Western Calligraphy (from Greek κάλλος kallos "beauty" + γραφή graphẽ "writing") is the art of writing. A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner." The story of writing is one of aesthetic development framed within the technical skills, transmission speed(s) and material limitations of a person, time and place. A style of writing is described as a script, hand or alphabet.
Calligraphy ranges from functional hand lettered inscriptions and designs to fine art pieces where the abstract expression of the handwritten mark may or may not supersede the legibility of the letters. Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may create all of these; characters are historically disciplined yet fluid and spontaneous, improvised at the moment of writing.
Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, font design/ typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, various announcements/ graphic design/ commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions and memorial documents. Also props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates/maps, and other works involving writing.
Western calligraphy is the calligraphy of the Latin writing system, and to a lesser degree the Greek and Cyrillic writing systems. Early alphabets had evolved by about 3000 BC. From the Etruscan alphabet evolved the Latin alphabet. Capital letters (majuscules) emerged first, followed by the invention of lower case letters (minuscules) in the Carolingian period. The history of lettering records many excursions into historical obscurity and disuse as well as elaborating the story of what gave rise to contemporary print.
Christian churches promoted the development of writing through the prolific copying of the Bible, particularly the New Testament and other sacred texts. Two distinct styles of writing known as uncial and half-uncial (from the Latin "uncia," or "inch") developed from a variety of Roman bookhands. The 7th-9th centuries in northern Europe were the heyday of Celtic illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Durrow, Lindisfarne Gospels and the Book of Kells.
Charlemagne's devotion to improved scholarship resulted in the recruiting of "a crowd of scribes", according to Alcuin, the Abbot of York. Alcuin developed the style known as the Caroline or Carolingian minuscule. The first manuscript in this hand was the Godescalc Evangelistary (finished 783) — a Gospel book written by the scribe Godescalc. Carolingian remains the one progenitor hand from which modern booktype descends.
Blackletter (also known as Gothic) and its variation Rotunda, gradually developed from the Carolingian hand during the 12th century. Over the next three centuries, the scribes in northern Europe used an ever more compressed and spiky form of Gothic. Those in Italy and Spain preferred the rounder but still heavy-looking Rotunda. During the 15th century, Italian scribes returned to the Roman and Carolingian models of writing and designed the Italic hand, also called Chancery cursive, and Roman bookhand. These three hands — Gothic, Italic, and Roman bookhand — became the models for printed letters. Johannes Gutenberg used Gothic to print his famous Bible, but the lighter-weight Italic and Roman bookhand have since become the standard.
In the mid-1600s French officials, flooded with documents written in various hands and varied levels of skill, complained that many such documents were beyond their ability to decipher. The Office of the Financier thereupon restricted all legal documents to three hands, namely the Coulee, the Rhonde, (known as Round hand in English) and a Speed Hand sometimes simply called the Bastarda.
While there were many great French masters at the time, the most influential in proposing these hands was Louis Babedor, who published Les Escitures Financières Et Italienne Bastarde Dans Leur Naturel circa 1650.
With the destruction of the Camera Apostolica during the sack of Rome (1527), the capitol for writing masters moved to Southern France. By 1600, the Italic Cursiva began to be replaced by a technological refinement, the Italic Chancery Circumflessa, which in turn fathered the Rhonde and later English Roundhand.
In England, Ayres and Banson popularized the Round Hand while Snell is noted for his reaction to them, and warnings of restraint and proportionality. Still Edward Crocker began publishing his copybooks 40 years before the aforementioned.
The rise of printing from movable type in the mid-15th century did not mean the end of calligraphy. Illuminated manuscripts declined, however, after printing became ubiquitous. Conventionally the histories of Copperplate hands have represented such writing to have been with a sharp pointed nib instead of the broad-edged one used in most calligraphic writing. This so-called "Copperplate Myth" represents the name to come from the sharp lines of the writing style resembling the etches of engraved copper printing plates. It is unlikely that this picture represents the historical origins of the term accurately, but is rather more reflective of later 19th and 20th century antipecuniary comfort of the Arts and Crafts movement participants. It is most likely that what is today written with pointed steel nibs began stylistic life before the 1820s with a broad edged quill and a number of period pen hold, posture and arm position variations to facilitate the fine lines. Hence there was likely a gradual change in historic writing practices and a reorientation of the vocation and place of writing rather than the elimination of the art.
At the end of the 19th century, the aesthetics and philosophy of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement appealed to many calligraphers, including Englishmen Edward Johnston and Eric Gill. Johnston was introduced to 10th-century manuscripts, at the Fitzherbert Museum by Sir Sidney Cockerell and based his own calligraphy on them. Johnston and his students were to redefine, revive, and popularise English broad-pen calligraphy.
