Lining Your Project

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We start with a blank writing surface (support) and we need to write a straight line with the letters being the same size.  This is a difficult task to do without having guidelines for our writing for all but the most experienced scribes.  So how do we do that? Lining your project is a deceptively simple part of your project.  Keep in mind that it is also one of the most important steps to do correctly.  How you line your project absolutely affects the look of the project, the readability of your project and when done right will make people gasp in appreciation of your finished work though they might not know why. The “ingredients” of good lining include: – Proper letter X Height; – Proper interlinear spacing; – Some quick research into the time period and script being used; – The right tools. First we determine what the X Height of our script is.  I wrote a blog post about how to do that on May 23, 2013 Now you need to draw those lines.  One can use a lettering guide.  There are several different ones on the market.  One of the most recognized is the AMES Lettering Guide, (sometimes also called the Alvin AMES lettering guide.) The use of which is part mystical and part mechanical.  One of the best articles demystifying the AMES Lettering Guide was written by a fellow scribe I am honored to call my friend Alexadre Saint Pierre.  Another lettering guide that I see recommended is Linex Lettering Guide, (or more correctly the Linex Parallelograph) a guide for its use can be found on John Neal Bookseller’s site. A more period way to do it would be to measure out the proper X height, set your divider (a compass with two points) to that height and “walk” it down the side of the writing block poking holes at every “step”.  Then either use a square to draw in lines across the writing area or walk the divider down the opposite side of the writing are and then use a straight edge to literally connect the dot forming your lines.  I did this for several of my projects shown here on this blog. Simple right?  Well, we’re not done yet though. Interlinear space, that is the space between lines you write on is not universal.  To find out the best line spacing for your project a little research might be in order.

Alcuin of York 005

Song of Songs written by Alcuin of York in the Uncial Script

If we take a closer look we can see that the interlinear spacing is roughly 2 lines wide.

The green line is roughly twice as long as the blue line.

The green line is roughly twice as long as the blue line.

Here the interlinear spacing is much less. IMAG0701 Interlinear space here is roughly one line or half that we see for the Uncial. As I said before lining your project is deceptively easy to do.  Well at least getting it historically accurate can be.  Like everything else, once you get used to doing it, lining your projects is actually relatively easy to do.  My recommendation is to draw in the lines for your practice pieces and your practice.  The more you do lining the better and faster you will become. So the big question.  Erase the lines or leave them in?  There is no single answer to this question.  Like many things the answer is, “It depends.”  Who is this project for?  Does the recipient have a preference?  Are you trying to be historically accurate?  Generally speaking in period in Europe they left the lines in especially if it was a high quality writing. As always I hope you find this post in the “Taking the Next Step” series useful to you.

One response to “Lining Your Project

  1. Excellent tutorial. Thank you for the help. I also find that my light box is very helpful for spacing and alignment.

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