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History of Graphic Design through Publications: WRITING MANUALS

Italian Writing Masters

Although typographic printing produced an inevitable decline in manuscript writing, it also created new opportunities for master calligraphers. The rapid growth of literacy created a huge demand for writing masters, and the attendant expansion of government and commerce created a need for expert calligraphers who could draft important state and business documents.

The first of many sixteenth-century writing manuals was created by Italian master calligrapher, printer, and type design Lodovico degli Arrighi (d.c. 1527). His small volume from 1522 entitled La operina da imparare di scrivere littera cancellaresca (The First Writing Manual of the Chancery Hand) was a brief course using excellent examples to teach the cancelleresca script.

Arrighi's masterful writing was meticulously cut into woodblocks by engraver Ugo da Carpi (c. 1479-1533). Arrighi's directions were so clear and simple that the reader could learn his hand in a few days.

La operina  sounded the death knell for the scriptorium as an exclusive domain for the few who could write; it rang in the era of the writing master and public writing skill.

From: Phillp Meggs, History or Graphic Design

La Operina (mid-1500s)

La Operina, 1522-24
by Ludovico Arrighi

Location: Z 43 A3 L8333 (circulating collection)

Ours is an English translation and facsimile edition, created by John Howard Benson in 1954.

La Operina was written by Ludovico Arrighi to teach italic handwriting. Each page was printed from a separate woodcut by Ugo da Carpi, who is best known as a master of chiaroscuro engraving. The book was published around 1522.


Juan de Yciar's Arte Subtilissima (mid-1500s)

Arte Subtilissima

Arte Subtilissima, 1550

Location: Z 43 A3 I3 1960 (circulating collection)

Juan de Yciar's writing manual brought the Chancery script to Spain, It focuses more on the art of the engraver. The Library owns a facsimile of the 1550 edition of Arte Subtilissima.

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