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The art of decorative writing
Calligraphy (from Greek "kallos" "beauty" + "graphos" "writing") is the art of decorative writing. A style of calligraphy is described as a "hand".
For centuries, Chinese literati were expected to master the art of 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 is considered an important art in East Asia and the most refined form of East Asian painting.
Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including sumi-e, a style of Chinese and Japanese painting based entirely on calligraphy.
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 (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 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 emerged first, followed by the invention of lower case letters in the Carolingian period.
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 on the Celtic fringes of Europe, hence the name "Insular style" for this type of writing. The 7th-9th Century in northern Europe was the heyday of the illuminated manuscript, exemplified by the Lindisfarne Gospels.
Charlemagne helped 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".
Blackletter (a.k.a. Gothic Script) followed in the 12th 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 culture, being one of its "four elements".
In the United Kingdom many calligraphers belong to the Society of Scribes & Illuminators, which provides training and development to members.
There are many calligraphic typefaces such as Blackletter (including Fraktur), Lombardis, Uncial, Italic, and Roundhand.
Copperplate is name of a style of calligraphic writing, using a sharp pointed nib instead of the flat nib used in most calligraphic writing. The name comes from the sharp lines of the writing style resembling the etches of engraved copper. The Copperplate typeface attempts to emulate copper engraved letters.
Copperplate obtains its name from the copybooks of the 18th and 19th centures, which were created by the engraving of copper printing plates using mirrors. Students worked strenuously to copy these works, although the final results could never be obtained, because the works were created originally from the chiselling of copper plates, rather than the usage of fountain or quill pens. Nonetheless, the repeated efforts by these students resulted in phenomenal qualities.
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