Historical Review Workshops

UPDATE: The workshop will now start at 1:00 p.m. (and end at 5 p.m.), to avoid conflict with the marathon. The location has been changed to Margaret Morrison room 121.

For many years Myrna Rosen has been a student of the historic evolution of the Roman
(Latin) alphabet and wants to share some of that knowledge with the Guild.

Archaeologists have agreed that writing first appeared about 3100 BC. The alphabet
concept was invented by the Etruscans founded in what is now central Italy
(Tuscany-Umbria), It was brought to Greece by the Phoenician mariners in the 9th or
10th Century. The Phoenician alphabet was so greatly improved by the Greeks by
adding vowels that it needed only slight changes for the next 3,000 years of
existence. This alphabet became the basis for all contemporary European scripts. The
Latin language and scripts were carried by Roman legionnaires to all parts of the
Roman Empire and from there churchmen and missionaries carried it still further
afield. Another alphabet similar to Phoenician was called Aramaic which was brought
to what we now call Syria. Aramaic was the alphabet used to write many books of the
Old Testament.

Myrna will discuss the evolution from pictures such as, the bull, house, water, and
other familiar objects, to the letters of the various alphabets. The need for speed
and the availability of new tools and materials also added to the evolution of
letters. Voila! the design of our letters was established. Where would we be without
the long difficult processes which led to the birth of writing—“THE ALPHABET”,
another invention of the wheel.

Myrna has agreed to conduct a year-long workshop, tentatively a day or half day each
month. It will be a review of the development of letter styles and when they were in
use in the western world. This will be a hands-on project to include the major
historic hands beginning with the Capitalis Quadrata Monumental Square Caps, a pen
written version of the Trajan capitals. Then we’ll move onto Rustic Caps,
transitioning into Uncials and Half-uncials with the addition of ascenders and
descenders to Caroline miniscules. The next move will be onto the Blackletter hands—Quadratus, Prescissus, Batarde, Rotunda, and Secretary writing. The next major
evolution will take us to Humanist Bookhand, Italic, Cursive Italic, Italian hand,
and finally English Roundhand. We’ll explore the national hands superficially, such
as Merovingian Beneventen. The time actually spent on writing will be up to the

Each session will begin with an overview, discussion and then hands on work. There
will be breaks in the programs flow to accommodate guest workshop artists such as
Laurie Doctor (October 2013), Julian Waters (Spring 2014) and Thomas Ingmire (Fall

First session: Sunday, May 5, 2013; 12 PM – 4 PM 1 PM – 5 PM

Fee: $25 for Guild members, $30 for non-members

Location: 203 121 Margaret Morrrison, CMU


  • Speedball nibs/holders: C0-C3
  • Black ink or gouache
  • 14 x 17 paper
  • Pencil / eraser
  • T-square

Download and mail Registration Form [.pdf] with check payable to Calligraphy Guild of Pittsburgh to Lily Hoy, 5700 Fifth Ave #34B, Pittsburgh PA 15232 to confirm your space.

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