As many of you know from my post on history books, in which I discuss the historical development of languages (https://candeloblooms.com/2017/09/26/history-books-part-three-history/), I have always been interested in this subject, especially the way in which we use symbols to codify oral expression with a wide variety of writing systems throughout time and place from ancient pictograms, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Sumerian cuneiform (wedge-shaped) writing to modern writing systems, based on word writing (Chinese characters), syllable writing (Japanese syllabaries) and alphabetic writing (based on phonemes or sound units). However, it is the practical application and art of writing or calligraphy, which is the subject of this post.
Calligraphy, sometimes known as the art of penmanship, derives from the Greek καλλιγραφία , ‘kalli’ and ‘graphia’, meaning ‘beautiful writing’ and refers to the design and aesthetic execution of lettering with a broad tip pen, brush or other writing tool eg quill or qalam (a reed pen used in Islamic calligraphy).
In fact, it is considered one of the highest art forms in the Islamic world, particularly during the Ottoman Era (1299-1922). Calligraphy was also the visual art form prized above all others in traditional China, especially during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). See: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/chcl/hd_chcl.htm and http://www.art-virtue.com/history/tang/tang.htm. I recently bought a lovely Chinese calligraphy set, complete with two brushes, an ink stick, grinding stone, seal and sealing wax, seen in the next two photos.The heyday of calligraphy in the Western world was during the Medieval Period, when scribes in monasteries copied the bible and other sacred texts by hand, producing beautiful illuminated texts like the Celtic Lindisfarne Gospels ((715–720 AD) and the Book of Kells (800 AD).
With the development of the Gutenberg Printing Press in 1454, and its subsequent popularity, the production of illuminated manuscripts declined, but fortunately, the art of calligraphy was revived by William Morris, Sydney Cockerell and William Lethaby during the Arts and Crafts Period at the end of the nineteenth century, with an English calligrapher, Edward Johnston (1872-1944), being credited as the father of modern calligraphy, along with German calligrapher, Rudolf Koch (1876-1934).I discovered calligraphy in the early 1980s before children came along and I still had unlimited personal time! I did courses with The Pen Shoppe in Brisbane, which has since expanded to include a second shop in Brisbane, as well as shops in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and a huge online store. The shop in the Queen Victoria Building, Sydney, also has a Vintage Pen Museum. For more about The Pen Shoppe, see : http://www.pensdeluxe.ashop.com.au/g/26656/about-us.html. It still offers calligraphy supplies (http://www.pensdeluxe.ashop.com.au/c/233763/1/calligraphy-.html) and courses (for dates, see: https://www.facebook.com/penmanshipworkshop/ and http://www.themodelshoppe.com.au/files/workshops-oct17-mar18.pdf ). Here are photos of my old practice pad and a very basic sample Christmas card from the 80s!
I loved the meditative aspects and beauty of this slow and aesthetic art form, but unfortunately, with the increasing pace of life and lack of free time and the development of computers with their digitised typefaces and desktop publishing software applications like AdobeInDesign, hand executed calligraphy is very much a specialised pursuit now, but I believe it is still very valid. There are certainly some beautiful sets these days!Given that my last post on my craft library concerned books on papercraft, I thought a good bridging book to this post would be my first book:
The Handcrafted Letter: Get Inspired, Find Your Voice and Create Unique Projects to Keep in Touch by Diane Maurer-Mathison 2001
Given that most modern communication is via email or text, it is often forgotten that ‘snail mail’ was the major form of communication for many years, especially over long distances before the age of the telephone or internet. In fact, it is quite a rarity these days to receive a hand-written letter or card, elevating its receipt to a very special event, so it is even more important to spend time on the selection of papers and cards and the presentation of the message.
