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Short Essay on Calligraphy

The calligraphy is, etymologically, the art of forming the characters of writing. This word comes from the Greek base κάλλος Kallos, “beautiful” and γραφεĩν, graph, “to write.” Almost all the civilizations practicing writing developed the art of calligraphy. However, some of them have elevated the art to a special status based on specific historical and philosophical contexts. This can lead to a questioning of the very use of the word “calligraphy” when applied to non-Greco-Roman cultures. For example, the concept of “beauty” does not appear in the Japanese word that is translated in the West as “calligraphy,” the Japanese word 书道 (Shodo) means “the way of writing” and the concept of “path” refers more to a Buddhist universe than a purely aesthetic

Also the place of the art in Asia was very different from its place in the West, since learning the art of calligraphy was the basis of classical training of a painter in Asia, where the civilizations do not separate letter and drawing, word and image, body and mind, the material and the spiritual. In many Eastern civilizations calligraphy is one of the occult sciences, a part of theology where thinking, brush, stroke, and philosophical thought are inseparable).

The most popular calligraphy worldwide:

  • Islamic;
  • Chinese;
  • Japanese;
  • Arabic;
  • Latin;
  • Cyrillic ect.

In the West where it was also the art of the monks copyists, but also that of the great calligraphers responsible for contributing to its prestige among the sovereign and aristocracy. In this work, the calligraphers was more in search of a perfect performance for the glory of their sponsors, than seeking pure aesthetic, a contemporary notion.

Latin calligraphy is associated with the history of writing in Europe before and after the use of the printing and based on the Latin alphabet of the Romans. Manuscripts (manual copy of a book) led to practice writing as an art often combining in it illumination or illustration. It has been constantly evolving. Gradually, new letters arose (the V and J), the spaces between words, punctuation and use of upper case and assays from decorated letters.

The practice of Latin calligraphy is traditionally associated with copying manuscripts by Christian monks. For them, it was much more than a job: it was a form of prayer, which was both praise and asceticism. Calligraphy, which requires – if only technically – great concentration, security of gestures acquired by long practice, so a healthy lifestyle that can actually go as far as to asceticism, even apart from any spiritual consideration, but often associated in fact with, until the late Middle Ages, religious activity, such as non-Western calligraphy.

It has evolved with cultural influences (the Chancellor and the Renaissance), political (Charlemagne and caroline) and commercial (Flemish bastard) and technical innovations (English). Depending on the media (wax, papyrus, parchment and paper), it was done with a style, a reed pen, or a pen (bird feather and metal), flat or pointed brush. The monumental script engraved on the stone, whatever its aesthetic qualities, cannot be entirely assimilated to calligraphy in the technical impossibility of practicing a spontaneous “calligraphic” gesture, but nonetheless reflects a writing previously drawn.

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