Knitted calligraphy!

March 27, 2013 at 4:06 pm 1 comment

I live for those little moments of synchronicity, where different interests come together or overlap in interesting ways. I try not to be too superstitious, but when the stars align just so, it’s hard not to take it as a cosmic “thumbs-up” that you’re headed in the right direction.

I had one of these moments recently in the process of researching for my dissertation. I’m looking at the ways that 19th- and early 20th-century Russians used medieval imagery and allusions in the creation of modern art and objects, and one hallmark medieval element is a decorative cyrillic script that adorns churches, monuments, and manuscripts. Here it is in its medieval form, on a church bell in Novgorod:


Novgorod – St. Sophia

Here it is in its 19th-century incarnation, in a menu prepared for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896:

Coronation Excerpt

excerpt from Coronation Menu, 1896, after Vasnetsov

Wanting to talk about it intelligently, I set about finding its proper name. “Decorative majuscule” was just not going to cut it, even though that’s the best description I could find for its Byzantine predecessor, as we see here in the Theodore Psalter:

Theodore Psalter, in the British Library

Theodore Psalter, in the British Library

What is it called? After a whole half hour of tireless searching, I found my answer, and it was a delightful one – this script is called vyaz’ (вязь), which is very closely related to the word vyazat’ (вязать), meaning “to knit”! That’s right, friends, this is “knitted” calligraphy (more accurately, probably, intertwined, or knotted, but I’m taking some liberties here…). Sweet!


Entry filed under: knitting, Russia.

Make do and mend Yogic Knitting

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