In her book, Diane quotes Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who described the arrival of a letter as being’ like the bright beams of the moon on the desolate heath’ (in a letter to his daughter Mary Jefferson on 7 Feb 1799 , sourced from the Domestic Life of Jefferson, as can be seen in: http://archive.org/stream/domesticlifeofth010719mbp/domesticlifeofth010719mbp_djvu.txt), a beautiful description, which is just as apt today for such an increasingly rare event! I totally identify with Diane’s assertion that a handwritten letter is far more personal, special and intimate than an email or typed letter and reflects our personality, as well as being a valuable record for future generations. We really value old family letters from the 1850s, when Ross’s great grandfather John, as well as John’s brother Thomas and cousin Edmund emigrated to Australia from England, and correspondence during the First World War between those family members left at home and the boys who fought at Gallipoli and the Western Front. The last letter from Ross’s 25 year old uncle, Alf, who died at Pozières, France, on or about the 5th August 1916, was particularly poignant! However, I digress…!!In her book, Diane covers a variety of topics from simple italic handwriting and letter-writing tips to the materials themselves: Pens and writing implements; decorative stationary and artful envelopes, as well as a number of different decorative techniques including card making; handmade paper; pressed flower paper; puzzle letters; embossing; decorative borders; quilling; spatter painting; leaf printing; collages; stencilling; rubber stamping; Suminagashi marbling; and making paste paper. It’s certainly a very inspiring book with some wonderful ideas for creating beautiful letters!Now to the other sort of ‘letter’ with two interesting books on the development of the alphabet:
Alphabet: The History, Evolution and Design of the Letters We Use Today by Allan Haley 1995
This fascinating book tells the story of the Latin alphabet from the monumental capitals, inscribed on ancient Roman monuments, to the history of our lower case alphabet, numbers and punctuation marks. In the beginning of the book, there is a System of Classification for Typefaces, based on nine basic groups: Old Style; Transitional; Modern; Clarendon; Slab Serif; Glyphic; Sans Serif; Scripts; and Graphic, with descriptions of each type and examples of sub-types within each category. There is also a list of Typographic Terminology to enable understanding of the main text of the book.After a discussion of the history of Capital Letters, each letter of the alphabet is described in detail, its evolution, as well as notes on its structure, design and practical presentation. Did you know that: the Capital Letter A is thought to have been derived from the Phoenecian alef, the symbol for the head of an ox, one of their most important working animals and main source of power, and that its width should be three-quarters its height, while our second Capital Letter B evolves from the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph signifying shelter, the second most important ingredient for human survival, as well as correlating with the second letter of the Phoenecian alphabet beth, meaning house, as in Bethel (House of God) and Bethlehem (House of Bread).The history of the lower case letters is equally fascinating from the development of three different hands by scribes for graphic communication (Square Capitals; Rustic Capitals and Roman Cursive) to the rounded Uncial letters found in bible transcriptions and fine calligraphy from the fourth to the ninth century and Half-Uncials, an easier, more condensed and readable style for secular documents.
National Hands developed, specific to each geographical region, the Irish Hand being one of the most beautiful, as seen in the Book of Kells of 800 AD. Charlemagne further reformed writing styles in the late eighth century with the Caroline Miniscules, eliminating cursive forms and all ligatures and adapting easily to Gutenberg’s Movable Type in the mid-fourteenth century.
Again, the origin and formation of each lower case letter is described in detail. I was particularly interested in the ‘r’ and ‘s’, as I have learnt both letters in their two different forms (Cursive and Common Core) in the past and still mix them up within the same text! For younger readers, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EzdAFw2aWc and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0tdmbYz0O7o.
The design development of Ampersands, Arabic Numerals from 0 to 9 and Punctuation Marks, including periods, commas, colons, semi-colons, quotation marks and exclamation and question marks, are also discussed in this informative source book for typographers and calligraphers.Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story by Michael Rosen 2013
This highly entertaining and readable paperback also explores the history of the alphabet in a series of anecdotes covering different alphabet-related topics. Each of the 26 chapters starts with a short story about the evolution of the particular letter, its pronunciation and its use. For example, A is for Alphabet ; C is for Ciphers; D is for Disappeared Letters; J is for Jokes; M is for Music and Memory; N is for Nonsense; P is for Pitman; Q is for Qwerty; and Z is for Zip Codes. I hope these examples whet your appetite to read this very enjoyable book.
