The Complete Guide to Calligraphy edited by Maryanne Grebenstein



The Complete Guide to Calligraphy edited by Maryanne Grebenstein



Publisher’s Synopsis
This complete guide contains all you need to discover and develop your calligraphic skills.

< Step-by-step instructions and expert advice on everything from selecting pens and mastering alphabets to advanced letter illumination and design.

Practical projects and inspiring ideas for creating your own works of art, based on beautiful contemporary designs and historical examples.

About the author:
Maryanne Grebenstein established The Abbey Studio in 1982, a professional calligraphy studio that produces hand-lettered document as well as offering calligraphy courses. The studio also conducts manuscript study trips to museums and libraries in the United States and Europe. Maryanne teaches this ancient craft at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, at MassArt, and as a visiting artist at The Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington, D.C. In collaboration with Grebenstein, North Bennet is presenting a new, one-semester full-time course in calligraphy, manuscript illumination, and bookbinding. From 2003-2009, Maryanne was a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston. In 2006 she authored the text book Calligraphy: A Course in Hand Lettering, also available from

From the introduction to the book:
The word calligraphy stems from the Greek words kallos and graphe, which literally mean beautiful writing! The art has roots that stretch back into the mists of time. Yet the techniques, tools, materials and some of the letterforms have remained little changed over the centuries.

This book is concerned both with the working methods of practising calligraphers and with what they want their calligraphy to 'perform' as a result of these 'methods'. In the Western world, we expect to see lettering running from left right and from top to bottom in straight lines of varying lengths. However, the calligrapher has wonderful opportunities to break free from the traditional mould and make letters perform visually as well as intellectually.

The modern student of calligraphy should turn to historical models for an understanding of letterforms as they were used by earlier professionals. Before the invention of printing, calligraphy was vitally important as one of the few means of storing and transmitting the written word. For centuries, scribes produced books by hand and we have much to learn from the methods they employed.

Print is primarily for reading, not purely for its decorative effect. The vast amounts of written material to which we are exposed every day make us switch off our sensitivity to lettering. Newspapers filled with sensationalism, information on every packaged product, road signs, shop signs and street names all bombard us. The act of reading has become an everyday skill that most of us take for granted.

A piece of skilfully crafted calligraphy encourages us really to 'see' what we are reading by making the words beautiful to look at. Much of its impact relies upon producing a rhythmic texture in the writing. This beauty, however, is not necessarily peaceful. Tensions can also be used to disturb us: a variety of letterforms can be used in different styles and sizes or arranged in varying orientations. Seen in this light, calligraphy is a powerful tool for communicating the written word in the modern world.

The revival of interest in calligraphy in the Western world really began with the work of Edward Johnston (1872-1944). Johnston studied at the British Museum in London where he analysed how old manuscripts had been written, the tools that were used and the different angles of the pens. He created the foundational hand we use today (see pages 130-137) and taught many students who went on to become highly skilled calligraphers.

There is now a more liberal approach to design and letterform. Working within the vast advertising empires has allowed the more innovative and creative calligraphers to push back the boundaries. Calligraphy is now being developed into an art form and is a platform for making challenging statements, creating feelings about the language of words and letters, and expressing poignant poetry and prose. With the introduction of the colour camera, four-colour printing, colour photocopying and computers, there are hundreds of ways to present new letterforms. The world of graphics and advertising relies on the colour sciences and the 'feel and expression' of words, rather than just information. New images, concepts and shapes increase interest and excitement, communicate ideas and sell products. Computerised lettering can be stretched, turned, made heavier, faded in and out; it can be enlarged and reduced and made to create mood, express action or insinuate feeling.

Today the skilled calligrapher is continually adding new vitality to letterforms. The production of beautiful formal manuscripts and the commercial world of graphics both rely on the interpretation and feel of words, and the myriad possibilities of new shapes and images are endless.

1st edition, 2011, paperback, 256pp, full colour throughout, 23 x23 cm

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy edited by Maryanne Grebenstein
£16.99 EUR 20.95