The legacy of the Arts and Crafts movement includes considerable myth. Published in 1906, Johnston’s best known work Writing, Illuminating & Lettering never used the terms “Foundational” or “Foundational Hand” for which he is most remembered. Johnston initially taught his students an uncial hand using a flat pen angle, but later taught his “foundational hand” using a slanted pen angle. He first referred to this hand as “Foundational Hand” in Plate 6 of his 1909 publication, Manuscript & Inscription Letters for Schools and Classes and for the Use of Craftsmen. The Johnston Typeface (commissioned in 1916) became the basis for the London Underground signage and continues today in the New Johnston typeface, revised in 1988.
At about the same time as Johnston, Austrian Rudolf Larisch was teaching lettering at the Vienna School of Art and published six lettering books that greatly influenced German-speaking calligraphers. Because German-speaking countries had not abandoned the Gothic hand in printing, Gothic also had a powerful effect on their styles. Rudolf Koch was a friend and younger contemporary of Larisch. Koch's books, type designs, and teaching made him one of the most influential calligraphers of the 20th century in northern Europe and later in the U.S. Larisch and Koch taught and inspired many European calligraphers, notably Friedrich Neugebauer, Karlgeorg Hoefer, and Hermann Zapf.
Graily Hewitt was most responsible for the revival of the art of gilding, both by contributing to Writing, Illuminating and Lettering (Chapter 9 Appendix) and through his own publications, most notably Lettering for Students & Craftsmen (1930). Hewitt is not without both critics and supporters in his rendering of Cennino Cennini's medieval gesso recipes. Donald Jackson, a British calligrapher, has sourced his gesso recipes from earlier centuries a number of which are not presently in English translation. Graily Hewitt created the patent announcing the award to Prince Philip of the title of Duke of Edinburgh on November 19, 1947, the day before his marriage to Queen Elizabeth.
Calligraphy today finds diverse applications. These include graphic design, logo design, type design, paintings, scholarship, maps, menus, greeting cards, invitations, legal documents, diplomas, cut stone inscriptions, memorial documents, props and moving images for film and television, business cards, and handmade presentations. Many calligraphers make their livelihood in the addressing of envelopes and invitations for public and private events including wedding stationery. Entry points exist for both children and adults via classes and instruction books.
The scope of the calligraphic art is more than pure antiquarian interest. Johnston's legacy remains pivotal to the ambitions of perhaps most Western calligraphers:
“It is possible even now to go back to the child's - something like the early calligrapher's - point of view, and this is the only healthy one for any fine beginning: to this nothing can be added; all Rules must give way to Truth and Freedom.”
The multi-million dollar Saint John's Bible project for the 21st century has engaged Donald Jackson with an international scriptorium and is nearing completion. It is designed as a 21st-century illuminated Bible, executed with both ancient and modern tools and techniques. The earlier 20th-century "Bulley Bible" was executed by a student of Edward Johnston's, Edward Bulley.
The digital era has facilitated the creation and dissemination of thousands of new and historically styled fonts. Calligraphy gives unique expression to every individual letterform within a design layout which is not the strength of typeface technologies no matter their sophistication. The usefulness of the digital medium to the calligrapher is not limited to the computer layout of the new Saint John's Bible prior to working by hand. Writing directly in the digital medium is facilitated via graphics tablets (e.g. Wacom and Toshiba) and is expected to grow in use with the introduction of Microsoft Windows Vista operating system ("Vista Pen Flicks") in 2007. Apple Inc. introduced a similar "shorthand" facility in their Tiger operating system in 2005. Graphics tablets facilitate calligraphic design work more than large size art pieces. The internet supports a number of online communities of calligraphers and hand lettering artists.
Other Western sub-styles and their respective century of appearance:
- Rustic capitals (-VI')
- Roman cursive (-VI')
- Roman square capitals (-VI')
- Uncial script (II')
- Carolingian script (VII')
- Beneventan script (VIII')
- Visigothic script (IX)
- Gothic script (X)
- Textura script (or Gutenberg script) (XV)
- Antiqua script (XVI')
- Chancery hand
- English script (calligraphy) (XVIII')
- Alexander, J.J.G., Marrow, J.H., & Sandler, L.F. with Moodey, E., & Petev, T.T. (2005) The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts at the New York Public Library. New York Public Library/ Harvey Miller Publishers
- Backhouse, J. (1981) The Lindisfarne Gospels. Phaidon Press
- Baines, P., & Dixon, C. (2003) Signs: lettering in the environment. Lawrence King Publishing
- Bickham, G. (1743) The Universal Penman London. 1954 ed. Dover, New York
- Bloem, M., & Browne, M. (2002) Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith. Craig Potton Publishing
- Bose, S., & Jalal, A. (2003) Modern South Asia: History, Culture, Political Economy. Routledge, p. 36
- British Library (2007). Collect Britain. Retrieved 22 February 2007.