In the back is a series of twenty challenges named The Oulipo Olympics, including Pangrams (a sentence using all letters of the alphabet eg ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’); Isopangrams ( a sentence 26 letters long using all the letters of the alphabet); Palindromes (words spelt the same forwards and backwards eg Mama or a more complex phrase: ‘A man, a plan, a canal – Panama’); Acrostics ( a poem using the alphabet letters as the initial letters of the lines of the poem) ; Word Ladders (transforming one word into another by changing one letter at a time eg Head to Tail: Head, Heal, Teal, Tell, Tall and Tail); and Homoconsonantism (a text with all vowels removed, then replace with other vowels, which still makes sense!)
For a theoretical guide to the alphabet, this is a really fun book! Now for some practical books about calligraphy in order of their publication!
The Art of Calligraphy: A Practical Guide by Marie Angel 1977
Marie Angel (1923-2010) was a British freelance illustrator, miniaturist and calligrapher, who wrote and illustrated 25 books and was responsible for reviving interest in calligraphy in the 1980s. Some of her beautiful images can be seen on: https://www.pinterest.com.au/patsy01942/calligraphy-by-marie-angel/.
She focused on animals, lettering, and the spiritual, and her work demonstrated the very highest level of attention to detail, exquisite skill and the use of beautiful colours. If ever anyone could inspire you to take up calligraphy, she could! This photo shows some of the tools, with which I started: Pencils, brushes, fountain pens and holders with interchangeable nibs. This guide starts with chapters on Tools and Materials (Drawing Boards; Writing Pads; Blotting Paper; Paper and Vellum; Guards; Rulers; Pencils; Metal Nibs; Fountain Pens; Inks; Watercolors; Poster Paints; Gouache; Compasses; Erasers and Pumice Powder) and Working Positions, followed by a discussion of Roman and Formal Italic Alphabets, before honing in on :
Planning a Book of One Section;
Practical Use of Calligraphy (posters; rolls of honour; certificates; greeting cards; invitations; bookplates; monograms; record books; catalogs; and decorative maps and travel journals);
The Layout and Decoration of Manuscript Books; and
The Binding of a Single-Section Manuscript Book.
Her final chapter discusses suggestions for more Advanced Studies: More complicated hands; Making versals (compound letters); cutting quills; and raised gilding, of which she was such a master!
In the back of the book are Appendices of Calligraphic Societies; Workshops and Classes; Suppliers of Calligraphic Materials and a Bibliography.Using Calligraphy: A Workbook of Alphabets, Projects and Techniques by Margaret Shepherd 1979
I loved the presentation and style of this practical workbook, handwritten totally in Italic lettering. The first chapter focuses on the Five Ps: Pens, Pigments, Paper, Proficiency (the fifth one being Practice, implied but not included in the chapter title! It discusses quill pens; felt pens, Mitchell pens and fountain pens with interchangeable metal nibs of different sizes and shapes; inks (India Ink; coloured inks and water-based dyes); vellum; calligraphy papers; goldleaf; liquid paper and erasers; pencils; calligraphy books and societies; and basic calligraphy practices and workmanship.The next section of the workbook, New Alphabets From Old, reviews five basic scripts: Roman, Celtic, Gothic, Italic and Bookhand. It includes short lessons and master-sheets (guideline sheets) to copy for practising and attaining a firm grasp of these scripts, as well as easy experimental exercises for 50 alphabet variations.
The third section of the book explains seven different practical projects: a Framed Favourite Quote; Artwork for an Announcement (Publicity); Designing a Logo, Letterhead and Cards; Two Designs for a Family Tree; Party Invitations and Seating; Diplomas, Awards and Scrolls; and Making a Large Poster or Standup Sign.
The final chapter looks at Going into Business as a Calligrapher: Calligraphy Services/ Teaching/ Craft Fairs; Advertising and Promotion; and Pricing and Accounting.
It is a very useful book for both beginners and more experienced calligraphers.
