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The word calligraphy derives from the Greek ‘kallos’ (beautiful) and ‘graphien’ (writing)

 

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The art of calligraphy is believed to have started with the ancient story-telling pictographs drawn on the walls of caves. As people developed so too did the complexity and detail. By approximately 3,500 Before Common Era (BCE) the Egyptian civilization created a highly stylized writing known today as ‘hieroglyphics’. These were used as the primary written form of communication or record keeping and are found written on the walls of tombs as well as on theirfamous papyrus scrolls. 2,500 years later (approximately 1000 BCE), the Phoenicians created what is believed by scholars to be one of the first alphabets within the writing systems. The Phoenicians were seafarers who journeyed to different ports and carried their use of written language with them. It is believed that these Phoenicians subsequently influenced the development of the Greek language.

 

The Romans learned their writing skills from the Greeks. By 850 BCE the Romans had adapted the letters and words into the Latin language. In the centuries following the fall of the Roman Empire, Latin continued to be the language of the church and was used throughout Europe. It was through the church that this written language was actually preserved. Because the word of god was considered divine the monks began to meticulously and cautiously scribe ancient texts into ornately decorated books. These painstakingly prepared books were treated with the utmost reverence with only nobility and higher clergy having access. During this time paper was rare and expensive, even for royalty and the church, so the monks developed a condensed style of writing. This allowed more words to fit on the same sized page. The condensed writing style became known as Gothic script and was used through the Middle Ages.

 

In the mid 1400’s Johannes Gutenberg, using the Gothic script, invented the printing press. This new technique allowed for exponentially faster and cheaper prints. However, much like any industry when faced with the introduction of modernized assembly line fabrication, the industrial printing press threatened the existence of the hand decorated monk scripts. The hand script work was again threatened in the 17th century as copperplate engraving allowed for a variety of scripts to be used in the Gutenberg press. However, in the 1800’s William Morris introduced the first flat-edged pen. This began somewhat of a calligraphy revival and the art form was popularized. Calligraphy is both an art form and a type of craft that encompasses the finest, most ornate handwriting as well as creative letters and writing styles.

 

 

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 Artwork by Thomas Ingmire – Rhythms Series – artist website here

Tools of The Trade

Expert calligraphers use a wide range of traditional and modern products. These include a variety of different types and sizes of nibs, pens, fountain pens, inks, markers and paper. Yet, for those just starting out, only a few basic types of equipment are needed.

Markers

Until recently markers were not the best choice for use in calligraphy. The marker end would not hold its edge, which resulted in bleeding letters and lines that were not crisp enough for good calligraphy symbols. Today there are durable markers with two ends, one that is broad and chiseled and one pointed. Modern markers are available in both water-soluble and permanent inks and in a wide array of colors. Calligraphy markers can be found in most any art supply store around the world.

Fountain Pens

Fountain pens are the second easiest tool for beginners to use because one does not need to constantly dip the pen nib into an inkwell. The dipping pen nib is a more advanced calligraphy practice. Fountain pens supply ink through a cartridge that automatically controls the ink flow. The pens are equipped with permanent nibs or interchangeable nibs. They have a variety of sizes and types for both left and right-handers

Paper

This is, obviously, the most fundamental tool in calligraphy. The important aspect to note is that different types of papers have different bleed points – how quickly the ink spreads across the surface.

Dipping Pens

A dip pen with interchangeable nibs is the more traditional calligraphy pen. Nibs are available in both broad-edged and pointed. These are then inserted at the end of the pen by the calligrapher. The nib is then dipped into an inkwell. Once a small amount of ink has collected on the nib the calligrapher can then proceed to transfer this onto the paper. As the flow of the ink is not automatically regulated, the use of dipping pens require a higher level of experience than the fountain pen method.

Brushes

Calligraphy brushes are either pointed or flat. The brushes bristles can be made from animal hair or synthetic fibers. Intermediate calligraphers start with flat lettering brushes with short chisel-shaped hair. Pointed brushes with longer bristles are for the more advanced calligraphers.

