Author Topic: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?  (Read 7943 times)

Offline Carina_I

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Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« on: December 14, 2015, 08:29:33 PM »
I was thinking today, and I thought this:

What if someone were to write an entire book using just calligraphy? That's what scribes back then did, right? What do you people think?

Would writing an entire book in calligraphy be fun or tedious or both? I'm thinking both, but leaning heavily on the tedious side.

It would take a very long time. I wonder how long it took sribes to write back then. Does anybody know? Because they technically wrote using calligraphy, even if it wasn't considered calligraphy back in the day. I bet it took a long time. How long?

Any thoughts? What I would like to know is, what would be the benefit? Bragging rights, I suppose. Plus, it would be nice to be leafing through a big fat book of gorgeous writing that you created with your own two hands.

Offline andyj

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2015, 09:44:51 PM »
While I've been trying to hit on a way to improve my handwriting, I read through "Italic Handwriting Series" by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay.  This is a whole series of books on italic writing and they're completely handwritten in cursive and basic italic.  You may have been referring to another type of book, say, a novel or an anthology but in this case, the benefit is very clear because every page is an exemplar for the learner! :-)


Andy
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Offline eunice_k

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2015, 11:08:24 PM »
I have been writing Pride and Prejudice if I don't have anything else to practice.  It gives me something interesting to read and write.

Offline andyj

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2015, 12:15:42 AM »
Ohhhh, ok, I gotcha now, @Carina_I, you are talking about copying a book!  Hmm, yes, I think that would be good because of what @eunice_k points out - it's interesting and you can read it and write it at the same time. 
Andy

Offline Estefa

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2015, 02:09:14 AM »
A whole book in a formal hand would surely be stunning – and LOTS of work as you said yourself!! I also started writing Pride & Prejudice (in a rather formal Copperplate), it took ages just for some sentences ;D. Somewhere on IG I saw a beautiful project, she wrote a fairytale (I think Rapunzel?) in Fraktur or Textura with some miniatures and decorational border work – very beautiful, and still a work of months, but probably more do-able than a whole novel …

I read somewhere (probably in "The golden thread") that a monk used to write roughly one page a day (of a bible or something comparable). So depending on the length of the book, it took one to several years. The price even for the earliest printed books equaled roughly that of building a stone house!!

And yes, writing books was indeed considered calligraphy – there was a distinction between Book Hands (calligraphy) and Running Hands (Handwriting), that were used for book-keeping etc. The picture is more complicated, as there were other hands, for example some specifically for Royal or for the Papal courts, that were often intentionally hard to read (and to write / to forge). Plus some running hands were refined and became Book Hands themselves … :). If you are very interested in the history of (Western) writing – I remember you made several points in recent posts?) I very much recommend the book by Ewan Clayton I mentioned above!!

Let us know if you start something!!
Stefanie :: Website :: Blog :: Instagram

Offline sybillevz

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2015, 03:00:58 AM »
I concur, copying a book is great practice.
I chose the thinnest book in my collection : Novecento, by A. Baricco. Beautiful book, and a pleasure to copy.
It took me 3 months with an average of 1 page 1/2 per day (less at the beginning and more like 2 or 3 at the end). I kept it all and I can clearly see my progress.
The key is not to just copy the book, but to have an issue to fix every day : fon instance, get consistant spacing, slant, height... and keep improving that point until it's fixed.

Offline AndyT

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2015, 05:46:01 AM »
I'd like to second Stefanie's recommendation of The Golden Thread, which is a sort of social history of the written and printed word, and which complements more technical accounts of the same subject such as Donald Jackson's The Story of Writing.  In it you'll find out how medieval scribes dealt with occupational hazards like backache and cold feet, for instance.  Mr Clayton has a rare insight into monastic book production, by the way, having been in holy orders himself for some years.

