/ kəlɪɡrəfi /
ETYM Greek: cf. French calligraphie.
Beautiful handwriting; SYN. penmanship.
Art of handwriting, regarded in China and Japan as the greatest of the visual arts, and playing a large part in Islamic art because the depiction of the human and animal form is forbidden.
The present letter forms have gradually evolved from originals shaped by the tools used to make them—the flat brush on paper, the chisel on stone, the stylus on wax and clay, and the reed and quill on papyrus and skin.
In Europe during the 4th and 5th centuries books were written in square capitals (“majuscules”) derived from classical Roman inscriptions (Trajan’s Column in Rome is the outstanding example). The rustic capitals of the same period were written more freely, the pen being held at a severe angle so that the scribe was less frequently inclined to change the angle for special flourishes. Uncial capitals, more rounded, were used from the 4th to the 8th centuries. During this period the cursive hand was also developing, and the interplay of this with the formal hands, coupled with the need for speedier writing, led to the small letter forms (“minuscules”). During the 7th century the half-uncial was developed with ascending and descending strokes and was adopted by all countries under Roman rule. The cursive forms developed differently in different countries. In Italy the italic script was evolved and became the model for italic typefaces.
Printing and the typewriter reduced the need for calligraphy in the West until the 20th-century revival inspired by Edward Johnston (1872–1944).