- Brown, M.P. & Lovett, P. (1999) The Historical Source Book for Scribes. British Library
- Calderhead, C. (2005) Illuminating the Word: The Making of the Saint John's Bible. Liturgical Press
- Cardozo Kindersley, L.L. (2007) The Cardozo Kindersley Workshop. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
- Child, H. (1988) Calligraphy Today: Twentieth Century Tradition & Practice. Studio Books
- Child, H. ed. (1986) The Calligrapher's Handbook. Taplinger Publishing Co.
- Child, H. (1976) Calligraphy Today: A Survey of Tradition and Trends. Cassell & Collier Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
- Child, H. (1963) Calligraphy Today: A Survey of Tradition and Trends. Watson-Guptill Publications
- Cinamon, G. (2000) Rudolf Koch: Letterer, Type Designer, Teacher. Oak Knoll Press
- Cockerell, S. (1945) from "Tributes to Edward Johnston" in Child, H. & Howes, J. ed.s (1986) Lessons in Formal Writing, pp. 21–30.
- Daniels, P.T & Bright, W. (1996) The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press
- de Hamel, C. (2001a) The Book: A History of the Bible. Phaidon Press
- de Hamel, C (2001b) The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination. British Library
- de Hamel, C. (1994) A History of Illuminated Manuscripts. Phaidon Press
- de Hamel, C. (1992) Scribes and Illuminators. University of Toronto Press
- Diringer, D. (1968) The Alphabet: A Key to the History of Mankind 3rd Ed. Volume 1 Hutchinson & Co. London
- Fraser, M., & Kwiatowski, W. (2006) Ink and Gold: Islamic Calligraphy. Sam Fogg Ltd. London
- Gaur, A. (2000) Literacy and the Politics of Writing. Intellect Books, p. 98
- Geddes, A., & Dion, C. (2004) Miracle: a celebration of new life. Photogenique Publishers Auckland.
- Gilderdale, P. (2006) "What's in a grip? A study of historical pen holds", Letter Arts Review 21(1): 10-27.
- Gilderdale, P. (1999) "The Great Copperplate Myth", Letter Arts Review 15(1): 38-47.
- Gray, N. (1986) A History of Lettering: Creative Experiment and Letter Identity. Godine
- Gray, N. (1971) Lettering as Drawing: Part I The Moving Line. 1982 Ed. Taplinger Publishing C. New York
- Green, R. (2003). Bulley Bible (1969–83). Retrieved 28 October 2006.
- Harris, D. (1991) Calligraphy: Inspiration, Innovation, Communication. Anaya, London.
- Henning, W.E. (2002) An elegant hand: the golden age of American penmanship and calligraphy ed. Melzer, P. Oak Knoll Press, New Castle, Delaware
- Herringham, C.J. (transl. 1899) The Book of the Art of Cennino Cennini, an English translation from the Italian
- Hewitt, W.G. (1944–1953). Letters of William Graily Hewitt to Sidney Feinberg. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
- Hewitt, G. (1930) Lettering: For Students & Craftsmen. Pentalic 1976 ed.
- International Typeface Corporation (1982) International Calligraphy Today. Watson-Guptill Publ. New York
- Jackson, D. (1981) The Story of Writing. The Calligraphy Centre
- Johnston, E. (1906) Writing, Illuminating & Lettering. Dover Publication 1995 ed.
- Johnston, E. (1909) Manuscript & Inscription Letters: For schools and classes and for the use of craftsmen, plate 6. San Vito Press & Double Elephant Press, 10th Impression
- Kapr, A. (1991) "Calligraphy 91" in Schreibwerkstaat Klingspor Offenbach
- Kerr, D.J. (2006) Amassing Treasures for All Times: Sir George Grey, Colonial Bookman and Collector. University of Otago Press/Oak Knoll Press
- Knight, S. (1998) Historical Scripts: From Classical Times to the Renaissance. Oak Knoll Press
- Knight, S. "The Roman Alphabet" in The World's Writing Systems (supra), pp. 312–332.
- Lamb, C.M. ed. (1956) Calligrapher's Handbook. Pentalic 1976 ed.
