Italic writing Introduction
My "Cataneo based" everyday Italic writing hand

Last updated: 20 December 2019

I have always strived to render beautiful and elegant writing of small size - <3mm (<1/8") minuscule letter body height that can be rendered with comfort and ease in everyday use.

[Introductory exemplar of my everyday italic handwriting]

As a young Calligraphy student I was initially tutored in rendering all writing using square cut chisel edged steel nib pens that came with small metal reservoirs installed (occasionally hand cut goose quills or canes with home made metal reservoirs). Later, when I became especially interested in Italic writing, I began using edged nib fountain pens with modified iridium tipped nibs or square cut chisel edged nibs.

One day -- sometime in the 1980s -- I was perusing the shelves of a local used book store when I came across the following title by Stephen Harvard, the eminent calligrapher and designer:

Example of my Practical Italic
writing hand

It included twenty facsimile exemplar pages written by Cataneo accompanied by explanatory notes by Stephen Harvard. I had not seen this book mentioned in any of my references, but when I leafed through it I was immediately struck by the beauty and elegance of Cataneo's exquisite Chancery cursive hand and subsequently based most my of minuscule letterforms on his. I do, however, still use my adaptations of some of the minuscule and Majuscule letterforms of Ludovico (Vicentino) del Arrighi -- my other favorite renaissance practitioner and teacher of Chancery cursive (Italic) handwriting.

Bennardino Cataneo was Writing Master (maestro di scrivere) at the University of Siena, Italy, c. 1544-1560. The only known surviving exemplars of his writing are the pages in this copybook, dated 4 February 1545. As Mr. Harvard points out, ".......... virtually each letter stands alone; there are none of the diagonal joins that inevitably develop in a true running script." Following are exemples of my minuscule letterforms based on those of Cataneo:

I have employed this style of minuscule writing for the past few years to write most of my correspondence and notes. These days I use a Manuscript brand fountain pen with an extra fine nib (which produces approx. <3mm {<1/8"} high minuscule letter forms) and Waterman bottled fountain pen ink (via converters), mostly on Rhodia pad paper (or Strathmore series 400 2ply Bristol board) which l lay out using .5mm lead pencil base lines (only) at 3/8" (10 mm) line spacing.

I do not base my Majuscule letter forms on those of Cataneo, preferring instead my own adaptations of the Majuscules of other Renaissance Masters -- especially those of Arrighi -- and some of my own developments. Similarly, I use classic Roman capitals (Monumentalis capitalis) and humanistic small Roman writing (lettera antica) for my supplemental writing hands (headers, emphasized text, gloss, etc.) instead of the sometimes stylized letter forms of Cataneo.

Exemplars illustrating my current everyday writing including swash Majuscules:


The First Writing Book, Arrighi's Operina
by John Howard Benson, Yale University Press, New Haven

A book of scripts
by Alfred Fairbank, Faber and Faber, London

An Italic Copybook
The Cataneo Manuscript

by Stephen Harvard, Taplinger Publishing Co. Inc., New York, N.Y.

Masters of the Italic Letter
Twenty-Two Exemplars from the Sixteenth Century

by Kathryn A. Atkins, David R. Godine, Publisher Inc., Boston, Massachusetts

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