lettering in Bruges

I recently spent some time in Bruges and I knew there would be some lettercutting work around the place, as Pieter and Kristoffel Boudens work there. Their father was a calligrapher. There were several I came across, and there are examples below. I have to say I liked some more than others in terms of design, some seem rather dated or not to my taste, but there’s no doubting the quality of the workmanship and cutting. I am unsure if all these examples are Boudens pieces, as there are others such as Brody Neuenschwander working in Bruges (although he is mainly a calligrapher). I suspect from what I know of their work they may be mainly Pieter Boudens pieces, but I’m not entirely sure.

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Ditchingham visit

I installed a memorial in Ditchingham cemetery this week and had my customary wonder around looking at the church and old stones while the foundation I had prepared was going off. There are a lot of good examples of memorials here from the 18th & 19th Centuries and into the 1930’s too which was refreshing. I have uploaded a few to my flickr site but my favourite is below. It was carved in 1717, in York stone, and is a beautifully balanced design incorporating skull carving, a good shape and spacing and really deeply carved lettering. It looks like it will last a few more hundered years yet. This stone would be completely illegible and worn away had it not been designed and carved so well, I feel the carver really understood this material, and what weight to carve the lettering and the right boldness of shape and sculpting of the carved elements. It was a little difficult to photograph as it is in a dark, sheltered spot near the church entrance.

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cross keys

This cross key carving is a partner piece to the PAX carving shown in my blog dated 20 January (shown again here). They are built into the wall of St Benedict’s Church, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, built in 1857. The PAX carving is higher up and was more tricky to photograph.

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The Cross Keys symbol represents St Peter.

Morston stone with a story to tell

This memorial is in Morston churchyard, near Blakeney. It is both unusual and powerful. It is unusual in that it is slate, which is rare in Norfolk. The power lies in the wording of the inscription.

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“In memory of Wm Luce son of Wm and Anna Luce. Drowned from a perventive boat * Febry 26th 1854 leaving a tender mother to lament an only son. Aged 22.

Death no warning to me gave, but quickly sent me to my grave, when far from friends remote from home, the depths received my last sad moan. Drowned without a tender mother’s care to sooth my cold heart nor hear my parting prayer.”

*  A “perventive boat” was a kind of anti-smuggling vessel.

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There is also some interesting tall ship graffiti scratched into the stone, and some initials, which remind me of the ship graffiti scratched into the choirstalls in Salthouse Church down the road from Morston. Perhaps this graffiti was carved by other families whose loved ones travelled on the tall ships in those days, and they wanted in some superstitious way to try and ensure safe passage.

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an old friend in Holt Churchyard, Norfolk

I installed a memorial today in Holt churchyard and revisited one of my favourite stones from the early 19th Century (1809). It has a wonderful carving at the top featuring images relating to “passing on” with the trumpeting angel, skeleton and coffin. The vicar told me that the choirmaster used to insert two matchsticks in the eyes of the small skull, light them, and warn the children that if they couldn’t run right around the church before the matches went out that the Devil would get them. Charming.

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TEMPUS STET

I came across this wonderful sign on a walk the other day, in Heydon.

let time stand still
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I photographed it and gave it a tap to hear the satisfying ding of cast iron – but found it was made of plastic. I still like it though. The lettering reads TEMPUS STET NFK

let time stand still in Norfolk……….

Blythburgh Church flint lettering

This is an example of the lettering I referred to in my previous blog about flint lettering in Woodbridge – the image below is of the outer wall of Holy Trinity church, Blythburgh. It’s a fantastic church, well worth a visit if you’re in Suffolk.

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here is another image taken from Holy Trinity’s website (thanks to them) and some notes to help to explain what the lettering may mean:

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At the east end, a curious series of initials in Lombardic script stretch across the outer chancel wall. You can see an image of this in the left hand column. It reads A-N-JS-B-S-T-M-S-A-H-K-R. This probably stands for Ad Nomina JesuS, Beati Sanctae Trinitas, Maria Sanctorem Anne Honorem Katherine Reconstructus (‘In the name of the blessed Jesus, the Holy Trinity, and in honour of holy Mary, Anne and Katherine, this was rebuilt’). A fanciful theory is that they are the initials of the wives of the donors. However, note the symbol of the Trinity in the T stone, and I think this is a clue to the whole piece.

German lettering design

Some wonderful German lettering.

The first image here shows the lettering produced by the workshop of Sepp Jacob in Germany. The work he produced was very sculptural and direct and a wonderful blend of good strong lettering and an understanding of materials. This piece reminds me of the German font Neuland which was designed by Rudolf Koch.

Neuland is based on the handwriting of Rudolf Koch (as are all of his typefaces). Its simplicity and unusual shapes derive from the difficult and demanding art of punchcutting. In fact, it may be the only typeface designed by actually cutting the punches; Koch made no preliminary drawings, it is almost as though the punches themselves were sculpted, and these were then used in casting the type itself. Neuland was designed in 1923 and it became enormously popular as an advertising typeface. It is a sans serif, all-capital design with angular features, obliqued strokes and a slight concavity to some of the vertical strokes. Used with restraint, it can lend power and persuasion to display work, as it did when forming the basis for titles appearing in the film Jurassic Park.

Optima is another wonderful example of German lettering design. It was designed by Hermann Zapf, Contemporary German calligrapher, teacher, book designer and one of the 20th century’s most significant type designers. In the mid 1930’s Zapf studied the writing manuals of Rudolf Koch and Edward Johnston and taught himself. Zapf has designed some of the 20th century’s most important fonts, including Palatino and Optima, and some of my other favourites such as Michaelangelo, Sistina, and the wonderfully calligraphic Zapfino.

PAX relief carving

Pax limestone carving
Pax - click to enlarge

I discovered this beautiful carving high on a church wall in Stratton-on-the-Fosse where I was installing a memorial. I really like the combination of deep carving and delicate form. The dark shadows are what make the carving “read” well.

It is very important to think about depth when carving both relief work or lettering. Generally the deeper the incision the better the result, and the longer the piece will last, the only exception I can think of would be where undercutting within the carving could result in water being trapped and subsequent freezing and expansion of the water could weaken or break out parts of the carving. Shallow carving or lettering will suffer from reduced legibility and not last long at all. I have had clients come to me to replace work that was only carved 20 years ago. Good quality deeply cut inscriptions should last for centuries.