Category Archives: calligraphy

A few questions (and answers)

Questions from an artist who writes blessings and creates art around them. Q:“Am I allowed to draw over the letters, including Hashem’s name if you can see them underneath?” A:How you treat Hashem’s name is a metaphor for how you treat Hashem. How literally Jews take metaphors roughly depends on where they fall on the […]

DRBR 24: In which Newspapers are Handwritten

This caught my eye because it’s just weird to print a newspaper by lithography from a handwritten original. So I went a-searching, and discovered that this was the first Yiddish-language newspaper produced in America. Now the lithography makes much more sense; to produce a Yiddish newspaper you need a newspaper press and a set of […]

DRBR 22: In which Ink Creeps

A clip from a testimonial,* signed by appreciative members of an Italian community in 1956. In the subsequent sixty years, note how one of the substances in the black ink has spread out around the signature, giving it a sort of halo. Ink can be funny like that. It’s one of the reasons artists use […]

DRBR 21: In which the Cardinals are Supplied

Drawer 9 has a lot of pretty things like this: They’re mostly in Italian or Latin, and they have the most lovely illuminated borders, with coats of arms of cardinals. What they are are testimonials. When you supplied things such as furniture to cardinals’ households in seventeenth-century Rome, they might give you a testimonial, which […]

DRBR 11: In which Public Health Announcements are made

Today we have some public health notices from 1923 (DR5-L73 and 74). “Either you’ve washed your hands and nails with soap and water, or you mustn’t eat or touch your eyes. Contagious diseases are in dirt!” ‘Dam, tsfardeya, kinim’–the third plague is the worst! Check yourself for lice! Typhus comes from lice!” Also observe the […]


So I did this ketubah recently. It’s round, which is a new thing for me, and it has twelve-fold radial symmetry, and it’s scrumptious (Click the image to see a bigger version). Once it was done, it occurred to me that it would make a pretty awesome clock. You’d scan the ketubah and photoshop out […]

Fun with piyutim – Iti Milvanon, 4/4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 The hardest part was getting the braid around the outside right. I wanted it to be just one line, going round and round, but if you just run a sinewave around the edge, you get either two or four lines, and I very much wanted only one line, because […]

Fun with piyutim – Iti Milvanon, 3/4

Part 1, Part 2 One of the clever things about piyutim is all the little linguistic tricks they use. Rhyme, of course; I tried to use white space between stanzas to show the rhyming structure, but I think I didn’t use quite enough of it. So, there’s rhyme. Then there’s alphabetical acrostic, which I’ve indicated […]

Fun with piyutim – Iti Milvanon, 2/4

Part 1 Since this is a poem for Shabbat Nachamu, a poem which references the first verse of the haftara we say that day, I wanted to have that haftara in the border. It’s Isaiah chapter 40:2 ff and a bit of 41; it starts in the top right-hand corner. There are a couple of […]

Fun with piyutim – Iti Milvanon, 1/4

This is a liturgical piece, a Magen by Qallir for Shabbat Nachamu. A Magen is the first in a sequence of poems adorning the first three berakhot of the Amidah, up to the Kedusha; the Magen adorns the first berakha, “Magen Avraham.” Translation from the ever-estimable Mar Gavriel: With Me, from Lebanon, you shall not […]