The ancient art of calligraphy has withstood the tests of time and is still flourishing today, despite significant changes in its status over the centuries. The style of modern letterforms may be derived from any number of influences, past or present. There is a wide range of tools and materials available to the calligrapher, more varied and imaginative than ever before, enabling lettering artists to create innovative, interpretive works.
Few people who pick up a calligraphic pen for the first time ever produce a masterpiece. Many are so disappointed with the results that they give up. After all, lettering and calligraphy would appear to be just an extension of handwriting, taught in school. This is far from the truth. Dedication and an appreciation of letterforms and space are essential in this most disciplined of arts.
In order to understand and participate in the subject, the word calligraphy must be defined. The dictionary states "handwriting or penmanship", or simply "beautiful writing". The word calligraphy is usually defined by its two Greek roots: kalli meaning beautiful and graphia referring to writing.
The roots of our present-day letters are to be found in the Roman alphabet of the first century AD. It had been preceded over many centuries in different civilizations by the use first of pictorial symbols standing for words and concepts, then by abstract derivations from these characters which retained or adapted their basic meanings and subsequently were converted to symbols relating to sound. The Roman alphabet, adapted from the Greek, produced the most systematic and versatile means of recording language and, due to the widespread power and influence of the empire, became the standard element of written form throughout Western Europe.
Alterations in style and methods of writing since the days of the Roman Empire have generally been aimed at improving the speed of production, and at the economy of materials. Fifteenth-century Europe saw the invention of printing and mechanical reproduction methods, which have continued to evolve in the twentieth century -- hence the computer and desktop publishing. Rather than ousting the art of calligraphy, the abundance of computer generated media has left many people longing for hand-produced works. Thus, the art of calligraphy is alive and well today -- even flourishing!
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