Calligraphy (from Greek kallos "beautyquot; + graphos "writing") is the art of decorative writing. A style of calligraphy is described as a hand.
Calligraphy should be distinguished from the studies of epigraphy or palaeography. The study of permanent inscriptions engraved in metal or chiselled into stone and the forms of letters used in them is called epigraphy. Epigraphy is a branch of the broader study of ancient handwriting in more general terms, called palaeography. Examples of ancient Roman graffiti are of interest to both calligraphers and palaeographers.
East Asian Calligraphy
Calligraphy is an art dating back to the earliest day of history, and widely practiced throughout China to this day. Although it uses Chinese words as its vehicle of expression, one does not have to know Chinese to appreciate its beauty. Calligraphy, in essence, is an abstract art.
East Asian calligraphy typically uses ink brushes to write Chinese characters (called Hanzi in Chinese, Kanji in Japanese, and Hanja in Korean). Calligraphy (in Chinese, Shufa ??, in Japanese Shodo ??, in Korean, Seoyae ??, all meaning "the way of writing") is considered an important art in East Asia and the most refined form of East Asian painting.
This piece of Chinese calligraphy was penned by Song Dynasty official Su Shi. For centuries, Chinese literati were expected to master the art of calligraphy.The style of Chinese calligraphy has evolved continually for thousands of years. About 213 B.C., under the famous Qin Shi Huangdi, who perpetrated the "burning of the books", the Prime Minister Li Si drew up an official index of characters and unified the written form for the use of scholars. This is chuan-shu and contained more than 3,000 characters. From that time to the present, there have been five major styles of calligraphy. Using their Japanese names, they are tensho (seal style), reisho (scribe's style), kaisho (block style), gyosho (semi-cursive style), and sosho (cursive style, literally "grass writingstyles"). All five styles of writing are still in use today.
In addition to these, the Japanese developed the kana characters during the eighth century. In contrast to Chinese characters, which express both sound and meaning ideographically, kana express only sound without regard to meaning. Three types of kana have been developed, manyogana, hiragana, and katakana. The manyogana are a subset of the Chinese characters used phonetically to represent the syllables of Japanese, and are named after the eighth century poetry collection Manyoshu. Manyogana is now obsolete. At the time this collection was compiled the Japanese had no writing system of their own. Some of the Japanese poems were rendered in Chinese characters used phonetically, and in others the Chinese characters were used sometimes phonetically and sometimes ideographically. Using the kanji manyogana as a guide, hiragana and katakana were developed from simplified cursive versions of characters. In the hands of Japanese noblewomen, hiragana developed into a beautiful script which is the unique calligraphic style of Japan. In contrast to the loops and curves of hiragana, katakana is more angular and relies on sharp angles. Written Japanese uses both scripts along with Chinese characters, and basic calligraphy instruction is still common in Japanese lower education.
Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including sumi-e, a style of Chinese and Japanese painting based entirely on calligraphy.
For regular script characters, the character basically fits into a square space, with each character of roughly the same size and proportion. Learners of Chinese characters are likely to encounter this form first, and in learning to write Chinese characters the form enables the student to appreciate the proportions of each part of the character as well as each character stroke. Though brushpen has been used for over two thousand years, today, most students begin with pencil or pens, and the calligraphy of modern handwriting is also a challenge to read for those with expressive running hand script.
Grass script is notorious for its economy of individual penstrokes. Quite often different characters written in the regular script form may resemble each other when written in grass script.
The clerical script is highly stylised, a development from seal script form. They are highly angular in appearance, and as a precursor to regular script, for modern readers of Chinese characters, they are highly legible, compared to grass script, or seal script.
Seal scripts are regularised scripts, which are noted for the uniformity of thickness and space of vertical, horizontal and curved lines. By its very name, the main use are found on seals or chops. Seal carving is one branch of Chinese calligraphy, and considered as a high art, since it expresses the carver's calligraphy and artistic expression in fitting a number of characters (the majority of which are of seal script form) into such a small area of space, and carved in reverse so that the imprint obtained gives the characters in their proper form. Moreover, due to the nature of the size of seals and lack of space, the development of Chinese characters have been affected by seal carving, since simplification of characters has often been practiced.
Early alphabets had evolved by about 3000 BC. From the Greek alphabet evolved the Latin alphabet. Capital letters were developed first and lower case letters were invented considerably later.
Long, heavy rolls of papyrus were replaced by the Romans with the first books, initially simply folded pages of parchment made from animal skins. Reed pens were replaced by quill pens.
Christianity gave a boost to the development of writing through the prolific copying of the Bible and other sacred texts. Uncial letters were used by monks in Ireland, Scotland, and other places, hence the name "Insular style" for this type of writing. This was also the heyday of the illuminated manuscript.
Charlemagne made a big difference to the spread of beautiful writing by bringing Alcuin, the Abbot of York, to his capital of Aachen. Alcuin undertook a major revision of all styles of script and all texts. He then developed a new "hand" named after his patron Charlemagne: "Carolingian minuscule style".
The Fraktur followed in the 11th century, and Italy contributed Chancery and Italic scripts. What followed was the heyday of the illuminated manuscript. Hand-written and hand-decorated books became less common after the invention of printing by Johann Gutenberg in the 15th century. However, at the end of the 19th century, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement rediscovered and popularised calligraphy. Many famous calligraphers were influenced by Morris, especially Edward Johnston, Eric Gill and others.
Some important contemporary calligraphers are Arthur Baker and Hermann Zapf. As handwritten forms of communication have become more rare, calligraphy is often reserved for special occasions and events, most notably the addressing of wedding invitations and announcements. However, graffiti-style lettering, a dramatic, angular, block hand, has become common in various media since the 1970s. Graffiti is especially associated with hip-hop, being one of its "four elements".
In the United Kingdom many calligraphers belong to the Society of Scribes and Illuminators, which provides training and development to members.
There are many calligraphic fonts such as Uncial, Italic, Roundhand, and Blackletter.
Copperplate is name of a style of calligraphic writing, using a sharp pointed nib instead of the flat nib used in most calligraphic writing. Its name comes from the sharp lines of the writing style resembling the etches of engraved copper.