Filed under: Foundational Hand
After studying Roman Capitals, next on the list is the Foundational Hand, sometimes called Roman Minuscules. The Foundational Hand are the lower-case letters written beside Roman Capitals.
As with the Roman Capitals we need to study the proportion of the letters before we pick up a calligraphy pen and make a start with some sample sheets. You will produce much better letterforms by learning the structure and proportions of each letter.
The letters of the Foundational Hand have different widths; the obvious example is the letter i compared to the letter m or w. Each letter can be grouped according to its widths. So, instead of having 26 letters of different widths, there are in fact only 2 groups of letters, plus a few odd sized letters to learn.
Ascenders, Descenders and x-height
Some of the Foundational Hand letters have ascenders and descenders. Ascenders are strokes that go above the x-height of the letter. Descenders are the strokes that go below the write-line of the letters. X-height refers to the height of letters that have no ascender or descender i.e. the height of the letter x. I guess it could have been called the a-height or o-height etc.
Groups of Letters
The Foundational Hand has two main groups of letters.
The 3/4 Width Group
The letters in this group are a, f, g, h, k, l, n, r, s, t, u, v, x, y and z. These letters basically fit in to the rectangle part of our grid, which is three-quarters the width of the square.
Letters n, r, t, u, v, x, y and z are straight-forward. The letters v and y are the same except the second stroke extends to the length of a descender when writing the y.
The letter h is the same as the letter n except it has an ascender. The letter l is similar to the letter b, except it is not as wide.
The 7/8 Width Group
The letters in this group are b, c, d, e, p and q. All these letters are based on the circle, but none of them are the full width of the circle.
|In many ways b and d are very similar as are p and q.|
|Letters c and e are almost full circles.|
We have 5 letters of the alphabet left to construct, but none of them belong to either of our two main groups.
|Letters i and j are linear, except j has a curved descender based on a small circle.|
The letter m is simply two n letters ‘stuck together’. The same is true for w which two v letters drawn together. This actually makes m and w have an overall width of 1.5, which makes them the widest letters in the alphabet.
Finally, the letter o is simply the full circle.