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Contemporary Western Calligraphy.

Calligraphy (from Greek κάλλος kallos "beauty" + γραφή graphẽ "writing") is the art of writing in different cultures(Mediavilla 1996: 17). A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner" (Mediavilla 1996: 18). The story of writing is one of aesthetic evolution framed within the technical skills, ransmission speed(s) and materials limitations of a person, time and place (Diringer 1968: 441). A style of writing is described as a script, hand or alphabet (Fraser & Kwiatkowski 2006; Johnston 1909: Plate 6).

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 (Mediavilla 1996). 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 (Pott 2006 & 2005; Zapf 2007 & 2006). So, many calligraphers are as happy with "jazz" as "classical" for musical analogy and represents differing emphasis between artists.

Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, font design/ typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, various announcements/ graphic design/ commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions, memorial documents, props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates/maps, and other works involving writing (see for example Letter Arts Review; Propfe 2005; Geddes & Dion 2004).


East Asian calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy written by Song Dynasty (A.D. 1051-1108) poet Mi Fu. For centuries, the Chinese literati were expected to master the art of calligraphy.
Main articles: East Asian calligraphy, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]

Asian calligraphy typically uses ink brushes to write Chinese characters (called Hanzi in Chinese, Hanja in Korean, Kanji in Japanese, and Hán Tự in Vietnamese). Calligraphy (in Chinese, Shufa 書法, in Korean, Seoye 書藝, in Japanese Shodō 書道, all meaning "the way of writing") is considered an important art in East Asia and the most refined form of East Asian painting.

Calligraphy has also influenced ink and wash painting, which is accomplished using similar tools and techniques. Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including sumi-e, a style of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting based entirely on calligraphy.

Jiǎgǔwén Jīnwén Dàzhuàn Xiǎozhuàn Lìshū Kǎishū (t) Kǎishū (s)

Historical evolution of Eastern calligraphy

Ancient China

In ancient China, the oldest Chinese characters esisting are Jiǎgǔwén characters carved on ox scapula and tortoise plastrons, while brush-written ones have decayed over time. During the divination ceremony, after the cracks were made, the characters were written with a brush on the shell or bone to be latter carved.(Keightley, 1978).

With the development of Jīnwén (Bronzeware script) and Dàzhuàn (Large Seal Script) "cursive" signs continue. Moreover, it is evident that each archaic kingdom of current China had its own set of characters.

Imperial China

In Imperial China, the graphs on old steles — some dating from 200 BC, and in Xiaozhuan style — are still accessible to us.

About 220 BC, the emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first to conquer all Chinese basin, imposed several reforms, among them Li Si's character uniformisation, which created a set of 3300 standardized Xiǎozhuàn characters[1]. Despite the fact that the main writing implement of the time was already the brush, few papers survive from this period, and the main examples of this style are on steles.

Then, the Lìshū style (clerical script) which is more regularized, and in some ways similar to modern text was then developed.

Kǎishū style (traditional regular script) — still in use today — is even more regularized. It can be seen that the Kaishu shape of characters 1000 years ago was mostly similar as that at the end of Imperial China. But tinies slides have be made, in example in the shape of 广 which is not absolutely the same in the Kangxi dictionary of 1716, than in modern books. The Kangxi and current shapes have tiny differences, while current stroke order is still the same, according to old style[2].

Kǎishū simplified Chinese script was created by the Chinese communist government after World War 2, in order to promote simplification of writing and increase the literacy rate. Simplified script is often considered a corruption of general Hanzi text and is not used in calligraphy.

Cursive styles and hand-written styles

Cursive styles such as Xíngshū (semi-cursive or running script) and Cǎoshū (cursive or grass script) are "high speed" calligraphic styles, where each move made by the writing tool is visible. This styles especially like to play with stroke order rules, creating new visual effects.

Native writers, moreover, create their own style and stroke order rules to ease and speed their own use, which imply wide variations in the resulting character shapes from one word and one writer to the same word by another writer (and other stroke order/shape).

Indian calligraphy

Main articles: Indian calligraphy, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]


Tibetan calligraphy

Calligraphy is central in Tibetan culture. The script is derived from Indic scripts. The nobles of Tibet, such as the High Lamas and inhabitants of the Potala Palace, were usually capable calligraphers. Tibet has been a center of Buddhism for several centuries, and that religion places a great deal of significance on written word. This does not provide for a large body of secular pieces, although they do exist (but are usually related in some way to Tibetan Buddhism). Almost all high religious writing involved calligraphy, including letters sent by the Dalai Lama and other religious and secular authority. Calligraphy is particularly evident on their prayer wheels, although this calligraphy was forged rather than scribed, much like Arab and Roman calligraphy is often found on buildings. Although originally done with a reed, Tibetan calligraphers now use chisel tipped pens and markers as well.

Persian calligraphy

Example showing Template:Transl's proportional rules.
Main articles: Persian calligraphy, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]

Persian calligraphy is the calligraphy of Persian writing system. The history of calligraphy in Persia dates back to the pre-Islam era. In Zoroastrianism beautiful and clear writings were always praised. The main types of Persian calligraphy are: Nasta'liq script, Shekasteh-Nasta'liq script and Naghashi-khat. Template:Sectstub

Islamic calligraphy

Main articles: Islamic calligraphy, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]
A page of a 12th century Qur'an written in the Andalusi script

Islamic calligraphy (calligraphy in Arabic is Khatt ul-Yad خط اليد) is an aspect of Islamic art that has evolved alongside the religion of Islam and the Arabic language.

Arabic calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (arabesque) on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on the page. Contemporary artists in the Islamic world draw on the heritage of calligraphy to use calligraphic inscriptions or abstractions in their work.

