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Calligraphy (from Greek καλλι calli "beauty" + γραφος graphos "writing") is the art of decorative writing. A particular style of calligraphy is described as a hand.

Calligraphy at every point in time is a conscious art, which is distinguished from the studies of Epigraphy or Palaeography in general. The study of permanent inscriptions engraved in metal or chiselled into stone and the forms of letters used in them is called Epigraphy (q.v.). Epigraphy is a branch of the broader study of ancient handwriting in more general terms, called Palaeography. Graffiti inscribed on wall surfaces lie between the two.

Table of contents
1 Western Calligraphy
2 Chinese calligraphy

Western Calligraphy

Early alphabets had evolved by about 3000 BC. From the Greek alphabet evolved the Latin alphabet. They used capital letters for stone carving and lower case letters for writing on papyrus scrolls and wax tablets.

Long, heavy rolls of papyrus were replaced by the Romans with the first books, initially simply folded pages of parchment made from animal skins. Reed pens were replaced by quill pens.

Christianity gave a boost to the development of writing through the prolific copying of the Bible and other sacred texts.

Uncial letters were used by monks in Ireland, Scotland and other places, hence the name 'Insular style' for this type of writing. This was also the heyday of the illuminated manuscript.

Charlemagne made a big difference to the spread of beautiful writing by bringing Alcuin, the Abbot of York, to his capital of Aachen. Alcuin undertook a major revision of all styles of script and all texts. He then developed a new 'hand' named after his patron Charlemagne: "Carolingian minuscule style".

The Gothic alphabet followed in the 11th century, and Italy contributed Chancery and Italic scripts.

What followed was the heyday of the illuminated manuscript.

Hand-written and hand-decorated books went out of fashion for a while after the invention of printing by Johann Gutenberg in the 15th century.

However, at the end of the 19th century, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement rediscovered and popularised calligraphy. Many famous calligraphers were influenced by Morris, especially Edward Johnston, Eric Gill and others.

Some important contemporary calligraphers are Author Baker and Herman Zapf. As handwritten forms of communication have become more rare, calligraphy is often reserved for special occasions and events, most notably the addressing of wedding invitations and announcements.

Chinese calligraphy

Chinese calligraphy typically uses ink brush to write Chinese characters (Hanzi for the Chinese, and Kanji for the Japanese). Calligraphy or shufa (書法), or sho in Japanese, is considered an important art in East Asia and the most refined form of East Asian painting.

The main categories of Chinese-character calligraphy
English name Hanzi Pinyin Romaji
Seal Script 篆書 Zhuanshu Tensho
Running Script (Semi-cursive Script) 行書Xingshu Sousho
Grass Script (Cursive Script) 草書 Caoshu Gyousho
Clerical Script (Official Script) 隸書
Lishu Reisho
Regular Script (Block script) 楷書 Kaishu Kaisho

Calligraphy has influenced most major art styles in East Asia, including sumi-e, a style of Japanese painting based entirely on calligraphy.

See also: Chinese painting, Eight Principles of Yong

Middle eastern calligraphy

Arabic calligraphy is often displayed in Muslim art, because it serves as an inspiration. When used decoratively, the writing is so fancy that it is almost unreadable. Submit more information