed; it is a skill that everyone should acquire. Whether they do it well, and their handwriting is a thing of beauty, is not essential – as long as it’s legible – in the same way that most can ... Read more


All Party Parliamentary Group for Art, Craft and Design Education

Visiting the Houses of Parliament is always a privilege. It is not all as originally mediæval as I would like, in that only Westminster Hall, begun in 1097 by William II (William Rufus), and ready two years later, has original features. But the work by the architects Barry and ... Read more


Llandaff Cathedral – lettering heaven!

Llandaff Cathedral is situated on one of the oldest Christian sites in Britain, and was founded where the River Taff was crossed by the Roman road. The present cathedral building dates from 1107 when the first Bishop appointed by the Normans, Urban, replaced the earlier church.

 

There is evidence ... Read more


Gold and Parchment in Sydney


The highlight for me of our brief stay in Australia was the talk on Gold on Parchment that I gave at the State Library of New South Wales. The Australian Society of Calligraphers and the State Library had done a great job of advertising ... Read more


Christmas or Xmas?

There was an article in the paper towards the end of last year which posed the question of whether people would have Christmas or Xmas. The suggestion was that Christmas would be a time of having a loving day with family and friends, caring and sharing, and Xmas would ... Read more


The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust

The Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust is now based at Snape Maltings, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, and it is wonderful to have a showcase for all the excellent work that this charity does. It was set up as a result of the founder, Harriet Frazer MBE, not being able ... Read more


The Dering Roll

The Dering Roll is the oldest roll of English coats of arms and dates from 1270–1280. In the seventeenth century it was acquired by Sir Edward Dering (1598–1644) (right), from Dering in Kent, who is described as a knight and a baronet. He bought it in the seventeenth century, ... Read more


Sheila Waters at Eighty – A Retrospective

This wonderful 50-page book was published when Sheila Waters was eighty, and encapsulates the incredible range and amazing creativity of her work. As written by her son Julian in the introduction: ‘Much more than a catalogue, this is the story of an artist, a part of family history and ... Read more


Heritage crafts and a National Honour

A great day for heritage crafts – the first national honour was awarded today, and what a day that was!

 

 

We had been advised to get there early, and so we were, and queuing with Brian Rea, from Northern Ireland Policing, and his family, at one of the wonderful ... Read more


Durham Cathedral – place of saints

It is said that St Cuthbert was the most revered saint in northern Europe before Thomas Becket was killed by the four knights in Canterbury Cathedral on 29th December in 1170. Cuthbert must have been a remarkable man for no other reason than Britain’s greatest treasure (in my opinion!) ... Read more


A modern flagellum

Beating the sin out of your body with a mediaeval flagellum may have worked in those times, but to me, this is a shocking use of beautiful writing and wonderful animal skin. I saw a flagellum first in the old British Library, when it was still housed within the ... Read more


St Vitale, Ravenna – secret pens and ink pots

Ravenna is one of the most amazing places I have been fortunate enough to visit. I was so bowled over the first time we went there that this year we went again, and if you haven’t been yet, don’t leave it too long before you go! For me one ... Read more


Golden Books – the Lindau Gospels and others

It is rare to get a ninth century book where the original jewelled cover is still attached to the book. The Lindau Gospels is one such. It was bought by John Pierpoint Morgan and was his first major manuscript purchase. The cover is simply amazing. The centre piece is ... Read more


St Cuthbert's Gospel – a rare jewel

St Cuthbert’s Gospels is one of the most covetable books I have ever had the privilege to see close up. Being within a foot or so of a seventh-century book that was found in the coffin of the important Northumbrian saint, St Cuthbert, was an amazing experience. When the ... Read more


Durham Cathedral all lit up!

