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LETTER CARVING IN ROME BY SIMON BURNS-COX

I lived in Rome for nearly four years where I learnt the techniques of Marble Carving, Letter Cutting and Sculpture from the Italian Craftsmen and Artisans of the City. They were wonderful teachers and were willing to pass on their skills to me which they had learnt from their forefathers right back to the time of the Caesars and Ancient Rome.

Among them were two remarkable men: Paolo who had spent nearly forty years of his life restoring the ancient ruins of Leptis Magna in Libya and Marcello who repaired and restored the ancient artefacts of Italy including The Vatican, The Farnese Palace, and The Palace of Caserta near Naples. He also produced magnificent hand carved pieces of ‘pietra dura’ which were later sold to the International market. I owe these two men a great deal as they taught me what I know today and I will always be indebted to them.

The craftsmen of Italy, at that time, were becoming increasingly worried that their traditional skills were being lost. The Asian Market had begun to produce mass-market products by machine, which meant that they were cheaper and the Italian craftsmen were being undercut. The finished product, however, was not comparable to the hand-carved Italian creation.

I was surrounded everyday by the beautiful sculptures, statues, and buildings of the city which had been left behind by The Romans. Everywhere I looked there were ruins and ancient inscriptions on the walls, arches and monuments of this magnificent city.

Stone Letter Carving is everywhere in Rome if you look around, and the words SPQR (Senatus Populusque Romanus) or The Senate and The People of Rome adorn the walls and pavements of the city.

Ponte Fabricio shows one of the oldest inscriptions on a Roman monument and it is written twice on each side while Piramide di Caio Cestio shows one of the early monumental inscriptions.

It was The Etruscans who developed an alphabet which was then later adopted by The Romans. In the Roman alphabet, all letters were formed between two parallel lines and they all had to to be the same height. The Romans made use of abbreviations so their inscriptions are sometimes difficult to understand.

It was The Venetians, however, who were responsible for our current way of writing and printing today. They combined the ancient Roman letters with the Carolingian letters developed in the following centuries so that the former were used as capitals (Roman Capitals) and the latter became the lower case letters.

I have always been interested in Lettering and now teach at The Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop offering Stone Letter Carving and Sculpture Courses. So why not take up a new skill and learn this ancient craft? The next course starts on Saturday 3rd and 10th December 2016 from 10am to 4.30pm. Maximum five participants and open to all levels.  The course price is £170 with Stone and Tools included. If you would like further information, please contact me at info@simonburnscox.co.uk

https://simonburnscox.co.uk/tuition-and-courses/the-two-day-introductory-stone-letter-carving-course/ 

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