About a year ago I set about copying out Moby Dick.  Yes, I know!  Not recommended, and besides after a couple of chapters my life got turned upside down - again.  Anyway ... about the time I was forced to abandon the project I had a discussion with Debbie (Milonguera), who pointed out that if a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right.  So, if anyone is seriously considering writing out a lengthy book, it's worth giving the matter of paper some serious thought.  The average printed novel makes efficient use of space with upright type which rarely exceeds a 2mm "x-height": even though I usually stick to that sort of height, slanted writing spreads out horizontally - Spencerian especially.  Unless the idea of an A6 format, fifteen volume edition of Sense and Sensibility with about 30 words per page appeals, a goodly quantity of large sheets of paper which can be folded into four and give leaves with decent dimensions is essential.  Sourcing this is not going to be a straightforward matter when you take weight and folding into account, as large sheets of good quality lightweight paper are hard to come by.  Vellum, of course, will cost a fortune.  Japanese or perfect binding are possible solutions, but the former is unsuitable for thick volumes whilst the latter is hardly a quality construction.  It's not for nothing that medieval books tended to be precious, hefty objects.

All told it makes sense to choose a text of manageable size.  One of the nicest little handwritten book projects I've seen appears to be an extract from Winnie the Pooh (the one about the balloon and the honey, in case there are any afficionados out there): you'll find it here, second from the bottom on the left.  It's short enough to allow use of heavy watercolour paper and wooden boards, and leave space for illustrations.  I think hand-made books are a very appealing possibility for calligraphers, but it would be wise to keep the scale modest.

Anyway, Carina - which book did you have in mind?

Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2015, 08:00:03 AM »
If you have access to any classes on how to make hand made books, you might want to consider learning more about some of the easier pamphlet styles of books. I spent several years taking classes, learned how to make many kinds of books. Books are a great alternative to framing your work.  There are many tutorials online, but you would probably learn a lot faster if you could take a few classes. Small books are very precious and make great gifts. My suggestion would be to start with some smaller books before launching a huge project. I have several books that are filled with my favorite quotes. Whenever I took a class in bookbinding, I would be the only student who had anything other than a blank book - and blank books are so hard to write in. Once you learn how to make books, you may enjoy making your own sketch books and you can bind them after you fill the individual signature. Carrying around a 16 page signature is so much easier than carrying a large sketch book. A 16 page signature would be 4 sheets of paper, stacked, folded in half, creating 16 pages on which to write. You can choose 8 or 12 page signatures.

Offline Carina_I

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2015, 10:24:12 AM »
A whole book in a formal hand would surely be stunning – and LOTS of work as you said yourself!! I also started writing Pride & Prejudice (in a rather formal Copperplate), it took ages just for some sentences ;D. Somewhere on IG I saw a beautiful project, she wrote a fairytale (I think Rapunzel?) in Fraktur or Textura with some miniatures and decorational border work – very beautiful, and still a work of months, but probably more do-able than a whole novel …

I read somewhere (probably in "The golden thread") that a monk used to write roughly one page a day (of a bible or something comparable). So depending on the length of the book, it took one to several years. The price even for the earliest printed books equaled roughly that of building a stone house!!

And yes, writing books was indeed considered calligraphy – there was a distinction between Book Hands (calligraphy) and Running Hands (Handwriting), that were used for book-keeping etc. The picture is more complicated, as there were other hands, for example some specifically for Royal or for the Papal courts, that were often intentionally hard to read (and to write / to forge). Plus some running hands were refined and became Book Hands themselves … :). If you are very interested in the history of (Western) writing – I remember you made several points in recent posts?) I very much recommend the book by Ewan Clayton I mentioned above!!

Let us know if you start something!!

Oh, I didn't know writing books was considered calligraphy. That's pretty cool! Do you know when the term calligraphy coined?

Offline Inked botanicals

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2015, 10:55:10 AM »
I have a personal project: I am writing a Tales Book in calligraphy. I am using an artisanal album I purchased and writing short tales in different color inks and different calligraphy styles. I am remembering all the stories my mother told me when I was a child and using my own words. Maybe I can finish it in time for my grandchildren!  ;D
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Offline Estefa

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2015, 11:14:28 AM »
Oh, I didn't know writing books was considered calligraphy. That's pretty cool! Do you know when the term calligraphy coined?

