Letter Art: Runic, Kinda


runes reversed

Inspired by a passage from The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown,

Runic alphabets are composed solely of straight lines. Their letters are called runes and were often used for carving in stone because curves were too difficult to chisel. Audio CD/p123, Google Books

Or not.

Brown is admirable for his ability to spin a tale; less so for his research acumen. (Google “Dan Brown accuracy” if you want to watch history buffs frothing at the mouth.) Images of capitalis monumentalis show that ancient Romans were perfectly capable of carving curves. The Wiki entry for capitalis monumentalis, or Roman square capitals, shows the inscription on the Arch of Titus, c. 81 AD, with lovely, round Ds, Os, and Ps. In Brown’s defense, I have heard the same argument from a professor to explain why V was used instead of U, which the Arch of Titus does in “SENATVS” right above a plump, juicy O. But I have wandered from the point.

Furthermore, I took liberties with the concept. Runic alphabets are not a type but a specific set of related alphabets,

The Runic alphabet is thought to have been modelled on the Latin and/or Etruscan alphabet … The earliest known Runic inscriptions date from the 1st century AD, but the vast majority of Runic inscriptions date from the 11th century … Types of runic inscriptions include: ‘Hrolf was here’ type inscriptions on cliff walls, large rocks and buildings. Omniglot

Or, I could be in error in either case. As Brown says later in the same passage,

“Google” is not a synonym for “research.” –/p124, ibid

That last bit about “Hrolf was here” cracks me up. Historical discussion often overlooks the fact that people do things for a goof, just as much then as now.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

3 thoughts on “Letter Art: Runic, Kinda

  1. Very interesting. I’m fascinated by letter shapes and forms, and how they developed. Unfortunately I no longer have the books on this subject I used to.

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