The essentials of lettering - PDF by Thomas Ewing French

The essentials of lettering; a manual for students and designers

The essentials of lettering
The essentials of lettering


From the preface:


There are two general classes of persons among those who are interested in the study of the subject of lettering, first, those who have to use letters to convey information on drawings, such as engineering students and draftsmen, architects, etc.; second, those who use lettering in design, as art students, artists, designers and craftsmen. 

The foundation is the same for both, whether the application is on a mechanical drawing or a poster. The first class may be concerned mainly with legibility and speed, and the second with beauty, but there can be no distinction in the principles of the subject. 

There is moreover a constant overlapping of the classes thus arbitrarily divided, for example in the case of the architect, who has both to letter his office drawings and to design permanent inscriptions. One need only to recall on the one hand instances of the painful attempts of the engineering student to do something "artistic," and on the other the examples of designs made by otherwise competent art students, which have been ruined by inappropriate, ill-formed, childish lettering, to feel that there are some in both classes who have failed in the appreciation of lettering as an art. This book is designed as a general textbook on the subject. 

The draftsman may take up as much as is given in the first part, for the ordinary lettering in connection with drawing; the designer will need to go further into the study of styles and composition as carried on in the later chapters.

 A student in an engineering course must be given training in lettering as a necessary requirement in the execution of technical drawing, but it is too often true that this lettering on account of its application is considered to be mechanical drawing. Let it be emphasized here at the outset that lettering is not a mechanical drawing, but is designed, based on accepted forms and developed freehand. 

We have taken a step further in saying that there is no engineers' lettering as distinguished from another lettering. There is simply the adaptation by each draftsman of the style suitable to his particular needs. The map draftsman, the architectural draftsman, and the machine draftsman will each select appropriate letters for his kind of work. "Engineers' lettering," so-called, is kept in bad repute by those who persist in making such mechanical caricatures as geometrical letters, block letters, etc. 

As there are forms, however, for each branch of drawing which is particularly adapted to it, the subject should be taught to engineers with reference to their chosen branch. The civil engineer, for example, will practice the Modern Roman and the stump letter, as these have become standard letters in map drawing and similar work. 

The architect, on the other hand, will have no use for the Modem Roman but should study in detail the Old Roman of both the early and Renaissance periods. To the engineering student, it may seem to be only of general interest, but to the architect, art student, and designer, some knowledge of the history of the alphabet and the different periods of its development is absolutely essential. I

t is not in our province to discuss the origin or derivation of the present alphabet, for this the student if interested is referred to the standard works on palaeography; but a short historical outline is given in the first chapter in order that subsequent references may be understood. It will be noticed that in the analytical plates the letters have been arranged in their family groups instead of in the usual alphabetical order. 


the book details :
  • Author: Thomas Ewing French -  Robert Meiklejohn
  • Publication date:1912
  • Company: New York [etc.] : McGraw-Hill book company

  • Download The essentials of lettering - PDF -3.9 MB - illustrated



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