A celebration of calligraphy - the introduction to the book
This is an exhibition to celebrate not only the art of calligraphy itself but the 75th anniversary of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators (the SSI), an anniversary which coincides with two other calligraphic anniversaries. One is the centenary of the founding of the Central School of Arts and Crafts where, in 1898, under the principalship of William Lethaby, Edward Johnston, the father of modern calligraphy, began his teaching. The other is the death of
William Morris, a pioneer of the calligraphic revival. There will be a major exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum from 9 May to 1 September 1996 'celebrating the life and work of [this] charismatic and influential British designer'.
For the SSI this is the second major exhibition to be held at Leighton House. The first was The Art of the Scribe' in 1981, which marked a revival after a gap of about 12 years during which we held no exhibitions. This present exhibition emphasizes the SSI's position at the pinnacle of excellence, reflecting an absolute insistence on high standards and artistic
maturity, which is central to its constitution. Hence the relatively small exhibition of top
quality work, allowing spectators to absorb each exhibit in depth without feeling
overwhelmed by quantity.
Covering a time span of 75 years, from Graily Hewitt's and Ida Henstock's Carew Memorial (circa 1920) up to the present day, the changes in style and fashion are fascinating. The exhibition is divided into two parts. The historical section shows some of the best work from previous decades. These were selected by three senior scribes who began with a well researched list of works available for borrowing. Initially, this list contained the names of six influential scribes from each decade. To this were added pieces known personally to the
selectors. Between them they viewed all these items. Some scribes span two or more
decades and some years and scribes were more prolific than others, so after circulating
and re-circulating the lists, with comments and recommendations, work was chosen to
give a good balance for each decade.
The contemporary work underwent a rigorous selection procedure, which took place in several stages over the course of 2 days. The first and longest part took up the whole of the first day and overlapped into the second. It divided the work into three sections, 'yes', 'no' and 'undecided'.
The second day began with a review of the 'no' section, when some pieces were transferred to 'undecided'. After this, the 'yes' and 'undecided' sections were set out adjacent to each other, to evaluate the possible overall balance. Next came the selection from 'undecided' into 'yes' or 'no', some pieces being reviewed over and over again, after which all framed exhibits in the revised 'yes' category were reviewed and some were taken out. Following this was
selection and integration of the 'undecided' non-framed pieces. Finally, there was an overview of all chosen exhibits.
Throughout the process, the selectors were constantly stopping to discuss points which arose and to reassess the show in its entirety. All the time, quality was the prime factor,
after which came a balance which would achieve a varied and lively show, representative of the SSI at this time.
The five selectors for the contemporary section represented a wide spectrum of specialities and shared a recognition of top quality work. They set a really high standard and were totally impartial. It was a difficult and exhausting task, for which we thank them most sincerely. Thanks also go to Tom Kemp, Exhibition Secretary, for his meticulous planning and administration, to Sally Teague and her behind-scenes team who effected the smooth running of the selection days, and to all members who sent in work, giving the panel a really wide selection from which to choose and, of course, to Richard Middleton, the Exhibition
Here, then, is shown a progression of top quality original calligraphy. However, perhaps it is not widely known that some of the most influential type designs have also been produced by artists with a calligraphic background, such as Eric Gill's Gill Sans, Joanna and his most famous Perpetua; Hermann Zapf's Optima, Palatino (in which this catalogue is set) and Melior; and designs by Jan van Krimpen, Jan Tschichold, Rudolph Koch and Berthold Wolpe.
Today's task for the SSI is perhaps twofold: to provide letters for contemporary needs and to produce beautiful pieces of original work, both formal and informal, all at the very highest standard, and go to continue setting an example which will enhance and enrich our lives. Wendy Selby
What this book includes
- SSI: A Tradition of Fine Lettering – an essay by Gerry Fluess.
- The Element Flow – An essay by Donald Jackson
- 85 stunning pieces in full colour from the exhibition curetted by the SSI to celebrate the 75th anniversary from artists that include: Daisy Alcock, Margaret Alexander, Marie Angel, Jan Barger, Irene Base, Derek Benney, Brenda Berman, Ann Hechle, Graily Hewitt, James Honeywood, David Howells, Susan Hufton, Dorothy Hutton, Anne Irwin, Donald Jackson, Juliet Jeffery, Edward Johnston, Tom Kemp, Denis Brown, Liz Burch, Ann Camp, Heather Child, Gareth Colgan, Anne Cox, Tony Curtis, Hazel Dolby, Alfred Fairbank, Gerald Fleuss, Heleen Franken, Ian Garrett, Gaynor Goffe, Christopher Haanes, Gillian Hazeldine, Jean Larcher, Audrey Leckie, Elizabeth MacDomnic, Abdul Lateef Madaki, Dorothy Mahoney, Janet Mehigan, Richard Middleton, Charmian Mocatta, Polly Morris, Timothy Noad, Mervyn C. 0liver, Joan Pilsbury, Ros Pritchard, Rosemary Ratcliffe, Michael Rust, Annet Stirling, Thomas Swindlehurst, Sally Teague, Alison Urwick, Madelyn Walker, Sheila Waters, Irene Wellington, Wendy Westover, Jean Whitcomhe, Anthony Wood and John Woodcock.
Interested in learning more about the work of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators?
Click here to go to the SSI Page within this web-site.
1st edition, 1996, paperback, 64pp, full colour throughout, 21 x 29.7cm