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Translating the Hand into Print: Johann Neudörffer’s Etched Writing Manual

By their very nature writing manuals encourage viewer participation, as they illustrate how to form lines into letters. In Johann Neudörffer's “Gute Ordnung” (Good order, 1538–50s) this genesis of lines extends beyond pure pedagogy. By displaying etchings in mirror writing alongside true-sided counterproofs, Neudörffer invites viewers to consider methods of mechanical production of seemingly handwritten lines. His text-images share their self-aware attention to linear aesthetics and process with drawings and etchings by Albrecht Altdorfer and Albrecht Dürer. As Neudörffer's manual taught the formation of beautiful written lines, it also trained contemporaries to become sophisticated consumers of linear beauty in figurative art.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Renaissance, Etching