That's an interesting question :)! That I can't answer right away. I could browse a bit tonight through the "Golden Thread" – I remember the author talks about calligraphers as early as 3d or 4th century AD. But it may be that he uses the modern term even if they were just called scribes, or copists.

Even in Old Egypt there was already a distinction between calligraphic writing (Hieroglyphs) and simpler, cursive forms of everyday writing for lists, non-religious texts etc. (Hieratic and Demotic scripts)!
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2015, 12:01:24 PM »
From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Early 17th century: from Greek kalligraphia, from kalligraphos 'person who writes beautifully', from kallos 'beauty' + graphein 'write'.

So it's a modern word with a confected classical etymology.  (At least it sticks to one language, unlike "television".  My Latin teacher told us that it ought to be either "proculvision" or "telebleptor" - one of the very few things I remember from his classes, alas.  Am I digressing?  Yes, I rather think I am).

I'm not sure that it's helpful to think in terms of "handwriting" and "calligraphy" during the medieval period.  Stefanie has alluded to the complex hierarchy of scripts, from the quick and dirty to the grand and laborious.  Nearly all writing was a matter for professionals however, and of course anything more ephemeral than bound books or scrolls has probably been lost centuries since.  The neat distinction between art and craft didn't exist either, so Giotto would have thought of himself as a tradesman - a highly skilled one though, to be sure.  There were some notably high flying scribes whose names are still known, for instance the 8th century bishop Eadfrith associated with the Lindisfarne Gospels; Eadwine, a monk from Canterbury who called himself the "prince of writers", and Jean Miélot, scribe to the Burgundian court.  So undoubtedly there was prestige attached to outstanding writing, and it was certainly a profession, but the concept of calligraphy as opposed to the kind of writing ordinary people did was a later development.

Offline Carina_I

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2015, 01:22:58 PM »
From the Oxford English Dictionary:

Early 17th century: from Greek kalligraphia, from kalligraphos 'person who writes beautifully', from kallos 'beauty' + graphein 'write'.

So it's a modern word with a confected classical etymology.  (At least it sticks to one language, unlike "television".  My Latin teacher told us that it ought to be either "proculvision" or "telebleptor" - one of the very few things I remember from his classes, alas.  Am I digressing?  Yes, I rather think I am).

I'm not sure that it's helpful to think in terms of "handwriting" and "calligraphy" during the medieval period.  Stefanie has alluded to the complex hierarchy of scripts, from the quick and dirty to the grand and laborious.  Nearly all writing was a matter for professionals however, and of course anything more ephemeral than bound books or scrolls has probably been lost centuries since.  The neat distinction between art and craft didn't exist either, so Giotto would have thought of himself as a tradesman - a highly skilled one though, to be sure.  There were some notably high flying scribes whose names are still known, for instance the 8th century bishop Eadfrith associated with the Lindisfarne Gospels; Eadwine, a monk from Canterbury who called himself the "prince of writers", and Jean Miélot, scribe to the Burgundian court.  So undoubtedly there was prestige attached to outstanding writing, and it was certainly a profession, but the concept of calligraphy as opposed to the kind of writing ordinary people did was a later development.

Whaaaaaaaaa?

Oh, okay. I get it. What you're trying to say is:

There wasn't a clear, definitive distinction between calligraphy and handwriting and there was a bunch of confuddlement about what which type of handwriting was called . . . you know what? I'm just going to stop talking now.

Offline AndyT

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2015, 01:28:34 PM »
You're not Carina the Wise for nothing, are you?  :)

Spot on, and consider "confuddlement" stolen for later use.

Offline schin

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Re: Writing an entire book using calligraphy?
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2015, 01:29:45 PM »
This is a great idea!!! I always thought of writing famous love letters in Spencerian or something and compiling into a book.

Somewhere in FountainPenNetwork there is a thread where a bunch of people take turns writing out the Bible using fountain pens. I don't know how far they got but it was really impressive to me how dedicated they are! I can't seem to find the thread though.

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