Instead of recalling something related to the reality of the spoken word, calligraphy for Muslims is a visible expression of the highest art of all, the art of the spiritual world. Calligraphy has arguably become the most venerated form of Islamic art because it provides a link between the languages of the Muslims with the religion of Islam. The holy book of Islam, al-Qur'an, has played an important role in the development and evolution of the Arabic language, and by extension, calligraphy in the Arabic alphabet. Proverbs and complete passages from the Qur'an are still active sources for Islamic calligraphy.

There was a strong parallel tradition to that of the Islamic, among Aramaic and Hebrew scholars, seen in such works as the Hebrew illuminated bibles of the 9th and 10th centuries.

Western calligraphy

Main articles: Western calligraphy, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]
Historical evolution of Western calligraphy[3]

Western calligraphy is recognizable by the use of the Roman alphabet. The alphabet came from the Phoenician, Greek, and Etruscan alphabets. The first Roman alphabet appeared about 600 BC, in Rome. About the first century calligraphy is seen on Roman square capitals carved on stones, Rustic capitals painted on walls, and Roman cursive for daily use. This trend continued into the second and third centuries using the Uncial, however writing withdrew to monasteries and was preserved there during the fourth and fifth centuries, when the Roman Empire finally fell and Europe entered the Dark Ages.

At the height of the Roman Empire its power reached as far as Great Britain, when the empire fell, its literary influence remained. The Semi-uncial generated the Irish Semi-uncial, the small Anglo-Saxon. In fact, each region seemed to have develop its own standards following the main monastery of the region (i.e. Merovingian script, Laon script, Luxeuil script, Visigothic script, Beneventan script) which are mostly cursive and hardly readable.

The raising of the Carolingian Empire encouraged to set a new standardized script, developed by several famous monasteries (Corbie Abbey, Beauvais,...) around the eighth century, it's finally the script from Saint Martin de Tours which is set as the new Imperial standard, named the Carolingian script (or "the Caroline"). From the Carolingian powerful Empire, this standard also conquered neighbouring kingdoms.

About the seventh century, the Caroline evolved into the Gothic script, more cursive and for daily use. After the invention of Gutenberg (1455), the Gutenberg script spread across Europe.
Calligraphy in a Latin Bible 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.

In the sixteenth century, the rediscovery of old Carolingian texts encouraged the creation of the Antiqua script (about 1470). The seventeenth century saw the Batarde script from France, and the eighteenth century saw the English script spread across Europe and world by their books.

From this, hand written Latin calligraphy has changed little. The hand writing art continuously lost audience across the XIXth and XXth century, but the style evolution was accelerated by the printing press (Times New Roman) in the nineteenth century and by the dozens of computer fonts in the late twentieth century.

Nowadays, computers allow an unskilled user to use dozens of scripts, but the result has not the same spontaneity as handwritten calligraphy.

Features of Western Calligraphy and modern Western Calligraphy

Western calligraphy has some special features, such the illumination of the first letter of each page in medieval times, either by making it bigger, colored, and/or more complex.

As Chinese or Arabian calligraphies, western calligraphic script had strict rules and shapes. The quality of a text was according to the regularity of the letters, and the "geometrical" good order of the lines on the pages. Each character had, and still has, a precise stroke order.

Western calligraphy have evolved into an art where creativity is paramount, allowing use of highly colored and/or cursive characters; irregularity in the characters' size, style, colors, etc. while the sentences may commonly curves or crossing each other to add odd visual effects.

Maya Calligraphy

Main articles: Maya codices, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]
Image:Dresden codex.jpg
A leaflet of the Dresden Codex written in the Maya Script on a type of paper called amatl. The Dresden Codex is one of only a very few examples of Maya Calligraphy to escape the destruction of the Spanish Conquistadores and survive to the present day.



Main articles: Writing implement, and [[{{{2}}}]], and [[{{{3}}}]], and [[{{{4}}}]], and [[{{{5}}}]]

The principal tools for a calligrapher are the pen, which may be fla- or round-nibbed and the brush (Reaves & Schulte 2006; Child 1985; Lamb 1956). For some decorative purposes, multi-nibbed pens — steel brushes — can be used. However, works have also been made with felt-tip and ballpoint pens, although these works do not employ angled lines. Ink for writing is usually water-based and much less viscous than the oil based inks used in printing. High quality paper, which has good consistency of porousness, will enable cleaner lines,Template:Fact although parchment or vellum is often used, as a knife can be used to erase work on them and a light box is not needed to allow lines to pass through it. In addition, light boxes and templates are often used in order to achieve straight lines without pencil markings detracting from the work. Lined paper, either for a light box or direct use, is most often lined every quarter or half inch, although inch spaces are occasionally used, such as with litterea unciales (hence the name), and college ruled paper acts as a guideline often as well. [1]

Batarde can be traced back to the late 14th, early 15th century and is so named as a gothic blend of the Textura and Quadrata.

See also


  1. Charactères Chinois, by Edoardo Fazzioli, ISBN2-08-112004-6. Page 14 : "Ainsi naiquit le premier dictionnaire chinois, le San1 Cang1, avec ses 3.300 caractères." ~ "And thus was born the first Chinese dictionary, the San1 Cang1, with its 3.300 characters."
  2. 康熙字典 Kangxi Zidian, 1716. Scanned version available at See by example the radicals , or 广, p.41. The 2007 common shape for those characters don't allow clearly to "guess" the stroke order, but old versions, visible on the Kangxi Zidian p.41 clearly allow us to guess the stroke order.
  3. V. Sabard, V. Geneslay, L. Rébéna, Calligraphie latine, initiation, ed. Fleurus, Paris. 7th edition, 2004, pages 8 to 11


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External links

Islamic calligraphy

Tibetan calligraphy

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