Long title: Start Calligraphy – all the techniques and tips you need to get you started by Maureen Sullivan
Introduction by the author
All writing has evolved from art. The earliest known records of human activity are the pictures that cave dwellers drew on the walls to commemorate the hunt. Gradually, over 20,000 years, pictures became simplified in form and more symbolic, such as the pictograms or ideograms of the Sumerian cuneiform writing system and Egyptian Hieroglyphics. The first Western alphabet representing phonetic sounds was written on clay tablets by the Phoenicians about 2000 BC. As the centres of power shifted around the Mediterranean, the Greeks, Etruscans and later, the Romans modified the alphabet to comprise 23 of the letters that we recognise today. Later, as written language developed, the letters 'J', 'U' and 'W' were added.
Parchment and Pen…
The Romans used three different writing scripts: a stylus on wax tablets and clay; a chisel on stone to carve the classic capitals, beautifully proportioned and still an inspiration, on monuments and public buildings; and a chisel-¬shaped brush or reed to write the rustic capitals. As the armies of Rome spread across the world, so too did Roman literature. In 311 AD, the Emperor Constantine began urging the spread of Christianity. The Bible became the first codex bound as a book, made with parchment or vellum pages, written with a quill in the round circular uncial hand (a curved hand of unequal height as used in Greek and Latin manuscripts). The Irish developed a half-uncial hand and wrote the Book of Kells and the Lindisfarne Gospels were completed in 698 AD in Northumbria.
In 789 AD, Charlemagne, King of the Franks, wanted to unify many peoples, cultures and languages under one language, Latin and one writing script. He dispatched Alcuin of York, along with a team of scribes to Tours, France, to develop the Caroline minuscule, a clear rhythmic writing that remained the dominant script for centuries. The English monks who wrote the Ramsey Psalter, an elaborate 10th-century codex, developed the most legible script, the letters are round and clear and were later rediscovered by Edward Johnston in 1900. He modernised it and called it the 'Foundation' hand.
As medieval architecture became taller, pointed and more angular, the shape of letterforms such as gothic, blackletter and texture came to reflect this fashion. Later, in the 15th century Gutenberg made moveable type, which used gothic Ietterforms handcut from wooden blocks. This type was used in printing the first Western books. In the 20th century, letter and type designer Rudolf Koch carved Blackletter shapes into metal, while today, Hermann Zapf designs digital fonts.
As written correspondence became more widespread, a faster form of writing had to be found. In the 16th century the italic hand was developed using an elliptical 'o' and a greater economy of movement that allowed letters to be joined together. Among others, Lodovico Arrighi (1520) and Glovannl Battlsta Palatino (1544) wrote copybooks that inspire us as much today as they did their royal patrons at the time. This popular calligraphy has many variations, chancery cursive, formal, flourished, compressed, pointed, swash, handwriting, sharpened, gothicised and is now used internationally.
To cope with ever greater demands for printing, the copperplate replaced wood-cut blocks and mass printing closed many scriptoria. The new form of engraving used a pointed tool called a burin to incise the copper and it became possible to print more copies with finer detail on paper. The pointed, flexible metal pen now replaced the 1,500-year-old broad-edged quills and reeds. At the end of the 19th century, William Morris, concerned that many traditional skills would be lost, started the Arts and Crafts Revival in Britain. His secretary, Sydney Cockerell, encouraged Edward Johnston to study medieval manuscripts in the British Library Johnston rediscovered the broad-edged pen and writing techniques of the medieval scribes. In 1899, he gave the first 'lettering' class in the world and in 1906 published Writing, Illuminating, & Lettering, which is still in print today and is the most widely sold book on calligraphy. In 1916, Johnston was commissioned to design lettering for London Transport's underground and buses. This letter style became the first sans-serif type.
The present revival of calligraphy across the globe owes much to Johnston's genius, philosophy and masterly use of the broad-edged pen, reminding us all that writing by hand in a beautiful style is both rare and precious.
Calligraphy is, quite literally, beautiful writing. The word itself comes from the Greek kallos, meaning beauty, and graphia, meaning drawing or writing.
Most people take up calligraphy because they want to create something with their hands. Art classes, such as drawing, may feel somewhat daunting, whereas writing, which we all learned at school, feels more attainable; you don't have to be particularly artistically talented to enrol in a calligraphy class.
Calligraphy is an interesting and deeply satisfying activity The materials, pen, ink and paper, are relatively inexpensive. Beautiful writing has practical applications, too, such as addressing envelopes and making cards for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations and so on. It can also be used, as it has been throughout the centuries, to add names to certificates, awards, diplomas, marriage certificates and family trees. Making gifts, such as boxes and decorated books, is another application, as is more formal work such as creating pieces of art by combining words and images for exhibition purposes.
Calligraphy's status in the Western world as a recognised genuine artistic activity is growing fast, while in the Orient, it is respected as one of the highest traditional art forms.
Calligraphy invites you to find the perfect words. Whether it is poetry, stories, jokes, a few favourite lines from a play, novel or a song, words come to life with a calligrapher's pen. A whole new world opens up as we explore our thoughts and memories, as well as the canons of literature, in search of the right words.
Many people use calligraphy to express their thoughts and feelings and connect with their inner self. By committing these personal thoughts to a diary, letter, journal or scrapbook, they can share them with others. Calligraphy is also ideal for personalised letters and greeting cards. Imagine the excitement a person experiences at seeing the package they've just received. Though the words are to be read and enjoyed, a great deal more is being communicated. The card design, choice of paper, style of calligraphy and colours all deliver the message: 'I care enough about you to spend the time and effort to make this'.
Calligraphy also brings a sense of inner calm. The physical act of holding a pen and feeling it move across the paper is a unique pleasure. Writing, drawing and painting demand full attention and concentration, a balance between control and freedom that creates a meditative, peaceful state as you immerse yourself in the act of creating. So pick up your pen and lose yourself in this beautiful activity.
PLEASE NOTE: Previous edition was published under the title Calligraphy – Techniques to get you started
2nd edition 2010, Pb, 96pp, full colour throughout, 15 x 21 cm