In Europe two sorts of handwriting came into being very early. Cursive script was used for letters and records, while far more polished writing styles, called uncials, were used for literary works. Both styles can be seen in papyrus fragments from the 4th cent. B.C. After the 1st cent. A.D. the development of the half uncial or minuscule letter from the Roman capital gave rise to an extraordinarily beautiful and long-lasting calligraphy.
As tools and materials of high quality came into use, masterpieces of calligraphic art were produced, e.g., the Irish Book of Kells (8th cent.; Trinity College, Dublin; see under Ceanannus Mór) and the English Lindisfarne Gospels (8th cent.; British Mus.; see Holy Island). Carolingian minuscule script and its splendid and complex derivative, known as Gothic, were the principal calligraphic styles from the 9th to the 14th cent.
The humanistic handwriting style of the Renaissance, a deliberate imitation of Carolingian minuscule, was both aesthetically pleasing and extremely legible. The Italian manuscript copyists of the middle to late 15th cent. produced many glorious calligraphic works. Among the best known of these masters were Matteo Contugi, Gianrinaldo Mennio, and Pierantonio Sallando. Alphabet design became a subject of study, and several technical treatises were published on writing styles.
By the late 16th cent., with the secure establishment of the printing press, the art of calligraphy declined generally throughout Europe. Penmanship of a relatively inferior sort was taught in elementary schools in England and in the United States until the late 19th cent. The 20th cent. has experienced a revival of interest in the art, influenced by the work of Owen Jones and William Morris. Fine calligraphy is currently taught in art and craft schools and is exhibited in museums.
In the East calligraphy has been consistently practiced as a major aesthetic expression. In China, from the 5th cent. B.C., when it was first used, calligraphy has always been considered equal, or even superior, to painting. Chinese calligraphy began with a simplified seal script, known as "chancery script," in which the width of the strokes varies and the edges and ends are sharp. The perfection of the brush in the 1st cent. A.D. made possible the stylization of chancery script into "regular script," distinguished by its straight strokes of varying width, and clear, sharp corners, and a cursive "running hand."
The Japanese value calligraphy as highly as do the Chinese. They began to practice it only in the 7th cent. A.D., with the introduction of Buddhist manuscripts from China. Kukai, c.800, invented the syllabic script, which was based on Chinese characters.
The art of calligraphy is also practiced with the limited letter alphabet of Arabic. Because the Muslim faith discourages pictorial representation and reveres the Qur'an, the Islamic peoples esteem calligraphy as highly as do those of East Asia. The earliest Islamic calligraphy is found in the beautiful Qur'ans, written with black ink or gold leaf on parchment or paper in formal, angular script. Begun by the 8th cent., this script was fully developed by the 10th.
Elaborations, such as foliation, interfacing, and other complexities were invented later, but they are used only for decorative work. Qur'ans continued to be copied in austere and monumental letters. In the 12th cent. rounded cursive style was invented and spread throughout Islam. Many different cursive scripts developed thereafter. In Islam calligraphy decorates mosques, pottery, metalwork, and textiles, as well as books.
See H. Child, Calligraphy Today (1964, repr. 1988); D. Miner, ed., 2,000 Years of Calligraphy (1965, repr. 1972); A. Baker, Calligraphy (1973); P. Standard, Calligraphy's Flowering, Decay, and Restoration (1977); Z. Ouyang and W. C. Fong, Chinese Calligraphy (2008).
Modern calligraphy ranges from functional hand lettered inscriptions and designs to fine art pieces where the abstract expression of the handwritten mark may or may not supersede the legibility of the letters (Mediavilla 1996). Classical calligraphy differs from typography and non-classical hand-lettering, though a calligrapher may create all of these; characters are historically disciplined yet fluid and spontaneous, improvised at the moment of writing (Pott 2006 & 2005; Zapf 2007 & 2006). Calligraphy continues to flourish in the forms of wedding and event invitations, font design/ typography, original hand-lettered logo design, religious art, various announcements/ graphic design/ commissioned calligraphic art, cut stone inscriptions and memorial documents. Also props and moving images for film and television, testimonials, birth and death certificates/maps, and other works involving writing (see for example Letter Arts Review; Propfe 2005; Geddes & Dion 2004).
At the height of the Roman Empire its power reached as far as Great Britain; when the empire fell, its literary influence remained. The Semi-uncial generated the Irish Semi-uncial, the small Anglo-Saxon. Each region seemed to have develop its own standards following the main monastery of the region (i.e. Merovingian script, Laon script, Luxeuil script, Visigothic script, Beneventan script) which are mostly cursive and hardly readable.
The raising of the Carolingian Empire encouraged to set a new standardized script, developed by several famous monasteries (including Corbie Abbey and Beauvais) around the eighth century. Finally the script from Saint Martin de Tours was set as the Imperial standard, named the Carolingian script (or "the Caroline"). From the powerful Carolingian Empire, this standard also became used in neighbouring kingdoms.
In the eleventh century, the Caroline evolved into the Gothic script, which was more compact and making it possible to fit more text on a page. The Gothic calligraphy styles became dominant in northern Europe; and in 1454 AD, when Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press, in Mainz, Germany, he adopted the Gothic style, making it the first typeface.