Painting for Calligraphers by Marie Angel 1984
Another beautiful and inspiring book by Marie Angel, I bought this book in a little old corner bookshop in Rye-on-Winchelsea on my first overseas trip. I adore this book and would recommend it highly to anyone interested in calligraphy. Marie wrote this book after The Art of Calligraphy in response to an increasing number of requests for more detailed information on her method of painting miniatures, so she assumes a basic knowledge of calligraphy and focuses more on the illustration side. It is a truly beautiful book!
The first few chapters concentrate on:
Materials: Drawing Boards; Pencils; Erasers; Knives; Pens; Paint Colours (Tubes; Powders; Cakes and Gouache); Coloured Inks; Brushes; Shell Gold; Vellum; Paper; Stretching vellum and paper; Tracing Paper; Binding Media and Sundry Supplies (Palettes; Rags; Sponges; Tissues; Blotting Paper; Tape; Rulers; Compass; Dividers; Set Squares and T-Squares);
Colour: Colour Theory and Technical Terms (Hue, Tint, Tone and Brilliance; Warm and Cold Colours; Primary/Secondary/Tertiary Colours; Complementary Colours; and Induced, Local and Reflected Colours);
Pigments: Colour Permanence and Colour Testing for Fastness to Light; Selecting and Mixing Watercolours; Gouache Pigments; and Powder Colours.The following section focuses on the Design Process: Page Design; Space; Margins; Capitals; Composition; Focal Points; Tones; Broadsheets and Broadsides; and Composition Methods, as well as Illustration Techniques: Drawing; Preparation; Watercolours; Line-and-Wash Drawings; Using Gouache, Dry Ground Pigments, Acrylics and Shell Gold; Decorated Initial Letters; and Painting Heraldry.
Throughout the text are beautiful examples of calligraphy by herself, as well as Celtic, Medieval, Islamic and contemporary calligraphers. In the back are technical notes by contemporary scribes. While this book was written pre-internet, I have included websites where appropriate. They include:
Sheila Waters: https://designtraveler.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/sheila-waters-a-link-to-calligraphic-foundations/; https://www.calligraphersguild.org/SheilaWaters.html; http://www.thepensivepen.com/2014/12/foundations-of-calligraphy-sheila-waters.html and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0YM_EhfUCs. I adore her Roundel of the Seasons!;
Thomas Ingmire http://www.thomasingmire.com/;
John Prestianni; and John Woodcock, as well as a list of suppliers of artists’ materials.Sixty Alphabets: Selected and Introduced by Gunnlaugur SE Briem 1986
Another book, which introduces the work of sixty talented calligraphers. Each artist was invited to contribute one of their designs, along with an introduction to themselves, their artistic journey and their work. This book displays the huge diversity of styles and media used within this art form and serves as an inspiration to future calligraphers.
Calligraphy: A Handbook for Beginners by Beverley Amos 1989
This is a great book for beginners, teaching new calligraphers to use edged pens to produce letter forms in the basic styles of Roman, Foundational, Uncial, Italic and Rounded Gothic alphabets!
It begins with a discussion of Materials, common to the other books, but also specifying essential nibs, pens and inks. Also included in Part One are notes on Setting Up; Getting Started; Left-Handed Calligraphy; Handy Hints; Nomenclature; Ruling Guide Lines; and Pen Widths.
Part Two discusses Letterforms, the different lettering styles in detail: their history and evolution; letter proportions and spacings; and practice strokes and examples.
Part Three examines Design Features: Choosing the Right Style; Layout Tips; Decorative Layout; Common Errors; Texture; Backgrounds; Special Pens and Effects; Decorative Motifs, Borders and Flourishes; Decorated Letters; and Using Colour (Inks, Watercolours, Poster Colours, Designer’s Gouache, Stick Ink and Felt Pens).
The final section looks at practical applications in Part Four: Calligraphy For Every Occasion and discusses layouts and guidelines for Posters; Letters and Envelopes; Greeting Cards; Certificates and Place Cards; Retail Tickets; Labels; Bookplates; Monograms and Ciphers; Logos and Letterheads; and Gift Ideas.
