Calligraphy

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Calligraphy (from Ancient Greek: κάλλος kallos "beauty" and γραφή graphẽ "writing") is a visual art related to writing. It is the design and execution of lettering with a broad tip instrument or brush in one stroke (as opposed to built up lettering, in which the letters are drawn).[1]:17 A contemporary calligraphic practice can be defined as, "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious, and skillful manner".[1]:18

Modern calligraphy ranges from functional inscriptions and designs to fine-art pieces where the letters may or may not be legible.[1] Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may practice both.[2][3][4][5]

Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, font design and typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, announcements, graphic design and commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions, and memorial documents. It is also used for props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates, maps, and other written works.[6][7] Some of the finest works of modern calligraphy are charters and letters patent issued by monarchs and officers of state in various countries.

Western[edit]

Modern Western calligraphy

Tools[edit]

A calligraphic pen head, with parts names.

The principal tools for a calligrapher are the pen, which may be flat-balled or round-nibbed, and the brush.[8][9][10] For some decorative purposes, multi-nibbed pens—steel brushes—can be used. However, works have also been created with felt-tip and ballpoint pens, although these works do not employ angled lines.

Writing ink is usually water-based and is much less viscous than the oil-based inks used in printing. High quality paper, which has good consistency of porosity,[clarification needed] enables cleaner lines,[citation needed] although parchment or vellum is often used, as a knife can be used to erase imperfections and a light box is not needed to allow lines to pass through it. Normally, light boxes and templates are used to achieve straight lines without pencil markings detracting from the work. Ruled paper, either for a light box or direct use, is most often ruled every quarter or half inch, although inch spaces are occasionally used. This is the case with litterea unciales (hence the name), and college-ruled paper often acts as a guideline well.[11]

Style[edit]

Sacred Western calligraphy has some special features, such as the illumination of the first letter of each book or chapter in medieval times. A decorative "carpet page" may precede the literature, filled with ornate, geometrical depictions of bold-hued animals. The Lindisfarne Gospels (715–720 AD) are an early example.[12]

As with Chinese or Arabic calligraphy, Western calligraphic script employed the use of strict rules and shapes. Quality writing had a rhythm and regularity to the letters, with a "geometrical" order of the lines on the page. Each character had, and often still has, a precise stroke order.

Unlike a typeface, irregularity in the characters' size, style, and colors increases aesthetic value, though the content may be illegible. Many of the themes and variations of today's contemporary Western calligraphy are found in the pages of The Saint John's Bible. A particularly modern example is Timothy Botts' illustrated edition of the Bible, with 360 calligraphic images as well as a calligraphy typeface.[13]

History[edit]

Calligraphy in a Latin Bible of 1407 on display in Malmesbury Abbey, Wiltshire, England. This bible was hand written in Belgium, by Gerard Brils, for reading aloud in a monastery.
The Georgian calligraphy is centuries-old tradition of an artistic writing of the Georgian language with its three scripts.

Western calligraphy is recognizable by the use of the Latin script. The Latin alphabet appeared about 600 BC, in Rome, and by the first century[clarification needed] developed into Roman imperial capitals carved on stones, Rustic capitals painted on walls, and Roman cursive for daily use. In the second and third centuries the uncial lettering style developed. As writing withdrew to monasteries, uncial script was found more suitable for copying the Bible and other religious texts. It was the monasteries which preserved calligraphic traditions during the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Roman Empire fell and Europe entered the Dark Ages.[14]

At the height of the Roman Empire, its power reached as far as Great Britain; when the empire fell, its literary influence remained. The Semi-uncial generated the Irish Semi-uncial, the small Anglo-Saxon. Each region developed its own standards following the main monastery of the region (i.e. Merovingian script, Laon script, Luxeuil script, Visigothic script, Beneventan script), which are mostly cursive and hardly readable.

The rising Carolingian Dynasty Empire encouraged a new standardized script, which was developed by several famous monasteries (including Corbie Abbey and Beauvais) around the eighth century. The script from Saint Martin of Tours was ultimately set as the Imperial standard, named the Carolingian script (or "the Caroline"). From the powerful Carolingian Empire, this standard also became used in neighboring kingdoms.

