Sunday, 22 December 2013

Calligraph - One Who Writes Beautifully



Caligraph, Calligraphy
Photo by Serge Saint

CALLIGRAPH

Noun & verb. Mid-19th century.
[French calligraphe from medieval Latin calligraphus from Greek kalligraphos:
see CALLIGRAPHY. Sense A(2) and verb after autograph, etc.]

A(1) noun. A person who writes beautifully, a calligrapher. M19

A(2) noun. An example of calligraphy. L19

B verb trans. Write beautifully or ornamentally. L19

Many years ago - in the age before emails and texts - I used to write to a girl who, although the relationship was never romantic, had the most alluring, calligraphic handwriting I have ever seen. As handwriting, I dare say it was perfect, combining everything that anyone could want - effortlessly legible, ornate without distraction, lyrically flowing and utterly individual. As I read her letters, I marvelled at how the ink would dance on the page before my eyes. Writing to her as a teenager not only prompted my life-long interest in handwriting, but influenced my handwriting. While mine would never reach the same level of artistic beauty as hers - not even close - our correspondence did prompt a desire in me to care for my handwriting, to develop it and take pride in it. I was, after all, corresponding with a calligraph.

Many years after, when I was corresponding with another girl with whom I did become romantically involved, the subject of handwriting frequently came up. On telling her that people often thought my handwriting was a woman's, she told me that "there's something very alluring about a man with nice handwriting," a compliment which, as one can tell from my use of speech marks, was one of the most memorable I've ever received. And it goes both ways, of course - she too was a calligraph. 
Caligraph
One need not practise formal calligraphy to be a calligraph
Sadly, many commentators note that cursive handwriting (and by extension individual, beautiful, calligraphic handwriting) is under threat, if not already speeding along the road to extinction. One comment on the New York Times article Let It Die: It's Already Dying rued "Cursive, along with proper table manners, shaving once a day, and tucking your shirt in, may be relics of the past ... along with the art of conversation [and] politely paying attention to those you are with instead of some electronic device."

If individual, cursive, cared for handwriting is in decline, this is something very sad indeed. True, it's not a vital component of life - human society won't collapse without it. But it does add a little dash of graciousness, individuality and colour to an increasingly connected but homogenised world. We don't all need to be skilled in the formal art of calligraphy, and we don't all need to become calligraphs. But a little care in our handwriting, and the time spent in writing something by hand (as opposed to dashing off a text), is something within all of our reach. Together, we can defend this dying, beautiful art.

Are you a calligraph?

Do you practise formal calligraphy?

Do please leave your most carefully penned comments below.

8 comments:

  1. I'm not a calligraph, but have always been complimented on both my printing and my writing.
    Like you Eddie, I still take pride in that.
    Why do most men have untidy handwriting? Not you of course Eddie -yours is a pleasure to read!

    I wholeheartedly agree with everything that commenter said in the New York Times article.
    Especially that last part about having their noses in electronic devices.
    There have been too many instances when I've been talking to somebody when their phone rings or whatever it does, and they answer it either by texting or talking.
    And completely ignore me. Maybe I'm the ignorable type? :)
    I now walk away.
    Oh, and while I'm at it, I absolutely abhor people using text talk in emails, etc.!
    UR? How hard is it to type 'you are' ?! Drives me bonkers it does!
    Ok, rant over! :)

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    1. Well done you for spelling 'calligraph' correctly, Jingles, after I (as eagle-eyed Bibi pointed out) managed to spell it incorrectly throughout my piece! Grr.

      And yes, something resonated in what that guy said about people's noses being in devices. I love the internet, and my smart phone, etc, but I hate it ... *hate it* ... when you're with someone who's so rude that they never even look up from their device while talking to you. This is a slippery slope, Jingles - you and I know it! Declining standards of conversation, handwriting and personal grooming ... where will it all end, eh? : o )

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  2. I want to learn calligraphy. The fancy kind, with the special pens and the swirly wirlies. I can write cursive (there was no way we were allowed to write anything BUT cursive in primary school) but, you know, regular cursive doesn't look quite as good as swirly wirly calligraphy.

    By the way, your handwriting isn't womanly. The "th" in "this", for example, is a very strong and confident one. It's interesting that you have 2 "s"s. Not saying that's weird or abnormal because I use both the cursive and the printed "s" as well. And we all know that if anyone's normal and perfectly well-adjusted, it's me.

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    1. Me again. So "caligraph" has one "l", and "calligraphy" two? Odd things.

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    2. Flip, flip, flip! No, that's my mistake - it's two Ls for 'calligraphy' and 'calligraph'. Well spotted you, and dum dum me : o )

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    3. Yeah I don't think my handwriting is particularly feminine - I think it's just what people say when they see a guy writing with legible, flowing script. And yes - I do use two small esses, and two big ones too. I think I picked up this habit from my girlfriend as per paragraph 2 of the post, who wrote with the ess that's in "that's" and "this", whereas mine previously were always like the ones in "interested" and "is" Read into that what you will.

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    4. Oh Oh here I am again! You know what else is interesting? That English cursive differs from Dutch cursive! We used the methode d'Haese, which, if you look closely, forms some letters differently. For example the F and the I.

      Handwriting is fun stuff!

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  3. I suppose I am a calligraph. Whilst working on my degree, I had to take a handwriting correspondence course. I've always been pretty handy at D'Nealian manuscript, but my cursive needed improvement. I'm pleased that the course improved my cursive immensely--everyone commented on my Christmas cards this year :). Now, my Zaner-Bloser manuscript is a different story. I think I'll stick with the D'Nealian.

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