Italic writing
Written small and suitable for use in writing letters, notes, cards, etc.

minuscule letterform characteristics and construction

Last updated: 20 December 2019

Italic (Chancery cursive) minuscules are characterized by letterforms that are narrow & sloping.

Applicable to all Chancery cursive (Italic) letterforms

In general I follow the lead of the Renaissance Italic writing Masters. Their minuscule letters are almost universally formed within an imaginary right sloping oblong -- the body width being about half of the body height with ascenders and descenders about the same length as the letter body height and with the nib maintained at a 45° angle to the base line.

Classic Italic letterform bodies are typically 5 nib widths high and are sloped to the right a few degrees.

Slope should not be too severe -- it can be varied on occasion to suit the whim of the writer. Renaissance Italic writing Masters used varying slopes with a recommendation of 5-10° or so being often specified. Of course the slope must be constant.

Although ascender/descender clashing is normally to be avoided, occasional infringement is unavoidable (especially when swashing is employed) and, if handled with discretion, is generally acceptable. I sometimes use swash descenders for the minuscule k and q.

The following exemplar illustrates how I start my letterform renditions:

Starting strokes for minuscule letterforms

The following exemplar illustrates the letters that start with a push stroke ..........

Starting push stroke depiction

.......... I have always constructed these letterforms this way whether using pencils, quills, canes, reeds, reservoired "dip" pens or fountain pens.

Descenders should be finished off slowly -- that is, you should slow down as you approach the bottom of the stroke -- just as you do when applying the brakes on your car -- and make sure there is a smooth curvature where appropriate. They should not be rushed. Most Renaissance Italic writing Masters made the ends square and flat. The following exemplar depicts how I render finishing descender strokes:

Swash minuscule exemplar

Swashed or flourished descender variants are depicted for k and q. When forming them, never forget Edward Johnston's admonition that all flourishes should "crack like a whip" -- they should never be tentative or noodle-like. You have to have courage and purpose when flourishing.

Of course, Majuscule letters are swashed and flourished to the writer's fancy.

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