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Calligraphy in Its Modern Revival


The use of calligraphy is widely spread, with the use of this writing-related visual art could be found nearly everywhere. Calligraphy itself is the design as well as execution of lettering with the use of a broad tip instrument, brush, or dip pen as the writing instrument, among other ones. In contemporary era, the calligraphic practice can also be defined as the art of providing from to signs in a harmonious, skillful, and expressive manner. Meanwhile, modern calligraphy varies from functional designs and inscriptions to fine-art pieces, in which the letters may be readable or not.

You may also need to differ the classical calligraphy from non-classical hand-lettering and typography, even though a calligrapher may do both of them. Today, the use of calligraphy can be found to adorn the forms of event invitations, such as wedding, typography and font design, religious art, original logo design made with hand-lettering, graphic design, and memorial documents. This art is also used for moving images and props for TV and film, maps, death and birth certificates, testimonials, and other works done in written form.

The modern calligraphy was first revived when printing become pervasive since the 15th century, along with the decline of the illuminated manuscripts production. Even so, with the revival of calligraphy for modern era, this art proved that it didn’t meet its end yet. Rather, at the finale of the 19th century, calligraphy was come to with the influence of the philosophy and aesthetics of Arts and Crafts Movement and William Morris.

However, Edward Johnston was the one regarded as the founder of modern calligraphy after on 1898 he was being introduced to Willian Lethaby and studying the manuscripts written by William Harrison Cowlishaw. Lethaby advised Johnston to learn those manuscripts, triggering his interest in the calligraphy art using a pen with broad edge. The following year, in the Central School, Southampton Row, he started a teaching course in calligraphy. From the course, he inspired the sculptor and typeface designer Eric Gill and was commissioned to design a new typeface used for London Underground. Frank Pick was the one who commissioned him. Until today, the typeface was still used with only slight modification.

Johnston also has been renowned for his attempt to revive the modern penmanship and lettering art alone through his teachings and books. His 1906’s book, “Writing & Illuminating & Lettering” was influential in association with a making of British calligraphers and typographers, including Eric Gill, Anna Simons, Graily Hewitt, and Stanley Morison. He also developed the simply made calligraphic handwriting style with rounded edges using a pen with broad edge, the one we recognize as the Foundational hand today. At first, Johnson taught his students the calligraphy of an uncial hand using angle with flat pen, however later using a slanted pen one.

The development of the modern calligraphy art was continued with Graily Hewitt’s central role in the resurgence of gilding with his abundant result on type design could be found during 1915 to 1943. Hewitt was associated with the resurgence of gilding using gesso as well as gold leaf over vellum. In 1921, he also helped found the world’s foremost society in calligraphy, the Society of Scribes and Illuminators (or SSI).

Meanwhile, Anna Simons was the one who sparked off the interest for calligraphy in Germany through her translation for “Writing & Illuminating & Lettering” in the 1910s. Gothic has a powerful effect on calligraphy in Germany because German-speaking countries had not abandoned this hand in printing. Without a doubt, contemporary typefaces we use in computers, from word processors to professional designers’ software do owe a great debt to the past, as well as to the professional typeface designers even until today.


A man who live among words

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