I’ve been learning about The Book of Kells recently – Trinity College Dublin have some fantastic resources on their early manuscripts. My favourite turns out to be the much simpler “The Rule of St Benedict“, made around 700AD, held at the Bodleian Library in Oxford (MS Hatton 48, page 10 for the “m”). Apparently nuns also had scriptoria, so imagine if I had survived in the 700s I would have been there, cooking up ink and writing with a cat warming my feet. There’s a great youtube video of the Irish calligrapher Tim O’Neill talking about the practicalities of his practice. “It all starts with the pen” – like me, he thinks it’s the tools and the materials that makes the aesthetic.
I started copying the letters to get the feel of them into my hand – it’s often surprising what happens when you write a lot, your own quirks start coming through. But then writing a blog is quite like creating an illustrated manuscript – you know that you need something visual every paragraph or so.
This week I’ve also had an identity theft scare: threatening emails from someone who knows my password (luckily long since changed). LinkedIn had all their users’ passwords stolen a few years ago, and clearly some con artist has bought them and is trying it on. I’m already wary of having too many photos of my face online – the one for this blog is drawn – so I’m thinking a monogram could be both anonymous and distinctive. A new use for an old technology..
Or is it new? The first book printed in England by William Caxton had his colophon at the end. An early version of branding, surely? And in case you are thinking me erudite for knowing this, it all comes from the children’s book “A Load Of Unicorn” by Sylvia Harnett, which I have re-found during lockdown….
So I thought I would make some branding for my nephew’s 18th birthday. Just the thing for WhatsApp or FaceBook if you want to be discreet and look good for colleges and employers! Of course, like a brand, the monogram needs to align with the mood, the identity of the brand, So I found some gothic letters – Jan Pas, 1737, which look good too. Have a go yourselves!