Gleefully, I've just gotten back a version of W R Rodgers handwriting as a font - my first draft of making a keyboard-able handwriting from another person’s script. Rodgers (1909-1969) was a Belfast-born writer whose notebooks I encountered in the phenomenal Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.
Scanning notes and his draft of a poem, I set to work extracting the letters of the alphabet, supplementing a few missing letters from another sheet. There's an intimacy in this process that is hard to describe as each arc and connecting stroke have an energy unique to his presence -and his pencil. Yet here I am fifty-something years later using tools he would not have known, preparing a way to connect to contemporary Belfast through these few moments of Mr. Rodgers life.
As you may have read in my earlier emails, I'm in Belfast for the summer working out the technique and the nature of making and using digital fonts from historic handwriting. Fonts influence the feeling of reading and the look of a page or a poster, but how do they shape what’s being written? Here’s the first WR Rodgers script, a few letters short.
This is a method I will use in the project for three cities in the American west - Reno, Mammoth Lakes and San Francisco, where I'll be writing about water systems, stream science and land changes, creating fonts from local historical people, and putting that writing along the tops of curbs for pedestrians to read along their way. The installations are being planned for 2016 and 2017.
A fragment of Rodgers' notes, with my font compared on top. Letter spacing and word spacing need improvement, the wiggle and varying color in his line is missing, but it begins to show the feeling. More work to be done.