Western calligraphy is the art of writing and penmanship as practiced
in the Western world, especially using the
Latin alphabet (but also
including calligraphic use of the Cyrillic and Greek alphabets, as
opposed to "Eastern" traditions such as Turko-Perso-Arabic, Chinese or
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.
Calligraphic writing continued to play a role long after the
introduction of the printing press in the West, official documents
being drawn up in engrossed or handwritten form well into the 18th
century. A revival of calligraphy in the later 19th century was
associated with the
Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts movements, and it
continues to be practiced, typically commissioned for private purposes
such as wedding invitations, logo design, memorial documents, etc.
1.1 Late Antiquity
1.2 Early Middle Ages
1.3 Later Middle Ages
1.4 Early Modern era
1.5 Modern revival
1.6 20th century
3 Other sub-styles
6 External links
History of the alphabet
History of the alphabet and Latin alphabet
Page of the
Virgilius Romanus (5th century)
Uncial script and Rustic capitals
The rolls of papyrus used in classical antiquity (the biblia or
Late Antiquity were gradually replaced by the codex. Reed
pens were replaced by quill pens.
Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville explained the
then-current relation between codex, liber ("book") and volumen
("scroll") in his
Codex multorum librorum est; liber unius voluminis. Et dictus codex
per translationem a codicibus arborum seu vitium, quasi caudex, quod
ex se multitudinem librorum quasi ramorum contineat.
"A codex is composed of many books; a book is of one scroll. It is
called codex by way of metaphor from the trunks of trees or vines, as
if it were a wooden stock (caudex), because it contains in itself a
multitude of books, as it were of branches."
A tradition of biblical manuscripts in codex form goes back to the 2nd
Codex Vaticanus), and from about the 5th century, two
distinct styles of writing known as uncial and half-uncial (from the
Latin "uncia," or "inch") developed from various Roman bookhands.
Early Middle Ages
Further information: Merovingian script, Carolingian minuscule, and
Folio 27r from the
Lindisfarne Gospels (c.700) contains the incipit
from the Gospel of Matthew.
With the onset of the
Middle Ages from about the 7th century, literacy
in Latin Europe was increasingly limited to the monasteries.
The tradition of illumination has its origins in Late Antiquity, and
reaches early medieval Europe in about the 8th century, notable early
examples including 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
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.
Later Middle Ages
Calligraphy in a
Vulgate of AD 1407 on display in Malmesbury Abbey,
Wiltshire, England. The Bible was hand written in Belgium, by Gerard
Brils, for reading aloud in a monastery.
Further information: Blackletter, Rotunda (script), Chancery hand, and
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
Johannes Gutenberg used Gothic to print his famous Bible, but
the lighter-weight Italic and Roman bookhand have since become the
During the Middle Ages, hundreds of thousands of manuscripts were
produced: some illuminated with gold and fine painting, some
illustrated with line drawings, and some just textbooks.
Towards the end of the Middle Ages, administration in the states of
Western Europe became more centralised. Paper was again widely
available in Europe, which allowed a bureaucracy with standardized
bookkeeping. In late medieval England, this led to the development of
the Chancery Standard of Late Middle English, along with new forms of
standardised calligraphy used for the production of legal or official
documents. By the mid-15th century, Chancery Standard was used for
most official purposes except by the Church, which still used Latin,
and for some legal purposes, for which
Law French and some Latin were
used. It was disseminated around
England by bureaucrats on official
business and slowly gained prestige. The production of finalized,
calligraphic copies of documents in
Chancery hand came to be known as
"engrossing", from Anglo-French engrosser (Old French en gros "in
In the late 1490s and early 1500s, the early printer Richard Pynson
favored Chancery Standard in his published works, and consequently
pushed the English spelling further towards standardization.
Early Modern era
Further information: Chancery hand, Italic script, Round hand,
Bastarda, and Humanist minuscule
Page of initials from Stephanus Hayn's notebook (1775)
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 Barbedor, who published
Les Ecritures Financière Et Italienne Bastarde Dans Leur Naturel
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.
Edward Johnston, founder of modern calligraphy, at work in 1902.
After printing became ubiquitous from the 15th century, the production
of illuminated manuscripts began to decline. However, the rise of
printing did not mean the end of calligraphy.
The modern revival of calligraphy began at the end of the 19th
century, influenced by the aesthetics and philosophy of William Morris
and the Arts and Crafts movement.
Edward Johnston is regarded as being
the father of modern calligraphy. After studying published
copies of manuscripts by architect William Harrison Cowlishaw, he was
William Lethaby in 1898, principal of the Central School
of Arts and Crafts, who advised him to study manuscripts at the
This triggered Johnston's interest in the art of calligraphy with the
use of a broad edged pen. He began a teaching course in calligraphy at
the Central School in Southampton Row, London from September 1899,
where he influenced the typeface designer and sculptor Eric Gill. He
was commissioned by
Frank Pick to design a new typeface for London
Underground, still used today (with minor modifications).
