Lately, I’ve been practicing English Roundhand capitals with my quill pens. After a long time working with lower case letters, it’s fun to let loose a little and swoosh around the page! John Jenkins, the American writing master, gives a whole new set of “principal strokes” for forming the capital letters, and you can see how much more room for swooping there is compared to the lower case strokes.
Like the lower case letters, Jenkins groups most of the capitals together by shape. For example, P, R, and B all begin with a downward “Body stroke” that curves gracefully back up to the top so that the pen is ready to form the head of each letter.
The system breaks down a bit, though, in trying to get all the capital letters onto two plates. Somehow O is missing entirely, and there are two versions of the letter V. One, at the bottom right of the image above, is just a lower case v enlarged, while the other is a pointy letter like N, M, and W.
Although I find all the curvy strokes really fun to play with, they also make it more difficult to get the letter forms just right. With so many compound curves and so few parallel angles, it’s hard to get them all arranged proportionally. Most of the letters are designed to be made in just a few connected strokes, so one is expected to make all those complex curves without lifting the pen from the page! For a few of the letters I actually traced my models to get the feel for them in my hands and to see what they looked like on my paper. Getting the size of the flourishy curves at the beginning and ending of the letters right is a challenge, too- too small and they look cramped, but a little too big, and they draw attention away from the important strokes of the letter.
For comparison, the capitals from the 1787 edition of George Bickham’s Young Clerk’s Assistant have a few stylistic differences but are mostly similar. If Bickham were grouping letters though, he’d put P and R with D rather than with B. Interesting! I think I prefer these more droopy initial flourishes on letters like I and J- they don’t run the risk of looking like the cross stroke of the T:
*Since I’m a huge fan of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series, whenever I look at the titles of John Jenkin’s plates, all I can think of is Sir William Lucas: