Lesson No 1. Roundhand

We are going to begin with a Roundhand alphabet, also known as the humanist or foundational hand, as formulated by Edward Johnston in his book, Writing & Illuminating & lettering.

This is a beautiful example of what we aim to achieve.

REMEMBER. 2 clicks on each image to magnify to huge proportions.

There are FREE downloadable worksheets   Best viewed as a slide show to begin with.

And do have a look at Richard’s worksheets for even more insight into  this fascinating journey.

And a video, probably best viewed full-screen, to show how it’s done.

The same demonstration with a commentary but on a massive scale.

Calligraphy.roundhand alphabet.double pencil.img.jpg

You don’t have to use double pencil;  if you would rather use a pen, go ahead, but you will find if you use my method to start with, you will be able to see clearly how the strokes are made and how they join up.  Any mistakes are glaringly obvious.  There are 2 or 3 instances on the video that are not quite right – I wonder if you will notice.

Just remember to use 4 nib-widths for the lower case o-height and to leave space for the ascenders and descenders.  For example, if the o-height is 1”, then the whole letter needs 3 lines and 3”.  Your nib needs to be kept at approximately 30 degrees to the writing line except when writing w, x, y and z – here it is better to change to 45 degrees.  Even when practising it is a good idea to try and get the spacing right.  This can only be done by eye, but a good guide is to remember that OO are close, O l are further apart and l  l further still.

You may ask, “Why start with this alphabet and not Blackletter or Italic?” All I can say is, trust me.  If you can do a reasonable version of what is set out here, plus  Roman Capitals which comes next, all other hands are a doddle, ha ha!


I have set out here not to teach fancy lettering, but good lettering.  A page of well-made and well-spaced letters is a thing of great beauty and something to which we should all aspire.

People say, “I wish I could write like that”. “You must have a gift.”

I wasn’t born with this ability:  my gift is, having seen this beauty on the written page, to actually want to sit for hours and try to emulate those scribes of yore, and yes, all the beautiful work that is being done today.

You can write like that if you really want to practice, practice, practice.  I am still practicing.

See also Luton Calligraphy Workshops

Keep watching this space …

31 responses to “TIME TO GET TO WORK.

  1. Pingback: A Calligraphy Workshop at Jewels. | BILL'S SPACE

  2. Very usefull, I can’t wait to begin.
    This Sunday i’ll start exercising


  3. The ancient manuscript is very clear and beautiful, where did you find it? Is possible view it in the internet?


  4. terrific work Bill – you are are real Calligraphic evangelist – maybe you should change your name to Billy Grant ha ha


  5. Pingback: The Foundational or Roundhand Alphabet. With thanks to Richard Crookes. | BILL'S SPACE

  6. This is great, thank you! Its difficult at first but I can definitely see how this can help a lot! I will keep practicing 🙂


  7. Pingback: Luton Calligraphy Workshops | BILL'S SPACE

  8. i have just came across your page today and im currently printing out the Roundhand sheets to practice with. Ive went to my local shop and bought 2 pencils, a rubber, a sharpner, and rubber bands and im all set!!! so excited, hope i have the skill! i love this calligraphy! THanks for your help, will make my way through all your lessons. Kim from Scotland


    • Hi Kim.

      Thanks for your feedback. Welcome to the world of letters. I hope the lessons help you to get started and keep your interest.
      Please don’t hesitate to let me know how you are getting on and if you have problems on the way.

      Cheers. Bill.


      • Hey, completed my roundhand alphabet and just practised writing some family names and they turned out well. Now off to Lesson 2. Thanks im enjoying it!!!


      • Hi Kim.
        Well done. We all have to start somewhere and the roundhand script is the best place.
        Perfect that and the roman capitals and they will stand you in good stead.


  9. Hey bill iv got a calligraphy pen now……..a 4B. can you get bigger widths as id like to create larger writing, as i practised with 2 pencils then this pen seems rather small but i am enjoying using it. thanks


    • Hi Kim.
      As you trawl through these pages you will find quite a few nibs of a larger size.
      The Mitchell Poster set is a good place to start.
      You will also find ‘Automatic’ pens in sizes up to one inch, and Pilot Parallel pens of which I would recommend the 6mm size.
      Other online art suppliers like Scribblers have similar products,including flat brushes.
      You could try cutting your own from Bamboo. So lots of options
      Many thanks for getting in touch.
      Cheers. Bill.


  10. Love this art:) Im going to start…. Thank you Bill!!!!!!!!!!


  11. This website is wonderful! So many useful pieces of advice! I just started practicing calligraphy and am looking forward to each lesson. Thank you very much!


  12. Pingback: A Calligraphy Workshop at the Red Dot Gallery | BILL'S SPACE

  13. Pingback: Getting Started in Calligraphy | BILL'S SPACE

  14. thank you for the wonderful worksheets. I was asked to teach a How-to class on calligraphy since I have been using it and practicing for the better part of 25 years. However, when it came down to Breaking it down for people I couldn’t figure out the best way to explain it to people who had seen it, but never done it. Your worksheets are a godsend. Thank you again!


  15. I love it


  16. Wow, using the double pencil is genius. Can one use the standard yellow ridged pencils or do you recommend the smooth cylinders I see in the video? I can see how it really highlights correct stroke formation and holding at the right angle. I tried learning calligraphy as a teen years ago and just couldn’t figure it out. My 8 year old asked to learn and I’m online researching to find things. This is just great and I feel more confident in showing her using this method first.


    • Hi Amanda. It’s good to know that youngsters are still being captivated by beautiful letters and that parents are willing to help. The shape of pencil has no bearing whatsoever just as long as the two pencils are firmly held together. You will find that your eight year old gets even more enjoyment from two coloured markers and a large sheet of paper to work on. Perhaps wallpaper? There is a page on the blog especially aimed at teaching the art to children. Good luck. I hope you both continue to have fun with this very rewarding hobby. Cheers!


  17. Darshna Juthani

    Hello thank you for the awesome content. I like your advice and lessons on calligraphy!
    I am unable to download the worksheets mentioned on this page. Could you please help me? Thanks



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