# Foundational Hand – Proportions

After studying Roman Capitals, next on the list is the Foundational Hand, sometimes called Roman Minuscules. The Foundational Hand are the lower-case letters written beside Roman Capitals.

As with the Roman Capitals we need to study the proportion of the letters before we pick up a calligraphy pen and make a start with some sample sheets. You will produce much better letterforms by learning the structure and proportions of each letter.

The letters of the Foundational Hand have different widths; the obvious example is the letter **i** compared to the letter **m** or **w**. Each letter can be grouped according to its widths. So, instead of having 26 letters of different widths, there are in fact only 2 groups of letters, plus a few odd sized letters to learn.

**The Grid**

To help get these widths correct we can construct a grid, where each letter can be placed inside. This grid is exactly the same as the grid constructed for the Roman Capitals. It consists of a square and inside it a circle that just touches the lines of the square in four places. Within the square, there is also a rectangle. This rectangle is three quarters the size of the square and is positioned in the centre of the square.

**Ascenders, Descenders and x-height**

Some of the Foundational Hand letters have ascenders and descenders. Ascenders are strokes that go above the x-height of the letter. Descenders are the strokes that go below the write-line of the letters. X-height refers to the height of letters that have no ascender or descender i.e. the height of the letter x. I guess it could have been called the a-height or o-height etc.

**Groups of Letters**

The Foundational Hand has two main groups of letters.

**The 3/4 Width Group**

The letters in this group are **a, f, g, h, k, l, n, r, s, t, u, v, x, y** and **z**. These letters basically fit in to the rectangle part of our grid, which is three-quarters the width of the square.

With many of the letters in this group you will find that they pick-up and leave the circle, within the rectangle. So, the letter** a** is the width of the rectangle and the curves at the top and bottom of the letterform are from the circle of the grid.

The letter** f** picks up an imaginary circle plotted above the grid. The overall height of the letter is the same as other letters who have an ascender – **b, d** etc.

The letter **k** is quite easy, but if the bottom angled stroke does not extend further out than the top angled line the letter will look like it is about to fall over.

Letters** n, r, t, u, v, x, y** and** z** are straight-forward. The letters **v** and **y** are the same except the second stroke extends to the length of a descender when writing the **y**.

The letter **h** is the same as the letter **n** except it has an ascender. The letter **l** is similar to the letter **b**, except it is not as wide.

Letter **g** is tricky. The top circle of the letter is 3/4 width, where as the oval that sits below the write-line is the full width of the grid. Were it the same width, the overall shape of the **g** would look odd.

In this 3/4 width group we are only left with the letter **s**, which by far the hardest letter in the group. When writing this letter, remember the underlying circle shape, which the letter **s** starts on, leaves and then re-joins.

The 7/8 Width Group

The letters in this group are **b, c, d, e, p** and **q**. All these letters are based on the circle, but none of them are the full width of the circle.

In many ways **b** and** d** are very similar as are **p** and **q**.

Letters** c** and** e** are almost full circles.

**Odd Groups**

We have 5 letters of the alphabet left to construct, but none of them belong to either of our two main groups.

Letters **i** and **j** are linear, except **j** has a curved descender based on a small circle.

The letter **m** is simply two **n **letters ‘stuck together’. The same is true for **w **which two** v** letters drawn together. This actually makes** m **and **w** have an overall width of 1.5, which makes them the widest letters in the alphabet.

Finally, the letter** o** is simply the full circle.