He has been credited for reviving the art of modern penmanship and
lettering single-handedly through his books and teachings - his
handbook on the subject,
Writing & Illuminating, & Lettering
(1906) was particularly influential on a generation of British
typographers and calligraphers, including Graily Hewitt, Stanley
Eric Gill and Anna Simons. Johnston also devised the simply
crafted round calligraphic handwriting style, written with a broad
pen, known today as the Foundational hand, although Johnston never
used the terms "Foundational" or "Foundational Hand". Johnston
initially taught his students an uncial hand using a flat pen angle,
but later taught his hand using a slanted pen angle. He first
referred to this hand as "Foundational Hand" in his 1909 publication,
Manuscript & Inscription Letters for Schools and Classes and for
the Use of Craftsmen.
Graily Hewitt taught at the
Central School of Arts and Crafts
Central School of Arts and Crafts and
published together with Johnston throughout the early part of the
century. Hewitt was central to the revival of gilding in calligraphy,
and his prolific output on type design also appeared between 1915 and
1943. He is attributed with the revival of gilding with gesso and gold
leaf on vellum. Hewitt helped to found the Society of Scribes &
Illuminators (SSI) in 1921, probably the world's foremost calligraphy
An example of Graily Hewitt's calligraphy.
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
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.
Johnston’s pupil, Anna Simons, was instrumental in sparking off
interest in calligraphy in Germany with her German translation of
Writing and Illuminating, and Lettering in 1910. Austrian Rudolf
Larisch, a teacher of lettering at the Vienna School of Art, 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
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 Karlgeorg Hoefer, and Hermann Zapf.
Modern western calligraphy (Denis Brown, 2006)
Calligraphy of the German word Urkunde ("deed, certificate"; Manuel
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.”
Saint John's Bible project for the 21st
century, completed in 2011, had engaged Donald Jackson with an
international scriptorium. 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.
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
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
Other Western sub-styles and their respective century of appearance:
Rustic capitals (6th BC)
Roman cursive (6th BC)
Roman square capitals
Roman square capitals (6th BC)
Uncial script (2nd)
Carolingian script (7th)
Beneventan script (8th)
Visigothic script (9th)
Gothic script (10th)
Chancery hand (13th)
Textura script (or Gutenberg script) (15th)
Antiqua script (16th)
English script (calligraphy) (18th)
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.
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
Bloem, M., & Browne, M. (2002) Colin McCahon: A Question of Faith.
Craig Potton Publishing
Bose, S., & Jalal, A. (2003) Modern South Asia: History, Culture,
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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
Child, H. (1976)
Calligraphy Today: A Survey of Tradition and Trends.
Cassell & Collier Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
Child, H. (1963)
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Cinamon, G. (2000) Rudolf Koch: Letterer, Type Designer, Teacher. Oak
Cockerell, S. (1945) from "Tributes to Edward Johnston" in Child, H.
& Howes, J. ed.s (1986) Lessons in Formal Writing,
Daniels, P.T & Bright, W. (1996) The World's
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
de Hamel, C. (1992) Scribes and Illuminators. University of Toronto
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Ed. Volume 1 Hutchinson & Co. London
Fraser, M., & Kwiatowski, W. (2006) Ink and Gold: Islamic
Calligraphy. Sam Fogg Ltd. London
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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
Gray, N. (1986) A History of Lettering: Creative Experiment and Letter
Gray, N. (1971) Lettering as Drawing: Part I The Moving Line. 1982 Ed.
Taplinger Publishing C. New York
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Cennini, an English translation from the Italian
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Today. Watson-Guptill Publ. New York
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Muster-Alphabeten Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz
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Calligraphy Revised Edition, Design Books New
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Thomson, G. (2004) Digital
Calligraphy with Photoshop. Thomson
Tresser, J. (2006) The Technique of Raised
Gilding 2nd Ed. CD-ROM
Trinity College Library Dublin (2006) The
Book of Kells
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.
Whitley, K.P. (2000) The History and Technique of Manuscript Gilding.
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Manuscripts 1350-1525 in the Houghton Library. Harvard College Library
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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
^ 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
^ Jackson 1981
^ 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
^ a b c d Joyce Irene Whalley (c. 1980). The
Art of Calligraphy,
Western Europe & America.
^ de Hamel 2001a; de Hamel 1986
^ Zapf 2007; de Hamel 2001a; Gilderdale 1999; Gray 1971
^ a b "The Legacy of Edward Johnston". The Edward Johnston
^ Cockerell 1945; Morris 1882
Font Designer — Edward Johnston". Linotype GmbH. Retrieved 5
^ such as the Ramsey Psalter, BL, Harley MS 2904
Eric Gill Society: Associates of the Guild: Edward Johnston
^ Gilderdale 1999
^ Baines & Dixon 2003: 81
^ Tresser 2006
^ Whitley 2000: 90
^ Herringham 1899
^ Jackson 1981: 81
^ Hewitt 1944-1953
^ Cinamon 2001; Kapr 1991
^ Zapf 2007; Mediavilla 1996; Child 1988, 1976 & 1963;
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, Kaligrafos, a non-profit
guild promoting the calligraphic arts
Friends of Calligraphy, San Francisco, California
New Zealand Calligraphers, a national network of affiliated
Edward Johnston Foundation - Research centre for calligraphy and
Types of handwritten European scripts
Canons of page construction
Recto and verso
Widows and orphans
Subscript and superscript
Antiqua (old style)
traditional point-size names
Intentionally blank page