In the eleventh century, the Caroline evolved into the Gothic script, which was more compact and made it possible to fit more text on a page.[15]:72 The Gothic calligraphy styles became dominant throughout Europe; and in 1454, when Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press in Mainz, Germany, he adopted the Gothic style, making it the first typeface.[15]:141

In the 15th century, the rediscovery of old Carolingian texts encouraged the creation of the humanist minuscule or littera antiqua. The 17th century saw the Batarde script from France, and the 18th century saw the English script spread across Europe and world through their books.

Contemporary typefaces used by computers, from word processors like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages to professional designers' software like Adobe InDesign, owe a considerable debt to the past and to a small number of professional typeface designers today.[1][4][16]

Influences[edit]

Several other Western styles use the same tools and practices, but differ by character set and stylistic preferences. For Slavonic lettering, the history of the Slavonic and consequently Russian writing systems differs fundamentally from the one of the Latin language. It evolved from the 10th century to today.

East Asian[edit]

On Calligraphy by Mi Fu, Song Dynasty

The Chinese name for calligraphy is shūfǎ (書法 in Traditional Chinese, literally "the method or law of writing");[17] the Japanese name shodō (書道, literally "the way or principle of writing"); the Korean is seoye (Korean: 서예, literally "the art of writing"); and the Vietnamese is Thư pháp (書法, literally "the way of letters or words"). The calligraphy of East Asian characters is an important and appreciated aspect of East Asian culture.

Technique[edit]

Traditional East Asian writing uses the Four Treasures of the Study (文房四寶/文房四宝): the ink brushes to write Chinese characters, Chinese ink, paper, and inkstone, known as the Four Friends of the Study (Korean: 문방사우) in Korea. In addition to these four tools, desk pads and paperweights are also used.

The shape, size, stretch, and hair type of the ink brush, the color, color density and water density of the ink, as well as the paper's water absorption speed and surface texture are the main physical parameters influencing the final result. The calligrapher's technique also influences the result. The calligrapher's work is influenced by the quantity of ink and water he lets the brush take, then by the pressure, inclination, and direction he gives to the brush, producing thinner or bolder strokes, and smooth or toothed borders. Eventually, the speed, accelerations, decelerations of the writer's moves, turns, and crochets, and the stroke order give the "spirit" to the characters, by greatly influencing their final shapes.

History[edit]

A Vietnamese calligrapher writing in Hán-Nôm in preparation for Tết, at the Temple of Literature, Hanoi (2011)

China[edit]

In ancient China, the oldest Chinese characters existing are Jiǎgǔwén characters carved on ox scapulae and tortoise plastrons, because the dominators in Shang Dynasty carved pits on such animals' bones and then baked them to gain auspice of military affairs, agricultural harvest, or even procreating and weather. During the divination ceremony, after the cracks were made, the characters were written with a brush on the shell or bone to be later carved.(Keightley, 1978). With the development of Jīnwén (Bronzeware script) and Dàzhuàn (Large Seal Script) "cursive" signs continued. Moreover, each archaic kingdom of current China had its own set of characters.

In Imperial China, the graphs on old steles—some dating from 200 BC, and in Xiaozhuan style—are still accessible.

About 220 BC, the emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first to conquer the entire Chinese basin, imposed several reforms, among them Li Si's character unification, which created a set of 3300 standardized Xiǎozhuàn characters.[18] Despite the fact that the main writing implement of the time was already the brush, few papers survive from this period, and the main examples of this style are on steles.

The Lìshū style (clerical script) which is more regularized, and in some ways similar to modern text, have been also authorised under Qin Shi Huangdi.[19]

Kǎishū style (traditional regular script)—still in use today—and attributed to Wang Xizhi (王羲之, 303–361) and his followers, is even more regularized.[19] Its spread was encouraged by Emperor Mingzong of Later Tang (926–933), who ordered the printing of the classics using new wooden blocks in Kaishu. Printing technologies here allowed a shape stabilization. The Kaishu shape of characters 1000 years ago was mostly similar to that at the end of Imperial China.[19] But small changes have be made, for example in the shape of 广 which is not absolutely the same in the Kangxi Dictionary of 1716 as in modern books. The Kangxi and current shapes have tiny differences, while stroke order is still the same, according to old style.[20]

Styles which did not survive include Bāfēnshū, a mix made of Xiaozhuan style at 80%, and Lishu at 20%.[19] Some variant Chinese characters were unorthodox or locally used for centuries. They were generally understood but always rejected in official texts. Some of these unorthodox variants, in addition to some newly created characters, compose the Simplified Chinese character set.

