All About Calligraphy




The literal meaning of the word calligraphy is “beautiful writing”. It is defined as a form of visual art related to writing. Further elaborating it can be said that calligraphy is the use of a broad tipped instrument or brush to design and write letters in one stroke.
There is also a contemporary definition of calligraphy which is that it is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner".
Calligraphy began during the stone ages when man started to draw on cave walls. Today however, it has evolved into hand lettered inscriptions and designs and fine art pieces where the visual expression of the writing may or may not compromise on the legibility of the letters.
An introduction to Calligraphy: An article for beginners on how to get started with calligraphy
Calligraphic Writing: A wiki how article on how to write with a calligraphy pen
Calligraphy Writing: A video of gothic style calligraphy writing
Calligraphy Fonts: A list of 35 amazing calligraphy fonts

History of Calligraphy

As mentioned above, calligraphy began in the stone ages when man began drawing his life stories on the walls of caves using pictures. Human development led to these pictures becoming more and more detailed and comprehensive reaching its peak under the Egyptians.
It was the Egyptians who, in around 3500 BC developed stylized hieroglyphics. These symbols were painted on tomb walls or drawn on papyrus paper using a brush.
It is believed that the first writing system and alphabets were developed around 1000 BC by the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians influenced the Greeks to develop their own letters and writing, and this in turn influenced the Romans to adapt the suit to Latin. It is in the Roman alphabets that the roots of today’s letters lie.
As Latin became the language of churches across Europe during the Middle Ages, the monks were generally the only literate people in society. These monks started to copy ancient texts to books which were used by top church members and royalty. As paper was not cheap back then, the monks had to style the words such that more words could fit on a single line. This style was known as gothic and was, one might say, the initiation of modern day calligraphy.
The advent of the printing press in the 15th century dented the art of calligraphy as hand written books became less in demand. The printing press however, could not be used for everyday writing, especially formal correspondence and invitations. Thus the art of calligraphy sustained itself and as other forms of art flourished during the period of Europe's renaissance so did calligraphy.
Calligraphy History: An article discussing the inception and evolution of calligraphy.
History of Calligraphy: An article containing a detailed history of the origins of calligraphy.

Types of Calligraphy

As the number of languages and scripts grew, so did calligraphy. Calligraphy evolved in various eras in different parts of the world. Broadly speaking these different types of calligraphy can be classified as detailed below.
What is Calligraphy?: A concise description of calligraphy

Western Calligraphy

This form of calligraphy started off in the 10th century and is still existent. Use of this form of calligraphy can be dated back to 600 BC where it is found in the Latin script. The tools employed in western calligraphy include (but are not limited to):

  1. Flat balled Pen
  2. Round nipped pen
  3. Brush
  4. Water based ink
  5. High quality paper

The best and most famous example of western calligraphy is the Bible.
Western Calligraphy: A Wikipedia article on western calligraphy
Beginning Western Calligraphy: A youtube video on tips to begin writing western calligraphy

Eastern Asian Calligraphy

This calligraphy form includes styles that came out of China, Japan and Korea. As in the case of Western Calligraphy, each dynasty of China has its own history of calligraphy styles. The instruments used in this form of calligraphy are:

  1. Ink brushes
  2. Chinese ink
  3. Paper
  4. Ink Stone

These are known as the ‘four treasures of the study’ in China and the ‘four friends of the study’ in Korea.
The work produced by these instruments is determined by the ink brush’s shape, size and quality, the density of the ink and the quality of the paper.
Chinese Calligraphy: A Wikipedia article on Chinese calligraphy

Southern Asian Calligraphy

This style encompasses Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan Calligraphy.
Nepalese Calligraphy was mainly used for Buddhist texts and Tibetan Calligraphy for both religious and secular purposes.
Indian Calligraphy has its roots in the reign of King Asoka where inscriptions were carved on stone.
Burnt clay, treated palm leaves, copper and birch bark were used in Ancient India for calligraphy.
About Calligraphy: A Wikipedia article on calligraphy
All about Calligraphy: An informative article on everything you need to know about calligraphy

Islamic Calligraphy

Islamic calligraphy finds its roots in the religion of Islam and Arabic language, peaking during the Ottoman era. Examples of Islamic calligraphy can be seen in the text of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, and walls of mosques.
Arabic Calligraphy: A list of classical Arabic calligraphy scripts
Islamic Calligraphy Resource: A comprehensive resource on Islamic calligraphy
Islamic Calligraphy: a Wikipedia article on Islamic calligraphy
Development of Calligraphy: An article about the development and spreading of calligraphic scripts in Arabic

What is a Calligraphy Pen?

As the name suggests, pens used for calligraphy are known as calligraphy pens. Commonly used calligraphy pens are fountain pens and dip pens.

Dip Pens

This is the kind of pen originally used for calligraphy and has its origins in pens made from reeds or feather quills. As the name suggests these pens have to be repeatedly dipped in ink to write as they do not have an ink reservoir.
Dip pens are advantageous as compared to fountain pens because they can use waterproof pigmented inks and many other types of inks which would clog a fountain pen. Also, as these can be used with interchangeable nibs a calligrapher can create different types of lines and effects. Dip pens also permit frequent color changes and are much cheaper than fountain pens

Fountain Pens

The fountain pen has a built in reservoir of ink which delivers ink to its nib. This feature removes the need of dipping the pen in ink repeatedly. Fountain pens are more assistive in writing a flow script with less pen lifts as it has a rounded nib.
Today fountain pens that permit interchangeable nibs are readily available and provide the same advantage and writing styles as that of dip pens.
Fountain pens are easier to use than dip pens and are a better option for beginners.
Types of Calligraphy Pens: An article on the types on pens used for calligraphy
Learning Calligraphy: A concise article on how to get started with calligraphy

What is Calligraphy Ink?

As important as the pen being used is the ink a calligrapher uses. There are essentially three types of calligraphy inks:

  1. Fountain pen ink
  2. Drawing/calligraphy ink (used by dip pen users)
  3. Chinese/Japanese stick ink (used by dip pen users)

Calligraphy Fountain Pen Ink

Fountain pen inks are usually dye based inks. These inks will eventually change in color and/or fade. This is the reason fountain pen inks are not recommended for things that will have a prolonged exposure to light.

Drawing/Calligraphy Ink

These kinds of inks are also known as dip pen inks. Dip pens are more flexible in terms of what ink can be used. They can also be used with gouache or an ink which is acrylic based. Dip pen inks do not have any restriction on exposure to light, etc.

Chinese/Japanese Stick Ink

As the name suggests this kind of ink finds its evolution as a traditional tool for Chinese/Japanese calligraphy. In time, calligraphers from the west also got enlightened with the distinct property of ground stick ink when combined with dip pens and began using it too.
This kind of ink is used by grounding the stick of ink. The stick of ink can be grounded to ones preferred thickness. A good stick of ink and careful grounding can result in some beautiful ranges of color tones.
Calligraphy Ink: An article on the types of inks used in calligraphy
Everything about Calligraphy: A detailed article answering the what, why and when of calligraphy
Roman Writing: A detailed article on how the Romans wrote
Tips for Calligraphers: A concise article discussing calligraphy pen maintenance

Additional Links

Calligraphy Services: Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth

Artists Supplies: Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth

Crafts & Supplies: Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth


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