(*Portrait used with permission from Michael Sullís Spencerian Script and Ornamental Penmanship, Volume I.)

(Bio courtesy of Del Tysdal)

CW Norder


**The Number cut below is the original specimen used in the Zanerian Manual (see page 11 of the manual)**

The following was written by Del Tysdal:


In the early 1970's I met Charles W. Norder in St. Petersburg, Florida. He had been an engrosser and lettering artist in Chicago (1909-1922) and then to Pittsburgh, Pa (1922-1943). He did marvelous art work and wonderful script--as good as any copperplate engraver. He sent to me his auto-biography, all 17 one-half pages. It is wonderfully interesting as it tells of his start in pen-artistry, the days and years of 'practice' with Maury Harris in Chicago, and then his leaving Chicago in 1922 (with his cat) and going to Pittsburgh with no work on line. If you would like me to post this wonderful story, I will (in short segments of course). Please let me know.(If you have the Zanerian Manual of Alphabets look for the memorial resolution to Elmer Ward Bloser. Norder did the entire piece.)



The following is a letter from C. W. Norder, 1972, to Del Tysdal dated May 28, 1972


"Friend Delbert,


I have your letter of the 20th in which you ask me five questions about Engrossing. To answer them all fully would take quite a letter, in fact it could take a little book, and I am hardly in shape to do either today, but I will answer you briefly and I hope that may help you some. Your question #1 is: What pen did I use for small script, what pen for medium size script, and what pen for large script?

From my early years I used nothing but Gillott Pens. For small script that was not for reproduction work, I used #291 or #170. For larger work to be used for photo-reproduction I used #303 or the Principality. An answer to your third question will need a separate letter - which I will try to write later. (This is his autobiography, 17 one-half pages long) Your question #4 is: In Text lettering (broad pen calligraphy, today) should the distance between the lines be about the same as the height of the lower case letters or twice that much? Certainly not just the height of the small letters. That would not look so good and would make for difficult reading. Twice the height is better but could vary for several reasons. Answering you fifth question I would say yes, re-touch your script where necessary but be sure not to overdo on it. Retouch so carefully that your work will not show that is has been retouched. Enough for now, I have not been any too well in the last couple of months but feel a little better today. Best wishes to you. Sincerely, C. W. N. (Charles W. Norder)



Tysdal: It was a little surprise to me to learn through your friendly letters that someone could be interested in my life as an Engrosser and Illuminator since it is so long ago that I was in that work. (He retired in 1943 and this letter is dated 1972)


And you wanted a thumbnail sketch of my life, and to tell what may have influenced me mostly to take up pen work as a lifetime work. I will try to comply with your request as far as I am able, and you may use any part of it or none of it as you like. I don't consider that my life has been very important to anybody, except to myself, of course. Fact is, I drifted into pen work quite naturally, and was fortunately helped by two people who became my friends because of that work and who I will mention further on.

I was born January 28, 1881 (died May 26, 1979), next to the youngest in a family of five children. Father, with family, settled in Western Pennsylvania, in McKeesport, a steel town near Pittsburgh, because he was a steel worker, and hoped he would find that kind of work there. But such work was not to be had and very little of any other kind. The country was going through a bad depression in the early 80's. So we, and many others, became well acquainted with poverty and misery. But with all, my brother, sisters and I, managed to get a fair school education.

Return to the Penmen Archives