Learning and practising Copperplate is sometimes not enough to achieve this beautiful writing. Knowing these three Copperplate fundamentals makes it easier to understand its characteristics, and it will improve the accuracy of your practice too.
1- The name Copperplate derives from a printing process.
The name of this script was initially English Round Hand. Thanks to having fewer strokes than the Italic Hand and its high readability, it was ideal for clerk and secretarial writing. Business companies of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made it the standard. The need for highly qualified scribes resulted in Master Penmen opening schools.
Additionally, the significant amount of students made it essential to count on practice books for their training. Skilled engravers produced them by transcribing the Master’s script into copper plates for printing. And because of that, this hand started to be known as Copperplate. Next time you look at a printed book showing a text written in Copperplate, as ‘The Universal Penman’ by George Bickham shows below, you will see the ability of an engraver and not the skills of a Master Penman. Don’t despair if your writing is a bit shaky. Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of being able to use Copperplate to express yourself.
2- Copperplate is not a continuous writing flow.
Even though the letters seem to flow from one to the next in an undisrupted sequence, a sum of individual strokes forms them. To position each stroke, sometimes, it is necessary to reposition the pen before starting a new stroke. This precise and calculated movement prevents the pen from writing over the paper softened by the ink. Using repetition of basics shapes also improves the consistency of your writing. Instead of 26 different shapes, you can form words with just over ten basic strokes plus some special ones. It is easier to group letters depending on a particular stroke. You will be writing the same shape instead of jumping from one to another. I managed to gather letters in five groups, but other calligraphers may find another way; why don’t you try and see how many you get?
3- Copperplate is still evolving as a script.
Nowadays, some calligraphers keep proposing different methods of understanding and writing Copperplate. To name just a few, Paul Antonio and Rachel Yallop proposals are innovative and creative approaches to Copperplate. For me, their books are a source of inspiration and knowledge, and they are always at hand in my studio.
The method called ‘A Ying and Yang Approach’, developed by Paul Antonio, shows four different ways of understanding the construction of the letters’ shapes. His book contains clear instructions and numerous examples that support his method. He also produced a video that clearly explains his theory. It is an excellent aid for students new to Copperplate.
Rachel Yallop published two books that are full of step-by-step letter formation and beautiful samples. Both books complement each other. For beginner students, it’s better to start with the one called ‘A Simple Copperplate Manual’. It covers all the necessary and essential concepts to start writing in Copperplate. The second book, with a black front cover, presents three creative variations. These books offer an elegant design and well-curated material, proving without a doubt, Rachel’s skills in Calligraphy and Graphic Design.
I hope you find this post enlightening and encouraging. And, please, give Copperplate a chance if you haven’t tried it before. It is my favourite script by far and I am sure you will love it too!
Kind regards and until next week!