Styles[edit]

Cursive styles such as xíngshū (semi-cursive or running script) and cǎoshū (cursive or grass script) are less constrained and faster, where more movements made by the writing implement are visible. These styles' stroke orders vary more, sometimes creating radically different forms. They are descended from Clerical script, in the same time as Regular script (Han Dynasty), but xíngshū and cǎoshū were used for personal notes only, and never used as a standard. The cǎoshū style was highly appreciated in Emperor Wu of Han reign (140–187 AD).[19]

Examples of modern printed styles are Song from the Song Dynasty's printing press, and sans-serif. These are not considered traditional styles, and are normally not written.

Influences[edit]

Japanese calligraphy, the word "peace" and the signature of the Meiji period calligrapher Ōura Kanetake, 1910

Japanese and Korean people developed specific sensibilities and styles of calligraphy. For example, Japanese calligraphy go out of the set of CJK strokes to also include local alphabets such as hiragana and katakana, with specific problematics such as new curves and moves, and specific materials (Japanese paper, washi 和紙, and Japanese ink).[21] In the case of Korean calligraphy, the Hangeul and the existence of the circle required the creation of a new technique which usually confuses Chinese calligraphers.

Temporary calligraphy is a practice of water-only calligraphy on the floor, which dries out within minutes. This practice is especially appreciated by the new generation of retired Chinese in public parks of China. These will often open studio-shops in tourist towns offering traditional Chinese calligraphy to tourists. Other than writing the clients name, they also sell fine brushes as souvenirs and lime stone carved stamps.

Since late 1980s, a few Chinese artists have branched out traditional Chinese calligraphy to a new territory by mingling Chinese characters with English letters; notable new forms of calligraphy are Xu Bing's square calligraphy and DanNie's coolligraphy or cooligraphy.


Mongolian calligraphy is also influenced by Chinese calligraphy, from tools to style.

Calligraphy has influenced ink and wash painting, which is accomplished using similar tools and techniques. Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including ink and wash painting, a style of Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese painting, and Vietnamese painting based entirely on calligraphy.

South Asian[edit]

Indian[edit]

On the subject of Indian calligraphy, writes:[22]

A Calligraphic design in Oriya script

Aśoka's edicts (c. 265–238 BC) were committed to stone. These inscriptions are stiff and angular in form. Following the Aśoka style of Indic writing, two new calligraphic types appear: Kharoṣṭī and Brāhmī. Kharoṣṭī was used in the northwestern regions of India from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century of the Christian Era, and it was used in Central Asia until the 8th century.

In many parts of ancient India, the inscriptions were carried out in smoke-treated palm leaves. This tradition dates back to over two thousand years.[23] Even after the Indian languages were put on paper in the 13th century, palm leaves where considered a preferred medium of writing owing to its longevity (nearly 400 years) compared to paper. Both sides of the leaves were used for writing. Long rectangular strips were gathered on top of one another, holes were drilled through all the leaves, and the book was held together by string. Books of this manufacture were common to Southeast Asia. The palm leaf was an excellent surface for penwriting, making possible the delicate lettering used in many of the scripts of southern Asia.

Burnt clay and copper were a favoured material for Indic inscriptions.[citation needed] In the north of India, birch bark was used as a writing surface as early as the 2nd century AD.[citation needed].

Nepalese[edit]

Ranjana script is the primary form of Nepalese calligraphy. The script itself, along with its derivatives (like Lantsa, Phagpa, Kutila) are used in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Leh, Mongolia, coastal China, Japan, and Korea to write "Om mani padme hum" and other sacred Buddhist texts, mainly those derived from Sanskrit and Pali.

Thai[edit]

Sanskrit is the primary form of Thai calligraphy. Historically Thai calligraphy has been limited to sacred texts of the Pali Canon with few wider artistic applications where graphic calligraphy representing figures and objects is produced. Calligraphy appears on the personal flag of each member of the Thai royal family bearing its owner's initials in calligraphy. The most obvious place in the country where calligraphy is present in in graffiti. A few books have been published with calligraphic compositions.