 

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Calligraphic Glossary

alignement: Lining up letters or rows of letters in a straight line from left to right or top to bottom

angle: The slant of the pen or marker to the paper

arch: The curved section of a lowercase (minuscule) letter that begins from the basic part of the letter, as in h

arm: The horizontal section of a letter, as in z. The letter v has no arms

ascender: The section of a lowercase (minuscule) letter that rises above the waist line, as in h

ascender line: The guideline on the paper that shows the height of the ascender section of the letter

axis: The imaginary vertical or horizontal center line of a letter, as in Q

base line: The writing line that is used as a guide to set all letters on

body height: The height of the main part of a lowercase (minuscule) letter that does not have sections that rise above the waist line (ascenders) or go below the base line (descenders)

bold: A heavier way of writing a word, e.g. bold

bowl: The curved part of the letter that surrounds the enclosed negative space (counter), as in b

branch: The frist curved part of a letter that is connected to the vertical line (stem) of the letter, as in h

branching stroke: The stroke that joins the first curved part of a letter to the basic vertical line (down-stroke) of a letter

built-up letters: Letters that have been created by using additional calligraphy font strokes that are not a basic part of the main calligraphy font

calligraphy: The art or style of beautiful writing. Taken from the Greek ‘kaligraphia’, from ‘kalls’ meaning “beauty” and ‘graphein’ “to write”

cap lines: The lines drawn on the practice paper that show the height of the capital (majuscule) letters

character: Any single letter, number or unit used in any style or type of lettering, writing or typing

composition: The organization, design or layout of letters, graphics or other materials such as photography on a page or a section of a page

construction: The basic strokes used in the proper order and direction while creating calligraphy letters. The letter F has three strokes

condensed: A series of letters or words that have been moved closer together vertically, sometimes made taller or moved together horizontally

construction: The basic strokes used in the proper order and direction while creating calligraphy letters

counter: The enclosed empty space inside a letter, as in D

crossbar: A separate horizontal line or stroke in a letter, as in t

descender: The section of a lowercase (minuscule) letter that is made below the base line, as in p

descender line: The guideline on the paper that shows the lowest point of the descender section of the letter

diagonal: The slanted line or stroke in a letter, as in N

downstroke: A line made with a calligraphy stroke that moves down toward the base line or descender line, as in Z or y

ductus: The number of, direction of and order of lines or strokes that are made when writing a calligraphy letter

flames stroke: A straight, curved or line stroke in a calligraphy letter that is thicker

flourish: A decorative embellishment or extension that is the last addition to a calligraphy letter

guide lines: Lines drawn on the practice paper to indicate where different lines and stokes of the letters should be drawn. Base lines, capital lines, waist lines, ascender lines and descender lines are examples of guide lines

hairline: The finset line that can produce by a marker or pen

illuminated calligraphy letters: Uppercase (majuscule) letters that are decorated more ornately than other uppercase letters in the body of text

inverted arch: The curved part of a lowercase (minuscule) letter that is connected to the vertical line of the letter, as in u

majuscule: A capital or uppercase letter

minuscule: A lowercase letter

nib: The point of a pen that is designed to be inserted into a pen holder or fountain pen and used to transfer ink to paper

nib width: The width of an individual nib that is the reference point of calligraphy and is used for measuring pen width

pen angle: The slant at which the pen point meets with the horizontal writing lines

script: Any style of written letters

serif: The small detail strokes on the ends of the main stroke of a letter, number or symbol

slant: The amount a letter slants from the imaginary straight vertical line

slant line: The imaginary vertical lines that indicate the degree of slant desired

spacing: The art of arranging letters and numbers next to, above and below each other

stem: The vertical line of a letter

stroke: A movement of a marker or pen

waist: The slim part in the middle of a straight stoke

waist line: The imaginary line that sets the top limits of the x-height of letters or words

x-height: The space between the base line and the waist line or the height of a lowercase letter such as s without ascenders or descenders