From Academic Kids

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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.

Calligraphy (from Greek καλλος kallos "beauty" + γραφος 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

Main article: Chinese painting

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 書法, in Japanese Shodō 書道, in Korean, Seoyae 書藝, all meaning "the way of writing") is considered an important art in East Asia and the most refined form of East Asian painting.

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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.

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Chu Sui Liang's (595658) Meng Fa Shi Bei
The main categories of Chinese-character calligraphy
English name Hanzi(Pinyin) Rōmaji
Seal script 篆書(Zhuளhū) Tensho
Clerical script (Official script) 隸書
Regular Script (Block script) 楷書(Kǎishū) Kaisho
Running script (Semi-cursive Script) 行書(X�shū) Gyōsho
Grass script (Cursive script) 草書(Cǎoshū) Sōsho

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.

Chinese Calligraphers

Japanese Calligraphers

See also

Middle eastern calligraphy

Islamic calligraphy

The stylized signature of   of the  was written in an expressive calligraphy. It reads Mahmud Khan son of Abdulhamid is forever victorious.
The stylized signature of Sultan Abdul Hamid I of the Ottoman Empire was written in an expressive calligraphy. It reads Mahmud Khan son of Abdulhamid is forever victorious.
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page of a 12th century Qur'an written in the Andalusi script

Islamic calligraphy is an aspect of Islamic art that has co-evolved alongside the religion of Islam and the Arabic language.

Arabic/Persian calligraphy is associated with geometric Islamic art (the 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 the Muslim 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.

The North Arabic script, which was influenced by the Nabatian script, was established in north-eastern Arabia and flourished in the 5th century among the Arabian tribes who inhabited Hirah and Anbar. It spread to Hijaz in western Arabia, and its use was popularized among the aristocracy of Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad, by Harb ibn Ummayyah.

Although early Arabic sources mention several calligraphic styles in reference to the cities in which they were used, they generally fit into two broad categories with some minor variations, these are the "dry styles", the early predecessors of Kufic, and the "moist styles", the early predecessors of the cursive family or scripts.

Cursive scripts coexisted with Kufic and date back to before Islam, but because in the early stages of their development they lacked discipline and elegance, they were usually used for secular purposes only.

Under the Ummayads and Abbasids, court requirements for correspondence and record keeping resulted in many developments to the cursive scripts, and several styles were devised to fulfill these needs. Abu Ali Muhammad Ibn Muqlah (d. 940), along with his brother, became accomplished calligraphers in Baghdad in an early age. Abu Ali became a Wazir to three Abbasid caliphs, and is credited with developing the first script to obey strict proportional rules. His system utilized the dot as a measuring unit for line proportions, and a circle with a diameter equals to the Alef's height as a measuring unit for letter proportions.

Ibn Muqlah's system became a powerful tool in the development and standardization of cursive scripts, and his calligraphic work elevated the previous cursive styles into a place of prominence, and made them acceptable as worthy of writing the Qur'an.

Islamic calligraphy is often displayed in Muslim art, because it serves as an inspiration. The practice of calligraphy is a topic of much Islamic philosophy. When used decoratively, the writing is so ornate and complex as to be almost unreadable. Calligraphy grew in part because of religious restrictions on representational art.

In the beginnings of Islam, the Qur'an was mostly recorded in the memory of those who memorized the entire text; they are known as the Huffaz. After witnessing the unreliability of such a form of transmission, mostly because of the untimely death of many of those Huffaz in battle, it was decided to record it in written form and compile it into one book instead of several pieces.

Given its sacred nature to Muslims, as the Qur'an is considered the word of Allah, the book would be made with great attention to quality and legibility. Given Islam's taboo against pictorial representation, however, drawings could not be used to illustrate the book, as was done in the Christian world. Thus, the art of calligraphy became very important in the Muslim world, and today it is still a major art form; calligraphers are held in great esteem. The aesthetic of their art, which allows for the teaching of the Qur'an, is a unifying aspect of Islam.

After the definitive fixing of the Arabic script around 786, by Khalil ibn Ahmad al Farahidi, many styles were developed, both for the writing down of the Qur'an and other books, and for inscriptions on monuments as decoration.

The first of those to gain popularity was known as the Kufic script; it was angular, made of square and short horizontal strokes, long verticals, and bold, compact circles. It would be the main script used to copy the Qur'an for three centuries; its static aspect made it suitable for monumental inscriptions, too. It would develop many serifs, small decorations added to each character.

Kufic font

More often used for casual writing was the cursive Naskh script, with rounder letters and thin lines; with refinement of its writing techniques it would come to be preferred to Kufic for copying the Qur'an. Most children are taught Naskh first, and at a later stage they are introduced to the Riq'a script. Almost all printed material in Arabic is in Naskh so, to avoid confusion, children are taught to write in the same script. It is also clearer and easier to decipher.

Naskh font

In the 13th century, the Thuluth would take on the ornamental role formerly associated with the Kufic script. Thuluth meaning "one third", it is based on the principle that one third of each letter slides downward. As such it has a strong cursive aspect and is usually written in ample curves.

Thuluth font

As Islam extended farther east, the Persians were converted, who took to using Arabic script for their own language, Persian. They contributed to Arabic calligraphy the Ta'liq and Nasta'liq styles. The latter is extremely cursive, with exaggeratedly long horizontal strokes; one of its peculiarities is that vertical strokes lean to the right rather than (as more commonly) to the left, making Nasta'liq writing particularly well flowing. The Persians also developed a style called "shekasteh", which means "broken". This style breaks the rules of which letters connect to those that follow.

Taliq/Nastaliq/Persian font

The Diwani script is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks (16th and early 17th centuries). It was invented by Housam Roumi and reached its height of popularity under S?n I the Magnificent (152066). As decorative as it was communicative, Diwani was distinguished by the complexity of the line within the letter and the close juxtaposition of the letters within the word.

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Arabic Diwani font

A variation of the Diwani, the Diwani Al Jali, is characterized by its abundance of diacritical and ornamental marks.

Diwani Al Jali font

Finally, the most commonly used script for everyday use is Riq'a. Simple and easy to write, its movements are small, without much amplitude. It is the one most commonly seen. It's also considered a step up from the Naskh script, and as children get older they are taught this script in school.

Riq'a font

The traditional instrument of the Arabic calligrapher is the qalam, a pen made of dried reed; the ink is often in color, and chosen such that its intensity can vary greatly, so that the greater strokes of the compositions can be very dynamic in their effect.

Indeed, Arabic calligraphy hasn't fallen out of use as in the western world. Being cursive by nature, unlike the Latin alphabet, Arabic script is used to write down a verse of the Qur'an, a Hadith, or simply a proverb, in a spectacular composition that is often indecipherable. The composition is often abstract, but sometimes the writing is shaped into an actual form such as that of an animal. One of the current masters of the genre is Hassan Massoudy.

See also

Western calligraphy

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The name "Mark" in calligraphy

Western calligraphy is the calligraphy of the Latin writing system, and to a lesser degree the Greek and Cyrillic writing systems. 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.

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