Calligraphy Stroke by Stroke: A New Illustrated Guide to Calligraphy Techniques With Eleven Calligraphic Alphabets by Annie Moring 1995
My final book on calligraphy, this is another excellent and comprehensive guide for beginners with Introductory Notes on Tools and Materials; Writing Position; Ruling; Stroke Order; Pen Strokes; Geometric Forms; Slope; and Serifs (the starting and finishing strokes of letters); followed by 11 of the most commonly used Alphabets in their upper and lower case forms. They include: Foundational Hand (Lowercase and Capitals); Italic Script (Miniscule and Capitals); Roman Capitals; Uncial Letters (Modern and Half Uncial); Gothic Script (Lowercase and Capitals); Italic Cursive; and the elegant Versal Letters, used in the early illuminated manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries.Each alphabet has an Essential Information Panel covering elements like letter height, pen angles, geometric form; slope and serif forms; Photographic step-by-step sequences showing the formation of each letter, including directional arrows and angles, as well as alternative letterforms, punctuation and numerals; a Troubleshooting Section analysing common mistakes and a Gallery of inspirational professional work. Rulers, compasses and set squares, as well as erasers and sharpeners are very useful tools for calligraphers.
The final section of the book looks at Presentation: Letter, Word and Line Spacing; Margins; and Types of Layout. I would highly recommend this book as well.For more books about calligraphy, see: http://www.holoweb.net/liam/pictures/calligraphy/resources/books.html;
It is also worth exploring the following sites:
Modern Calligraphy Collection of The National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum. See : http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/n/nal-modern-calligraphy/;
The Edward Johnston Foundation, a research centre for calligraphy and the lettering arts: http://www.ejf.org.uk/ejfcollectiona.html;
The Society of Scribes and Illuminators: https://calligraphyonline.org/about/, which holds annual exhibitions; courses and workshops, including correspondence course, study days and masterclasses; a list of suppliers; and an excellent Links section: https://calligraphyonline.org/links/ to further sites;
The Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society, the largest Western calligraphy and lettering society in the world, which is based in the United Kingdom and holds regional meetings and a six-day Festival of Calligraphy over the Summer: http://www.clas.co.uk/ and http://www.clas.co.uk/pdf/CLAS%20brochure%202018%20Final.pdf;
International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH), the oldest and largest penmanship organization in the United States: https://www.iampeth.com/home;
The Craft Study Centre at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Surrey, UK: http://www.csc.uca.ac.uk/calligraphy-and-lettering/;
The Pen Museum, Birmingham: https://penmuseum.org.uk/;
The Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering at the Book Arts & Special Collections Center of the San Francisco Public Library: https://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000013701 and
The Calligraphy section of the Online Resource for Visual Arts: https://vads.ac.uk/learning/learndex.php?theme_id=cscu1&theme_record_id=cscu1calig&mtri=cscu1calig;
The Calligraphy Bookshop: http://www.calligraphity.com/;
John Neal Booksellers: http://www.johnnealbooks.com/prod_detail_list/calligraphy-illumination and http://www.jnbooksellerblog.com/;
Scribblers Calligraphy: https://www.scribblers.co.uk/;
The Letter Exchange: http://www.letterexchange.org/;
Art at Clevancy, Wiltshire: http://www.artatclevancy.co.uk/; and here in Australia,
The Australian Society of Calligraphers: http://www.asoc.org.au/ and Calligraphy Supplies Australia: https://www.calligraphysuppliesaustralia.com/. They even have a blog: https://www.calligraphysuppliesaustralia.com/blogs/news, which lists owner Kerry’s top ten Calligraphy and Lettering Instagram accounts.
There are also a huge number of calligraphy blogs online. See: http://www.webdesignschoolsguide.com/library/40-fantastic-calligraphy-blogs.html; https://blog.feedspot.com/calligraphy_blogs/ and https://thepostmansknock.com/beginners-guide-modern-calligraphy/, as well as Youtube tutorials like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3phzKsXpko8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8aXoFJ1I9A; and online courses like those listed at: https://www.skillshare.com/browse/calligraphy and https://learningcloud.com.au/courses/1295/calligraphy.