Guide for Constructing the Letter E

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Object Details


Guide for Constructing the Letter E


Joris Hoefnagel (Flemish / Hungarian, 1542 - 1600)


Flemish and Hungarian


Vienna, Austria (Place created)


about 1591 - 1596


Watercolors, gold and silver paint, and ink on parchment


Leaf: 16.6 x 12.4 cm (6 9/16 x 4 7/8 in.)

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On two grids, Joris Hoefnagel demonstrated the proper form of a capital E, with the proportions of the letter determined by the relation of its parts to squares and arcs. About thirty years after Georg Bocskay finished his Model Book of Calligraphy, Hoefnagel added hisGuide to the Construction of Letters to the manuscript. Hoefnagel's Guide uses diagrams to demonstrate how geometric principles might be applied to typographical design. The motifs surrounding these diagrams are charged with allegorical and symbolic meaning. At the top of the page, the XPS (Chi-Rho-Sigma) monogram for "Christus" in the azure medallion suggests the dominion of Christ over the world, represented by the maps of the continents on the sides. Echoing this idea, at the bottom of the page Hoefnagel included a verse from Psalm 56: Exaltare super caelos deus et in omnem terram gloria tua (Be exalted above the heavens, God, and your glory through all the earth). The two columns call to mind the so-called Pillars of Hercules, Habsburg imperial symbols since Emperor Charles V had used them in his emblem. The toucan probably does not have a specific symbolic meaning but interested Hoefnagel because of its rarity.

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