Reed Reibstein
Product leader and design manager. Letterform enthusiast.

Analyzing “diminuendo” in its major incipit pages

Introduction

Only in light of the preternatural majesty of the Book of Kells do the Lindisfarne Gospels appear less than divine. Written and illuminated around the second decade of the eighth century, the volume astounds, its intricate decoration, brilliant hues, and inventive shapes livening page after page. Along with the intricately geometric “carpet pages,” the six major “incipit pages” that open the most crucial sections present the scribe’s genius at its height.

The “Liber generationis” incipit page of Matthew. By Eadfrith of Lindisfarne (presumed). Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

An enormous initial or monogram, filled and interwoven with ornament, dominates each of these pages, and the following letters decrease in scale toward the bottom of the page as they near the half-uncial text’s size — a “diminuendo” effect, as art historians and paleographers describe it by analogy to the musical notation for diminishing in intensity. Many Insular illuminated manuscripts, from the Cathach of Columcille to the Book of Durrow, showcase the technique. Yet no major work has developed this beautifully named term, coined by Carl Nordenfalk in 1947, beyond its initial…


1604/5. Printed by James Roberts. Published by Nicholas Ling.

James Roberts passed up the opportunity to print the first edition of Hamlet. He held the license for the play from the Stationer’s Company, the guild for members of the printing and publishing trade, making him the text’s owner. Yet he allowed Valentine Simmes to print the first version for publishers Nicholas Ling and John Trundle in 1603.

This scan of the second quarto’s title page and all others are from the Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection.

That Roberts would forgo printing this dramatic masterpiece seems inconceivable in hindsight; a common narrative has been instead that Ling and Trundle pirated Hamlet, a story aided by this first edition’s dramatically cut and altered text compared to later editions. …


Quartz has a new design (version 3.0), including a real homepage for the first time. Senior Editor Zach Seward explains the changes they’ve made across the site in detail here, but I wanted to note six homepage features that struck me in particular.

1. Betting big on a lead story

The homepage focuses on one lead story, giving it prominent treatment far above all others. Visitors won’t feel overwhelmed by a hundred headlines jockeying for attention. And if that lead story doesn’t capture every single person’s attention, they can scroll to see more pieces.

2. Centering on “The Brief”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store