Burgues Script
Ale Paul


Burgues Script is an ode to the late 19th century American calligrapher Louis Madarasz, whose legendary pen has inspired schools of penmanship for over 100 years. His talent has caused some people to call him "the most skillful penman the world has ever known."

I use the word 'ode' in a colloquially ambitious manner. If I was an actual poet, my words would be about things I desire but cannot attain, objects of utter beauty that make me wallow in humility, or people of enormous talent who look down at me from the clouds of genius.

But I don't write poems. My work consists of letters drawn to fit together, that become an element of someone's visual poetry. I am the poet's assistant, so to speak. Once in a while, the assistant persists on what the subject of the poem will be. And occasionally, the poet gives in to the persistence. I hope you, visual poet, find my persistence justified in this case.

The two main sources for Burgues were the calligraphy examples shown in Zaner Bloser's The Secret of the Skill of Madarasz: His Philosophy and Penmanship Masterpieces, and C. W. Jones's Lessons in Advanced Engraver's Script Penmanship by L. Madarasz.

These two references were the cornerstone for the concept I was trying to work with. I did have to change many of the letters in order to be able to produce digital calligraphy that can flow flexibly and offered the user a variety of options, while maintaining its attractive appearance. To this end, many ligatures and swashes were made, as well as full flourished sets of letters for use at the beginnings or endings of words and sentences. All of this has been tied together with OpenType and tested thoroughly within today's standard design and desktop publishing software.

After working with digital scripts for so long, at one point I thought that Burgues Script would become a bit of a chore to complete. I also thought that, like with most other scripts, the process would regularize itself after a while and be reduced to a mechanical habit. Surprisingly, and fortunately for me, this did not happen. The past holds as many surprises as the future. Madarasz's method of penmanship was fascinating and challenging to translate into the strict, mathematically oriented language of the computer. It seems that the extremely high contrast of the forms, coupled with the required flow and connectivity of such lettering, will always be hard work for any visual artist to produce, even with the aide of a powerful machine. I can only imagine what steady nerves and discipline Madarasz must have had to be able to produce fully flourished and sublimely connected words and sentences on a whim.

When I think of Madarasz producing a flourished calligraphic logotype in a few seconds, and try to reconcile that with the timelines of my or my colleagues' work in identity and packaging design, the mind reels. Such blinding talent from over a hundred years ago.

Burgues is the Spanish word for Bourgeois.

In the end, I hope Burgues Script will serve you well when a flourished word or sentence is required for a design project. One of the wonders of the computer age is the ability to visually conjure up the past, serving both the present and the future. With Burgues, you have a piece of "the most skillful penman the world has ever known," at your service.


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