Say the name Palatino today and the only thing it brings to mind for most people is the elegant typeface designed by Hermann Zapf in 1948. Giovanni Battista Palatino (c.1515–c.1575) is the Italian calligrapher from whom Zapf took the name, and the pages here are from a 1550 reprinting of one of Palatino’s sample books, another of those volumes with a sprawling title: Libro di M. Giovambattista Palatino cittadino romano: nel qual s’insegna à scriuere ogni sorte lettera, antica, & moderna di qualunque natione. One of the fascinations for me in going through these old alphabet books is seeing the same designs reprinted down through the centuries until you arrive at the origin of a particular page or design. The third image in this post I have uncredited in a 1997 Pepin Press book of typography; I’ve seen someone wearing it at a gig on a T-shirt, and it turns up in a number of 19th century design books. But this is its origin, and for once the designer receives a credit (although he did sign some of his pages).
Also of interest in this book are the renderings of ancient alphabets. These range from familiar Greek and Hebrew letters to more obscure alphabets some of which resemble a number of occult alphabets that appeared around this time. Agrippa’s Passing the River and the Alphabet of the Magi by Paracelsus in particular look as though they might have been derived from a lettering book such as this.