Alphabetum Romanum

Alphabetum Romanum Facsimile Edition

Verona (Italy) — 1460

The foundation of the modern alphabet as we know it: symmetry and perfection of form in a calligraphic masterpiece

  1. This 15th century manuscript is of utmost importance for the history of script

  2. Felice Feliciano (1433–1479) constructed the alphabet using geometric shapes

  3. The basis for the font “Felix Titling” used for modern typewriters and computers

Alphabetum Romanum

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Alphabetum Romanum

The Alphabetum Romanum is a manuscript created by the Italian humanist Felice Feliciano ca. 1460, who was a calligrapher, alchemist, and expert of Roman history. Through the use of epigrams, 25 letters of the alphabet were reconstructed with the help of geometric forms to create symmetrical, perfect letters. The colored codex is a historically significant work and had a great influence of the history of script because Feliciano’s alphabet is the basis for the font “Felix Titling”, which was programmed by the American company Monotype for typewriters and computers. It originated from the period directly proceeding the introduction of book printing in Italy and thus had a profound effect on the type faces adopted by early Italian printers.

Alphabetum Romanum

Around 1460, a codex arose in Italy that was of utmost importance for the history of script. The Alphabetum Romanum was the first handwritten treatise, in which the alphabet was reconstructed on the basis of Roman epigraphs. With the help of geometric forms, more precisely of circles and squares, the capital letters of the Roman language were correctly reproduced.

Feliciano the Polymath

The paper was authored by Felice Feliciano, an Italian calligrapher, alchemist, and expert of Roman history. Feliciano was born near Verona around 1433 and died in Rome in 1479, shortly after the discovery of Italian book printing was achieved. His alphabet is the basis for the font “Felix Titling”, which was programmed by the American company Monotype for typewriters and computers.

Significant Studies on Writing

Feliciano depicted 25 letters. Every letter is found inside of a circle, which is bordered by a square. He achieved symmetry and perfect form with the help of these geometric ledger lines. The handwritten letters are colored differently. Beneath every character is a short passage in red letters, which contains studies and explanations by Feliciano. The historically significant original edition resides today in the Apostolic Library of the Vatican.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Alphabetum Romanum of Felice Feliciano
Alphabetum Romanum des Felice Feliciano
Size / Format
42 pages / 18.0 × 12.5 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1460
Language
Illustrations
All letters of the alphabet artfully calligraphed
Content
25 capital letters of the Latin alphabet with instructions on their proper execution; colored ink recipes, Latin poem by Paolo Ramusio
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Alphabetum Romanum – Vat. lat. 6852 – Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (Vatican City, State of the Vatican City) Facsimile Edition
Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1985
Detail Picture

Alphabetum Romanum

The Letter “A”

Although ostensibly a treatise on the art of the written word, Feliciano’s work is also an exercise in geometry, e.g. this beautifully executed capital “A” takes the form of an isosceles triangle. It is a shame that after this splendid script has apparently survived some water damage, an overzealous archivist of the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana decided to put the library’s stamp directly between the legs of the letter rather than a more discrete location in the margins of the page.

Alphabetum Romanum of Felice Feliciano
Single Page

Alphabetum Romanum

The Letter “S”

Masterfully drawn above Paolo Ramusio’s epigram, a brief and satirical statement, this page has Felice Feliciano’s masterful depiction of the letter “S” based on old Roman epigraphs or stone inscriptions. The confusing similarity between the two words comes from the fact that in ancient Greece and Rome epigrams were often carved in stone and were thus also epigraphs.

Like the rest of the perfect letters in this historic and influential treatise, which our modern alphabet is based upon, this incredibly symmetrical “S” initial was created through the use of geometry and drafting tools. The use of shading makes the red initial appear raised as though it is carved in the fashion of a classical relief.

Alphabetum Romanum of Felice Feliciano
Facsimile Editions

#1 Alphabetum Romanum of Felice Feliciano

Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1985

Publisher: Belser Verlag – Zurich, 1985
Binding: Marbled paper
Commentary: 1 volume by Giovanni Mardersteig
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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