Tibetan calligraphy[edit]

A Bön text

Calligraphy is central in Tibetan culture. The script is derived from Indic scripts. The nobles of Tibet, such as the High Lamas and inhabitants of the Potala Palace, were usually capable calligraphers. Tibet has been a center of Buddhism for several centuries, and that religion places a great deal of significance on written word. This does not provide for a large body of secular pieces, although they do exist (but are usually related in some way to Tibetan Buddhism). Almost all high religious writing involved calligraphy, including letters sent by the Dalai Lama and other religious and secular authority. Calligraphy is particularly evident on their prayer wheels, although this calligraphy was forged rather than scribed, much like Arab and Roman calligraphy is often found on buildings. Although originally done with a reed, Tibetan calligraphers now use chisel tipped pens and markers as well.

Islamic[edit]

A page of a 12th-century Qur'an written in the al-Andalus script

Islamic calligraphy (calligraphy in Arabic is khatt ul-yad خط اليد‎) has evolved alongside Islam and the Arabic language. As it is based on Arabic letters, some call it "Arabic calligraphy". However the term "Islamic calligraphy" is a more appropriate term as it comprises all works of calligraphy by the Muslim calligraphers from Andalusia in modern Spain to China.

Islamic calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions.

Instead of recalling something related to the spoken word, calligraphy for Muslims is a visible expression of the highest art of all, the art of the spiritual world. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam. The Qur'an has played an important role in the development and evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and passages from the Qur'an are still sources for Islamic calligraphy.

It is generally accepted that Islamic calligraphy excelled during the Ottoman era. Turkish calligraphers still present the most refined and creative works. Istanbul is an open exhibition hall for all kinds and varieties of calligraphy, from inscriptions in mosques to fountains, schools, houses, etc.

Persian[edit]

Example showing Nastaliq's proportional rules

The history of calligraphy in Persia dates back to the pre-Islam era. In Zoroastrianism beautiful and clear writings were always praised.

It is believed that ancient Persian script was invented by about 600–500 BC to provide monument inscriptions for the Achaemenid kings. These scripts consisted of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal nail-shape letters, which is why it is called "script of nails/cuneiform script" (khat-e-mikhi) in Persian. Centuries later, other scripts such as "Pahlavi" and "Avestan" scripts were used in ancient Persia.

After the expansion of "Persian Empire" around the world, Arabs also adapted the Arabic alphabet to fit their language, which reduced the Arabic alphabet to 28 letters from 32 letters in Persian alphabet. The hypothesis of such devolution in Arabic language center and therefore the arabic alphabet, goes back to restricted Arabic literature resources until the development of Islamic influence around the world.

Contemporary scripts[edit]

Nasta'liq is the most popular contemporary style among classical Persian calligraphy scripts; Persian calligraphers call it the "bride of calligraphy scripts". This calligraphy style has been based on such a strong structure that it has changed very little since. Mir Ali Tabrizi had found the optimum composition of the letters and graphical rules so it has just been fine-tuned during the past seven centuries. It has very strict rules for graphical shape of the letters and for combination of the letters, words, and composition of the whole calligraphy piece.

Mayan[edit]

Mayan calligraphy was expressed via Mayan hieroglyphs; modern Mayan calligraphy is mainly used on seals and monuments in the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. Mayan hieroglyphs are rarely used in government offices; however in Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, Mayan calligraphy is written in Latin letters. Some commercial companies in southern Mexico use Mayan hieroglyphs as symbols of their business. Some community associations and modern Mayan brotherhoods use Mayan hieroglyphs as symbols of their groups.

