Western calligraphy

Western calligraphy

Western Calligraphy (from Greek "polytonic|κάλλος" "kallos" "beauty" + "polytonic|γραφή" "graphẽ" "writing") is the art of writing (Mediavilla 1996: 17). A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner" (Mediavilla 1996: 18). The story of writing is one of aesthetic evolution framed within the technical skills, transmission speed(s) and materials limitations of a person, time and place (Diringer 1968: 441). A style of writing is described as a script, hand or alphabet (Fraser & Kwiatkowski 2006; Johnston 1909: Plate 6).

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 (Mediavilla 1996). 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 (Pott 2006 & 2005; Zapf 2007 & 2006).

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 (see for example Letter Arts Review; Propfe 2005; ).

Historical development

Western calligraphy is the calligraphy of the Latin writing system, and to a lesser degree the Greek and Cyrillic writing systems (Daniels & Bright 1996; Knight 1996). 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 (Mediavilla 1996). 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 (Walther & Wolf 2005; Gray 1986).

Long, heavy rolls of papyrus were replaced by the Romans with the first books, initially simply folded pages of parchment made from animal skins. Reed pens were replaced by quill pens (Jackson 1981).

Christian churches promoted the development of writing through the prolific copying of the Bible, particularly the New Testament and other sacred texts (de Hamel 2001a). Two distinct styles of writing known as uncial and half-uncial (from the Latin "uncia," or "inch") developed from a variety of Roman bookhands (Knight 1998: 10). 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 (Trinity College Library Dublin 2006; Walther & Wolf 2005; Brown & Lovett 1999: 40; Backhouse 1981).

Charlemagne's devotion to improved scholarship resulted in the recruiting of "a crowd of scribes", according to Alcuin, the Abbot of York (Jackson 1981: 64). 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 (Walther & Wolf 2005; de Hamel 1994: 46-48). Carolingian remains the one progenitor hand from which modern booktype descends (de Hamel 1994: 46).

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.

During the Middle Ages, hundreds of thousands of [http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/collections/illuminated/ manuscripts] were produced: some illuminated with gold and fine painting, some illustrated with line drawings, and some just textbooks (Kerr 2006; Alexander 2005; de Hamel 2001b & 1992; Wieck 1983).

Resurgence of Western calligraphy

The rise of printing from movable type in the mid-15th century did not mean the end of calligraphy (Zapf 2007; de Hamel 2001a; Gilderdale 1999; Gray 1971). Illuminated manuscripts declined however after printing became ubiquitous (de Hamel 2001a; de Hamel 1986). 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 (for example Harris 1991: 117). 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 (Gilderdale 1999; for example Hewitt 1930). It is most likely that what is today written with pointed steel nibs ("copperplate", Zanerian, Spencerian hands for example) began stylistic life before the 1820's with a broad edged quill and a number of period pen hold, posture and arm position variations to facilitate the fine lines (Gilderdale 2006; Henning 2002; Gilderdale 1999; Bickham 1743). 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 (Cockerell 1945; Morris 1882). Johnston was introduced to 10th-century manuscripts (such as the Ramsey Psalter, BL, Harley MS 2904) at the Fitzherbert Museum by Sir Sidney Cockerell (Cockerell 1945), 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 (Gilderdale 1999). 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 (Baines & Dixon 2003: 81).

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 (Cinamon 2001; Kapr 1991).

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 (Tresser 2006) and supporters (Whitley 2000: 90) in his rendering of Cennino Cennini's medieval gesso recipes (Herringham 1899). Donald Jackson, a British calligrapher, has sourced his gesso recipes from earlier centuries a number of which are not presently in English translation (Jackson 1981: 81). 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 (Hewitt 1944-1953).

Many typefaces are based on historical hands, such as Blackletter (including Fraktur), Lombardic, Uncial, Italic, and Roundhand.

Calligraphy today

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 [http://www.cynscribe.com/guilds.html classes] and instruction books.

The scope of the calligraphic art is more than pure antiquarian interest (Zapf 2007; Mediavilla 1996; Child 1988, 1976 & 1963; International Typeface Corporation 1982). 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" (Johnston 1909: contents page).

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 (Green 2003).

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 (Zapf 2007: 76-7; Thomson 2004 versus Prestianni 2001). 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 (Calderhead 2005). 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 (Thomson 2004). The internet supports a number of online communities of calligraphers and hand lettering artists.

Other sub-styles

Other Western sub-styles and their respective century of appearition :
* Rustic capitals (-VI')
* Roman cursive (-VI')
* Roman square capitals (-VI')
* Uncial script (II')
* Carolingian script (VII')
* 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
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*British Library (2007). Collect Britain. Retrieved 22/02/2007, from http://www.collectbritain.co.uk/collections/illuminated/
*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 15/04/2007, from http://www.kindersleyworkshop.co.uk/
*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, Oxford U.K
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*Fraser, M., & Kwiatowski, W. (2006) Ink and Gold: Islamic Calligraphy. Sam Fogg Ltd. London
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*Knight, S. (1998) Historical Scripts: From Classical Times to the Renaissance. Oak Knoll Press
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*Zapf, H. (2007) Alphabet Stories: A Chronicle of Technical Develoments Cary Graphic Arts Press Rochester New York
*Zapf, H. (2006) The world of Alphabets: A kaleidoscope of drawings and letterforms, CD-ROM

External links

* [http://www.kaligrafos.com Kaligrafos - The Dallas Calligraphy Society] A non-profit guild promoting the calligraphic arts
* [http://www.nzcalligraphers.co.nz New Zealand Calligraphers] A national network of affiliated calligraphy guilds
* [http://www.ejf.org.uk The Edward Johnston Foundation] - Research centre for calligraphy and lettering arts
* cite web |publisher= Victoria and Albert Museum
url= http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/prints_books/modern_calligraphy/index.html
title= Modern Calligraphy Collection
work=Prints & Books
accessdate= 2007-08-27

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