Tuesday, November 13, 2018

An Abecedary to Color: N

I just discovered that I forgot to post this earlier.  Please accept my apologies.  And enjoy. 
Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable.

N is a simple letter in both its angular and rounded versions. The diagonal is often decorated to focus interest at the center.  The round form creates a nice internal space to fill with decoration, scenery, or people.  

N figured often in Latin manuscripts, in Nunc, or Nobis, or Pater Noster, or Nolite [do not], but not so often that illuminators--or readers--ever got tired of it.  

Today, N names are not so common; but for women my age, Nancy was the 7th most popular name for a baby girl.  And you can use an ornate N to wish someone a Joyeux Noel or Feliz Navidad.  

I've colored this N but only to make a cautionary example out of it.  It comes from the Celtic tradition of interlaced knots, but if you look at it carefully you will find that the artist who constructed it realized too late that the coils in his two verticals did not really match, and he tried to tried to fix them up with dots.  It did not work.  AND his lumpy knots and coils make you appreciate the meticulous illuminators of the Book of Kells.  We can only excuse him for living in the early days of Celtic decoration, and perhaps not having access to a model to copy.  

Alex Bain, whose 1951 book* analyzed the structure of Celtic art, was unsparing in his disdain for anyone who would not take the trouble to look at the existing masterpieces of knotwork and dissect them accurately.  If you embark on construction of a Celtic letter or border, check the accuracy of your interweavings and crisscrossings!  Better yet, get the book; it's still the last word on Celtic calligraphy.  

*Celtic Art, The Methods of Construction. 

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