In the sixteenth century, the rediscovery of old Carolingian texts encouraged the creation of the Antiqua script (about 1470). The seventeenth century saw the Batarde script from France, and the eighteenth century saw the English script spread across Europe and world by their books.
The contemporary typefaces found on every computer, whether in simple word processing programs like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages, through to a professional designer's software package like Adobe InDesign, owe a considerable debt to the past and to a small number of professional typeface designers today (Zapf 2007; Mediavilla 2006; Henning 2002).
As for Chinese or Arabian calligraphies, western calligraphic script had strict rules and shapes. Quality writing had a rhythm and regularity to the letters, with a "geometrical" good order of the lines on the pages. Each character had, and often still has, a precise stroke order.
Unlike a typeface, irregularity in the characters' size, style and colors adds meaning to the Greek translation "beautiful letters". The content may be completely illegible, but no less meaningful to a viewer with some empathy for the work on view. Many of the themes and variations of today's contemporary Western calligraphy are found in the pages of the Saint John's Bible.
Calligraphy has also influenced ink and wash painting, which is accomplished using similar tools and techniques. Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including sumi-e, a style of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting based entirely on calligraphy.
With the development of Jīnwén (Bronzeware script) and Dàzhuàn (Large Seal Script) "cursive" signs continued. Moreover, each archaic kingdom of current China had its own set of characters.Imperial China In Imperial China, the graphs on old steles — some dating from 200 BC, and in Xiaozhuan style — are still accessible.
About 220 BC, the emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first to conquer the entire Chinese basin, imposed several reforms, among them Li Si's character uniformisation, which created a set of 3300 standardized Xiǎozhuàn characters. Despite the fact that the main writing implement of the time was already the brush, few papers survive from this period, and the main examples of this style are on steles.
The Lìshū style (clerical script) which is more regularized, and in some ways similar to modern text, was then developed.
Kǎishū style (traditional regular script) — still in use today — is even more regularized. The Kaishu shape of characters 1000 years ago was mostly similar to that at the end of Imperial China. But small changes have be made, for example in the shape of 广 which is not absolutely the same in the Kangxi dictionary of 1716 as in modern books. The Kangxi and current shapes have tiny differences, while stroke order is still the same, according to old style.
Kǎishū simplified Chinese script is in fact a selection of long-time pre-existing easiest variants, which were unconventional or localy used for centuries, and understood but always rejected in official texts. By selecting this easiest variants, the Chinese government created in 1956 a new set of official variants to use, simpler, to ease learning and increase literacy.Cursive styles and hand-written styles Cursive styles such as Xíngshū (semi-cursive or running script) and Cǎoshū (cursive or grass script) are "high speed" calligraphic styles, where each move made by the writing tool is visible. These styles especially like to play with stroke order rules, creating new visual effects. They were invented as derivated work from Clerical script, in same time than Regular script (Han dynasty), but Xíngshū and Cǎoshū were use for personnal notes only, and were never use as standard. They quickly became artistical play, on the side of the official Regular style.Printed and computer ones An example of the modern printed style is Songti (style of the Song Dynasty's book press), and the dozens of computer ones. These sets are other "styles," but not calligraphic ones, as they are not hand written.
Aśoka's edicts (c. 265–238 BC) were committed to stone. These inscriptions are stiff and angular in form. Following the Aśoka style of Indic writing, two new calligraphic types appear: Kharoṣṭī and Brāhmī. Kharoṣṭī was used in the northwestern regions of India from the 3rd century BC to the 4th century of the Christian Era, and it was used in Central Asia until the 8th century.
Copper was a favoured material for Indic inscriptions. In the north of India, birch bark was used as a writing surface as early as the 2nd century AD. Many Indic manuscripts were written on palm leaves, even after the Indian languages were put on paper in the 13th century. Both sides of the leaves were used for writing. Long rectangular strips were gathered on top of one another, holes were drilled through all the leaves, and the book was held together by string. Books of this manufacture were common to Southeast Asia. The palm leaf was an excellent surface for penwriting, making possible the delicate lettering used in many of the scripts of southern Asia.
Nepalese calligraphy has a huge impact on Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Ranjana script is the primary form of this calligraphy. The script itself and its derivatives (like Lantsa, Phagpa, Kutila) are used in Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan, Leh, Mongolia, coastal China, Japan and Korea to write "Om mane pame om" and other sacred Buddhist texts, mainly those derived from Sanskrit and Pali.
Persian calligraphy is the calligraphy of Persian writing system. The history of calligraphy in Persia dates back to the pre-Islam era. In Zoroastrianism beautiful and clear writings were always praised.
Arabic 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.
Instead of recalling something related to 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 passages from the Qur'an are still sources for Islamic calligraphy.
Maya Calligraphy it was expressed as glyphs, modern Mayan calligraphy mostly is used on seals and monuments in the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Glyphs are rarely use in Government offices, however in Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo, the Mayan Calligraphy it is write it with Latin alphabet characters. Some commercial companies in Southern Mexico use glyphs as symbols of their business. Also community associations, and some Maya modern brotherhoods use glyphs as symbols of their groups.
Most of the archeological sites in Mexico such as Chichen Itza, Labna, Uxmal, Edzna, Calakmul, etc. have glyphs in their structures. Stone carved monuments also known as Stele are a common display to find ancient Maya calligraphy.