Wednesday, 30 December 2020

I have a new book to share!

Over the last year and a half or so, I've been working on the drafts for a tablet woven alphabet in the double-face structure and they're finally up for sale as Tablet Weaving in Theory and Practice: Double-Face Inscriptions

Black, white and red tablet woven bands that read "Psalmorum codex Anno domini 1457"
The image from the front of my new book, reading "Psalmorum codex Anno domini 1457"

You could say that this project began over a decade ago when I bought my copy of Linda Hendrickson's wonderful book Please Weave a Message, which remains one of the most well-thumbed volumes on my tablet weaving shelves (after Peter Collingwood's Techniques of Tablet Weaving, of course). I was utterly enchanted by her work and desperately wanted to follow in her footsteps and design a font of my own, but didn't yet have the know-how to do it. 

Tablet woven bands in black, red and yellow, woven with contrasting text
A group of bands I wove back in 2013 as competition prizes using one of the fonts from Linda Hendrickson's book (you can definitely tell that I didn't know what kerning was at the time)


Fast forward to the summer of 2017 when I had a number of long train journeys to while away (one of my favourite times to sketch patterns) and the idea took hold again. I drafted out full minuscule and majuscule alphabets based on a few pages from the Mainz Psalter that I'd found while searching for a suitable source (not a large enough sample size to make assumptions about the shapes of some of the minuscule letters, as it would later turn out). I then set aside the drafts until I had time to weave them. This was delayed by work on my first book in 2018, then again by my second book in early 2019. From August 2019, I was finally able to spend time on my letter drafts again. The original publishing deadline I set myself was November 2019, as I already had the drafts ready to go, but it coming back to them, I was able to see problems with their shapes, particularly the width of the lower case letters.

A photograph of a blue, yellow and red tablet woven band and a blue, black and white tablet woven band, each with differently shaped letters
The sample woven from my first attempt at the drafts (top) and the next sample after the redesign (bottom)


I stumbled upon the digitised version of the John Rylands Library copy of the Mainz Psalter online, which, after many hours of study, gave me the information I needed to re-work my letters. As the Rylands happens to be in the same city as me, I was able to become a library member and visit their Reading Room to look at some of their material about the Psalter (including a folio of hand written notes from 1888 by Russel Martineau, assistant keeper of the British Museum Library). I put off the launch date to March so that I could work in everything that I had learned.

Two black, red and white tablet woven bands featuring letters of different shapes
Two more sample bands, with the final one from my book at the bottom


Well, March came and March went. I had been almost ready for the first round of copy editing, when I started assembling words from my letters and directly comparing them to the Psalter, only to find that they really weren't right. I started to re-work the minuscule letters again, but when the pandemic hit, I decided to take a break. After all, it had been my free-time activity for 8 months at that point. I think the time it gave me away from the project helped me to come back to it fresh, with a more critical mind. It also helped that I had spent some of the intervening months doing further research on the Psalter.

A photograph of a jumbled heap of black, red and white tablet woven bands featuring different letters
The final black and white samples that are featured in my new book

From August this year I went back to it in earnest, using the chance to weave something from my unwoven patterns folder (I published the pattern as Tic Tac Toe elsewhere on this blog) as a carrot to help me to finish the sample bands. After multiple redesigns, 7 warps, a lot of graph paper and many, many hours staring at the digitised version of the Rylands copy of the Psalter, the drafts eventually took on their final form. I hope you enjoy them and put them to good use in your own weaving. They include full upper and lower case alphabets, with alternate versions of some of the letters, plus 17 scribal abbreviations, punctuation, ligatures, joined letters, and instructions for using the characters to construct Roman numerals. You'll also find details of the way the characters were used in the Mainz Psalter and instructions on replicating the way the compositors assembled words.

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