- Letter Arts Review
- Luthra, H.L () A Text Book of General Studies Vol II., p. 63
- Mediavilla, C. (1996) Calligraphy. Scirpus Publications
- Mitter, P. (2001) Indian Art. Oxford University Press, p. 100
- Morris, W. (1882) From "Making the Best of It" in Hopes and Fears for Art. 2006 ed. Hard Press
- Neugebauer, F. (1979) The Mystic Art of Written Forms
- Pearce, C. (1981 and 2007) The Little Manual of Calligraphy - Paper and Ink Arts
- Pearce, C. (1984) The Anatomy of Letters - Taplinger Publishing
- Prestianni, J. (2001) Calligraphic Type Design in the Digital Age. Gingko Press
- Pott, G. (2006) Kalligrafie: Intensiv Training Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz
- Pott, G. (2005) Kalligrafie:Erste Hilfe und Schrift-Training mit Muster-Alphabeten Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz
- Propfe, J. (2005) SchreibKunstRaume: Kalligraphie im Raum Verlag George D.W. Callwey GmbH & Co.K.G. Munich
- Reaves, M., & Schulte, E. (2006) Brush Lettering: An Instructional Manual in Western Brush Calligraphy Revised Edition, Design Books New York.
- Renard, J. (1999) Responses to 101 Questions on Buddhism. Paulist Press. Religion / World, pp 23–24
- Thomson, G. (2004) Digital Calligraphy with Photoshop. Thomson Learning
- Tresser, J. (2006) The Technique of Raised Gilding 2nd Ed. CD-ROM
- Trinity College Library Dublin (2006) The Book of Kells DVD-ROM.
- Ver Berkmoes, R. () Bali e Lombok p. 45
- Walther, I.F., & Wolf, N. (2005) Masterpieces of Illumination: The world's most beautiful illuminated manuscripts from 400 to 1600. Taschen
- Whitley, K.P. (2000) The History and Technique of Manuscript Gilding. Oak Knoll Press
- Wieck, R.S. (1983) Late Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts 1350-1525 in the Houghton Library. Harvard College Library
- Williams, R.B. (2004) Williams On South Asian Religions And Immigration: Collected Works By Raymond Brady Williams. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p. 61
- Zapf, H. (2007) Alphabet Stories: A Chronicle of Technical Developments Cary Graphic Arts Press Rochester New York
- Zapf, H. (2006) The world of Alphabets: A kaleidoscope of drawings and letterforms, CD-ROM
- Mediavilla 1996: 17
- Mediavilla 1996: 18
- Diringer 1968: 441
- Fraser & Kwiatkowski 2006; Johnston 1909: Plate 6
- Mediavilla 1996
- Pott 2006 & 2005; Zapf 2007 & 2006
- see for example Letter Arts Review; Propfe 2005; Geddes & Dion 2004
- Daniels & Bright 1996; Knight 1996
- Walther & Wolf 2005; Gray 1986
- Jackson 1981
- de Hamel 2001a
- Knight 1998: 10
- Trinity College Library Dublin 2006; Walther & Wolf 2005; Brown & Lovett 1999: 40; Backhouse 1981
- Jackson 1981: 64
- Walther & Wolf 2005; de Hamel 1994: 46-48
- de Hamel 1994: 46
- Kerr 2006; Alexander 2005; de Hamel 2001b & 1992; Wieck 1983
- Joyce Irene Whalley (circa 1980). The Art of Calligraphy, Western Europe & America.
- Zapf 2007; de Hamel 2001a; Gilderdale 1999; Gray 1971
- de Hamel 2001a; de Hamel 1986
- for example Harris 1991: 117
- Gilderdale 1999; for example Hewitt 1930
- "copperplate", Zanerian, Spencerian hands for example
- Gilderdale 2006; Henning 2002; Gilderdale 1999; Bickham 1743
- Cockerell 1945; Morris 1882
- such as the Ramsey Psalter, BL, Harley MS 2904
- Cockerell 1945
- Gilderdale 1999
- Baines & Dixon 2003: 81
- Cinamon 2001; Kapr 1991
- Tresser 2006
- Whitley 2000: 90
- Herringham 1899
- Jackson 1981: 81
- Hewitt 1944-1953
- Zapf 2007; Mediavilla 1996; Child 1988, 1976 & 1963; International Typeface Corporation 1982
- Johnston 1909: contents page
- Green 2003
- Zapf 2007: 76-7; Thomson 2004 versus Prestianni 2001
- Calderhead 2005
- Thomson 2004
- Kaligrafos - The Dallas Calligraphy Society, a non-profit guild promoting the calligraphic arts
- Friends of Calligraphy, San Francisco, California
- New Zealand Calligraphers, a national network of affiliated calligraphy guilds
- The Edward Johnston Foundation - Research centre for calligraphy and lettering arts