Tag Archives: Edward Johnston


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 …


Hopefully you have come to the right place. The project I am about to embark on is aimed at anyone who has a love of letterform.  Especially those who are having trouble getting started. 

First let me tell you a little about my particular journey.  A Jack of All Trades.  Always aspiring to become a master of lettering, I learned a basic italic hand at school in the fifties and was lucky some time later to come across Edward Johnston’s WRITING ILLUMINATING AND LETTERING UK ISBN 0 273 01064 6.  Bang! A scribe was born. It took some years to find a local evening class (20 wks) where I soon found myself helping fellow students with their struggles.  Very soon after this teaching at evening classes until the dreaded red tape meant that I would need to  gain some teaching qualifications if I were to continue. Since then I have taught at a church group and for the last 6 years have been lucky enough to lead a Calligraphy workshop/retreat at Belmont Abbey in Hereford.

Any scribe will tell you that people wrongly assume that if you can put letters on paper you will be able to paint them on to almost anything. Sadly  brushwork is a whole new technique to master. Here I was lucky enough to enrol in a one year full-time course and then worked for some time as a sign-writer but never lost my love of penmanship. If one is interested in learning the sign-writer’s craft I can heartily recommend Bill Stewart’s SIGNWORK  A CRAFTSMAN’S MANUAL ISBN 0-246-12195-5.


Watch this space!