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     The rustic capitals were used during the same period as the Quadrata (by the early 2nd century B.C.) These extremely condensed and less square letterforms are a condensed variety of Quadrata. They were written more quickly with the nib held at an oblique angle. This letterform saved space, for parchment and papyrus were expensive and the style enabled the writer to squeeze half again as many rustic capitals on the page as was possible with square capitals.
In other words, rustic letters were the daily type Romans wrote with. Serifs were added to those in popular inscriptional letters. One interesting design element was the lack of a horizontal stroke on the letter A.
     From the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum it shows that Romans wrote notices, political campaign material, and advertising announcements on exterior walls, using both square and rustic capitals. In addition to wall writing, poster messages were painted on reusable panels placed in the streets. Commercial records, documents of state, and literature were written on a variety of substrates. Papyrus from Egypt was supplemented by wood, clay, flat pieces of metal, and wax tablets held in wooden frames.
     Around 190 B.C. parchment came into common use as a substrate for writing. Parchment is a writing surface made from the skins of domestic animals-particularly calves, sheep, and goats-was invented to overcome the embargo.
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Rustica (rustic capitals) from a manuscript, Vergil, c. A.D. 400
© 2004 Natalia Rifai