Most of the archaeological sites in Mexico such as Chichen Itza, Labna, Uxmal, Edzna, Calakmul, etc. have glyphs in their structures. Stone carved monuments also known as stele are a common sources of ancient Mayan calligraphy.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Mediaville, Claude (1996). Calligraphy: From Calligraphy to Abstract Painting. Belgium: Scirpus-Publications. ISBN 9080332518. 
  2. ^ (German) Pott, G. (2006). Kalligrafie: Intensiv Training [Calligraphy: Intensive Training]. Verlag Hermann Schmidt. ISBN 9783874397001. 
  3. ^ (German) Pott, G. (2005). Kalligrafie: Erste Hilfe und Schrift-Training mit Muster-Alphabeten. Verlag Hermann Schmidt. ISBN 9783874396752. 
  4. ^ a b Zapf, H. (2007). Alphabet Stories: A Chronicle of technical developments. Rochester, New York: Cary Graphic Arts Press. ISBN 9781933360225. 
  5. ^ Zapf, H. (2006). The world of Alphabets: A kaleidoscope of drawings and letterforms.  CD-ROM
  6. ^ (German) Propfe, J. (2005). SchreibKunstRaume: Kalligraphie im Raum Verlag. Munich: George D.W. Callwey GmbH & Co.K.G. ISBN 9783766716309. 
  7. ^ Geddes, A. (2004). Miracle: a celebration of new life. Auckland: Photogenique Publishers. ISBN 9780740746963. 
  8. ^ Reaves, M.; Schulte, E. (2006). Brush Lettering: An instructional manual in Western brush calligraphy (Revised ed.). New York: Design Books. 
  9. ^ Child, H., ed. (1985). The Calligrapher's Handbook. Taplinger Publishing Co. 
  10. ^ Lamb, C.M., ed. (1976) [1956]. Calligrapher's Handbook. Pentalic. 
  11. ^ "Calligraphy Islamic website". Calligraphyislamic.com. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  12. ^ Brown, M.P. (2004). Painted Labyrinth: The World of the Lindisfarne Gospel (Revised Ed ed.). British Library. 
  13. ^ The Bible: New Living Translation. Tyndale House Publishers. 2000. 
  14. ^ (French) Sabard, V.; Geneslay, V.; Rébéna, L. (2004). Calligraphie latine: Initiation [Latin calligraphy: Introduction] (7th ed.). Fleurus, Paris. pp. 8–11. ISBN 978-2215021308. 
  15. ^ a b Lovett, Patricia (2000). Calligraphy and Illumination: A History and Practical Guide. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0810941199. 
  16. ^ Henning, W.E. (2002). Melzer, P., ed. An Elegant Hand: The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press. ISBN 978-1584560678. 
  17. ^ (Taiwanese) being here used as in 楷书 (Cantonese) or 楷書 (Taiwanese), meaning "writing style".[clarification needed]
  18. ^ Fazzioli, Edoardo (1987). Chinese Calligraphy: From Pictograph to Ideogram: The History Of 214 Essential Chinese/Japanese Characters. Calligraphy by Rebecca Hon Ko. New York: Abbeville Press. p. 13. ISBN 0896597741. "And so the first Chinese dictionary was born, the Sān Chāng, containing 3,300 characters" 
  19. ^ a b c d e R. B. Blakney (2007). A Course in the Analysis of Chinese Characters. Lulu.com. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-897367-11-7. 
  20. ^ (Chinese) 康熙字典 [Kangxi Zidian]. 1716. p. 41. . See, for example, the radicals , , or 广. The 2007 common shape for those characters does not clearly show the stroke order, but old versions, visible on p. 41, clearly allow the stroke order to be determined.
  21. ^ Suzuki, Yuuko (2005). An introduction to Japanese calligraphy. Tunbridge Wells: Search. ISBN 978-1844480579. 
  22. ^ Anderson, D. M. (2008). Indic calligraphy. Encyclopædia Britannica 2008. .
  23. ^ "Memory of the World | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization". UNESCO. Retrieved 2012-06-18. 

References[edit]

  • Diringer, D. (1968). The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind 1 (3rd ed.). London: Hutchinson & Co. p. 441. 
  • Fraser, M.; Kwiatowski, W. (2006). Ink and Gold: Islamic Calligraphy. London: Sam Fogg Ltd. 
  • Johnston, E. (1909). "Plate 6". Manuscript & Inscription Letters: For schools and classes and for the use of craftsmen. San Vito Press & Double Elephant Press.  10th Impression
  • Marns, F.A (2002) Various, copperplate and form, London
  • (French) Mediavilla, Claude (2006). Histoire de la calligraphie française. Paris: Michel. ISBN 978-2226172839. 
  • Shepherd, Margaret (2013). Learn World Calligraphy: Discover African, Arabic, Chinese, Ethiopic, Greek, Hebrew, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Russian, Thai, Tibetan Calligraphy, and Beyond. Crown Publishing Group. p. 192. ISBN 9780823082308. 
  • Schimmel, Annemarie (1984). Calligraphy and Islamic Culture. New York University Press. ISBN 9780814778302. 

External links[edit]

Calligraphy museums