Durham Cathedral like you have never seen it before. This wonderfully majestic Romanesque Cathedral, put up by the Normans to replace the original Anglo-Saxon White Church built to house St Cuthbert’s shrine, was more than colourful when, as part of the Durham Lumière Festival, images from the Lindisfarne Gospels ... Read more


Gold on Parchment

Quills, vellum and parchment (they are different!), real gold, egg tempera paints, the development of scripts, how manuscripts were made, how quills are cut, the sequence of manuscript painting, scribes, all this and more will be covered in the ‘Gold on Parchment’ session that I’ll be giving at the ... Read more


Worship and Glory exhibition

An exhibition of amazing craftsmanship and true artistry is on until December at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace. The main attraction is the twelve Litany of Loreto embroidered pieces made in the early 20th century. Sadly the RSN website contains few images, but these ... Read more


Drawing the street

A wonderful new exhibition in Newcastle-under-Lyme library is on show only until November 30th, 2013 but is well worth making the effort to get there if you can. It shows a drawn record of the buildings on the streets mainly in and around Newcastle-under-Lyme.

 

Conservation Architect Ronnie Cruwys, whose ... Read more


On the rebound – a 14th century book

Many of us don’t fully appreciate the work that has to be done behind the scenes to ensure that manuscript books in exhibitions are presented in the best possible way. In the Victoria and Albert Museum, a choir book made in Tuscany, probably Florence, in around 1380 for a ... Read more


'Gutsy lettering' and all that jazz – Michael Harvey

Some of the names of the fonts available on our computers can be quite intriguing, and the stories behind them even more so. When Michael Harvey designed his first he called it Zephyr after the car he was driving, and his later fonts were named after his passion for ... Read more


Kites flying high!

I was asked to write out this poem for a special birthday present, and was delighted when the budget stretched to calfskin manuscript vellum, and real gold leaf on gesso base. As soon as I read the words, I had an idea of the shape and feel of the ... Read more


A 'must have' diary ...

The British Library Diary for 2014 is exquisite! Page after page of fantastic manuscripts, in rich jewel-like colours, greet each week. The images are taken from the collection of Royal Manuscripts given to the nation by George II in 1757, but with additional miniatures from selected other collections too. ... Read more


Are columns always straight?

Columns have been used for thousands of years to make impressive porches over significant buildings, or to record something important, such as Trajan’s or Nelson’s Columns, and the impression is that if they weren’t straight we would notice. However, if you look really carefully at columns, such as these ... Read more


Here lies the beautifully lettered gravestone ...

It is rare to get a whole batch of beautiful gravestones, and even rarer to be able to spot the hand of real craftspeople at work. This is clearly the case in the graveyard of St Andrew’s Church in Langar, Nottinghamshire. The church is a Grade I listed building, ... Read more


Gerald Cinamon – Man of Letters

Almost without realising it our book buying is influenced many times by the design. Without knowing the contents, we select or reject a book often simply by the cover.

Gerald Cinamon, Jerry, is a past master at this. A recent publication, coinciding with an exhibition of his work at the ... Read more


Luck be a Lady ...

In my view, calligraphy doesn’t always have to be two-dimensional. I really like pieces that aren’t hung on a wall, and making calligraphy books is a favourite. I had a different idea from a book, though, and that was to make some calligraphy dice, not just any old dice, ... Read more


Roman Capitals

Lettering at the base of Trajan’s Column at one end of Trajan’s Forum in Rome is regarded by many as one of the best example of Roman Capitals. These majestical letters, with beautiful proportions, are one of the purest guides for any who want to study the proportions of ... Read more


Was Moses Born with Horns?

This very famous Michelangelo statue from the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, shows Moses with the most exuberant and lush beard, which he seems almost to caress with his left hand, which is at the same time holding the stone tablets of law. However he also has ... Read more


New Illumination book on the way

After many delays I’m now getting very excited at the publication of my new book on Illumination. I’ve updated a lot of the techniques from my previous British Library book ‘Companion to Calligraphy, Illumination and Heraldry’ (can’t believe how long ago that was published!), and it links very well with ... Read more


MacDonald Gill exhibition

MacDonald Gill

Most people have heard of Eric Gill, the great letter cutter of the first part of the last century. He carved the Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral and the Ariel figure for the BBC as well as many inscriptions. Others may ... Read more