What are the different types of calligraphy? As a newcomer to calligraphy, I have been wondering about this as I have come across so many different styles of calligraphy as I read more about calligraphy, which caused me a great deal of confusion. I decided to summarise my research on the different types of calligraphy here – maybe I am not the only one who is confused!
There are three main types of calligraphy, which include Western, Eastern and Arabian calligraphy. Each of these types of calligraphy uses different tools. Within each type of calligraphy, there are also several sub-types of scripts. A script is a style of writing. Many scripts have specific uses; some are better for documents and books, while others are more decorative as they are more challenging to read.
1. Western Calligraphy
Western calligraphy is calligraphy created by using the Latin alphabet.
Western calligraphy is used for projects, such as hand-dressed invitations, written artwork or paper art.
Writers usually use a dip pen for western calligraphy. The dip pen can have different nibs (such as the flex, round or italic broad nib), depending on which font you are trying to write.
Western script types
In western calligraphy, there are several different script types, namely the uncial script, the Carolingian minuscule, English script and many other less-known scripts. The most common scripts are:
- Uncial script: This script consists of capital letters only. It originated from the Latin script and was used for religious texts in the Middle Ages.
- Carolingian minuscule: The Carolingian script is named after the Carolingian empire. This script has clear capital letters and was commonly used in Europe for some time.
- English script: The English script developed in the eighteenth century in England. It spread to Europe through books. It is a cursive font with beautiful capital letters.
- Foundation hand: This style is commonly known as bookend style. It is easy to write and easy to read.
- Italian hand: This style is also known as Chancery. Each letter has a gentle slant to the right, giving it an elegant appearance.
- Blackletter script: This script is known as the Gothic script. It involves thick, plump letters. It originated from the 12th century and was used in manuscripts. It is not easy to read, making it more ideal for wall art than letters or books.
- Copperplate script: Writers use a sharp and pointed nib to create the Copperplate script, which gives it a beautiful, spidery appearance.
2. Eastern calligraphy
There are different types of Eastern calligraphy, such as the Chinese, Japanese and Korean calligraphic styles. Chinese calligraphy influenced both the Japanese and Korean calligraphy styles.
Chinese Calligraphy is the artful writing of Chinese characters. It provides a visual interpretation of the meaning of the words being written.
Eastern calligraphy uses small, tapered brushes, ink, the inkstone and paper. The size and hair of the brush determine the different writing styles. The motion of forming the letter is a focus in Eastern calligraphy.
Eastern or oriental scripts
For most eastern scripts, the sequencing of the strokes is essential.
Japanese scripts: There are two different types of Japanese alphabets, namely, the Hiragana and the Katagana. The Hiragana alphabet consists of their alphabet for writing names and words using their own language. The Japanese use the Katagana alphabet for writing foreign phrases and words. Nowadays, the Japanese also use kanji signs, which originated from Chinese.
Korean calligraphy: The original Korean calligraphy consisted of Chinese characters or Hanja. For modern Korean calligraphy, the Korean alphabet, or Hangul, is used.
Most Eastern scrips have the following five writing styles:
- Seal script
- Cursive script
- Block script
- semi-cursive script
- Official script
3. Arabic calligraphy
Arabic calligraphy is the third type of calligraphy. It uses the Arabic alphabet for writing. Arabic calligraphy is a form of art for Muslims, and they often use it to reproduce verses from the Qur’an. Arabic calligraphy is a versatile calligraphy style that can be used for art, architecture, education and religious purposes.
Some Arabic calligraphy styles are used for documents and books, but others are better suited to ornamental purposes.
Most Islamic calligraphy is Arabic, but not all Arabic calligraphy is Islamic. Some Christian manuscripts were written in Arabic calligraphy. Islamic calligraphy, on the other hand, can also be written in Persian or Ottoman language.
The tools used to create Arabic calligraphy include the following types of pens:
- Bamboo pens are one of the oldest pens used for calligraphy.
- Khamish pens are reed pens.
- Java pens are ideal for sharp edges and small scripts
- Handam pen is perfect for any script.
- Celi pen is made from hardwood and can be used for large writing in Arabic calligraphy.
There are several types of Arabic styles, of which the Kufic and Naskh scripts are the best known. Several other types that are not as well-known include the Arabic Musnad, Al-Jazm, Thuluth Script, Nasta’liq Script and the Diwani Script.
Kufic script: This script focuses on horizontal motions and geometric patterns. It often has red vowel markings on some of the letters to help with reading. The Kufic script is often used for stone carving or ornamental work. It is better for decorative art than for books and documents.
Naskh script: The Naskh script replaced the Kufic script in the 10th century. It is a cursive style with thin lines and is easy to read. It is used in most Arabic documents nowadays. It is a good script for papers and books.
Arabic Musnad: This was the start of the Arabic alphabet, but had a hieroglyphic appearance.
Al-Jazm: This script was the first form of Arabic calligraphy that looks like the modern Arabic alphabet.
Thuluth script: This script was popular in medieval times for mosques and Quranic text.
Nasta’liq script: The Persians used the Nasta’liq script for their writing. This script has a slant to the left, which creates an elegant cursive appearance.
Diwani script: This script was created in the Ottoman area. It isn’t easy to read as the letters are so close that they intertwine with each other.
Each of the three types of calligraphy contains many sub-types of calligraphy. The three types of calligraphy, and the many types of calligraphy scripts, cater to everyone, regardless of where you are from. Calligraphy is a useful skill to learn, and when you learn more types and styles of calligraphy, you can try more diverse calligraphy projects to expand your calligraphy portfolio with some unique creations.