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Human civilization adopted the practice of writing scriptures and religious texts in various forms and formats. The evolution of writing in itself has interesting anecdotes for people who trace its origin to famous civilizations like Egyptian, Indus valley, and Chinese. Calligraphy and hand lettering are important parts of the history of human evolution. The written forms in various styles, shapes, and formats have thrived for thousands of years. And, historians quote that the world’s very-first written accounts date back to 3200 BC. These structured texts were developed by the Sumerian tribe people who belonged to the present-day region of Iraq and some parts of Syria.

While calligraphy has its origin with China’s Shang dynasty, it was adopted and practiced during the Han dynasty, in around 206 BCE. Hand lettering is a writing form related to the creative expression of words and alphabets, which evolved with writing patterns and usage of alphabets. Lets us understand more about both the writing forms in depth.

What is calligraphy?

Calligraphy is the form of highly creative for art-inspired writing. It was immensely popular in countries – Japan, Korea, China, and Vietnam. Calligraphy was viewed as an art form in these countries and connoisseurs of writing practiced it diligently, day and night. Forms of calligraphy have also find the origin in countries like India, Europe, and Tibet. It was popularly used in writing religious texts or for writing royal textual accounts and announcements for the European kings and their dynasties.

Traditionally, calligraphy is defined as the artistic process involving integrity, ancestry, harmony, and rhythm of its own. It speaks integrity of letters, the ancestry of technique and tools used, harmony of the visual letter, and rhythm of variation and repetition by the calligrapher. Calligraphy mixes knowledge of the language as well as the substantial creative skills of the calligrapher.

Starting in the 19th century, it was also used extensively in paintings. It became a reigning theme for abstract artwork among leading painters in the West. They based their abstract expressions by consciously involving strokes of calligraphical characters in their artwork.

Some prominent features of calligraphy writing are:

  1. Calligraphy is written as an expressive art form, which depicts creative lettering for a language.
  2. It is written in even strokes and sequentially showcased on the lines of a paper in fixed spaces or gaps.
  3. Calligraphy enhances the beauty of any language and aims to make it appear more creative.
  4. It is more formal in nature and in ancient times, utilized mostly to add expressions to royal texts, musical scores, and scientific texts.
  5. Calligraphy is a source of various other creative writing forms like hand lettering, faux calligraphy, chalkboard writing, etc.

One can find three main types of calligraphy – Eastern, Arabic, and Western. However, many believe that calligraphy essentially took birth in the Eastern countries, at first. From there, it traveled to the West and its revival in modern times is attached to British calligrapher, Edward Johnston. However, in English languages, calligraphy appeared after the year 1613.

Edward Johnston was a teacher in an art school in London, where he researched more about the subject through reading manuscripts of the British Museum. He also published his book on calligraphy named Writing & Illumination & Lettering.

About Hand Lettering

Hand lettering and Calligraphy are forms of creative writing, and thus often they coincide. Also, Typography conveys similar connotations. It essentially involves writing alphabets and word-formation to provide visual appeal to the text. While writing and lettering as a whole find its origin in Semitic script produced by the ancient Egyptians. Simultaneously, writing and creating scripts evolved in other parts of the world, emoting the need for an alphabetical system to commence.

In history, it is believed that Cuneiform was one of the oldest form structured writing systems, which was founded in Mesopotamia; modern-day areas of Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria. Additionally, it was during the 14th century BCE, that cuneiform signs with thirty distinct letters were found in a location near Syria. They were quite identical to the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew system of alphabetical presentation of arranged letters.

Some features of Hand Lettering are:

  1. Hand lettering is an art form and modern. It is created in a way that human emotions are evoked by its sheer visual appeal.
  2. The hand lettering format is not fixed and is rather flexible on paper. It can be displayed as an art form as well as a written manuscript.
  3. Hand lettering is often accompanied by designing. It is used for purposes like advertising and graphic design.
  4. Hand lettering is extensively used in writing messages, both personal and professional in nature.
  5. Not only pen, usage of colors, and pencils are also allowed in hand lettering.

Hand lettering in modern days has become an interesting part of creativity. Not limited to merely writing letters in a rigid format on paper, lettering is a versatile way of communication. From writing with chalks, digital transitions to working with colors, hand lettering has seen the evolution of many kinds. Similar to calligraphy combined with abstract artwork, lettering has also gone a step further with its enhanced creative role. From text messages on T-shirts, funny messages on diaries, paintings, and graphic designing, hand lettering is adding value to everyday life.

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Differences between Calligraphy and Hand lettering

Both Calligraphy and hand lettering are writing forms, expressed with creativity on a piece of paper. Hand lettering thrives in the modern world, owing to its flexibility to shift on digital channels. And Calligraphy has deep roots in traditional forms of ornate writing expressions. Yet, both are flamboyant and provide depth and visual appeal to text written.

  • Calligraphy is done using a dip pen with nib, wherein the strokes for letters downwards are thicker and upstrokes are thin. While hand lettering is done using pens with nib or brush-based tips such as brushed or even gel pens.
  • A calligraphy is an ancient form of writing, primarily used in royal families. While hand lettering is a creative form of modern writing.
  • Calligraphy displays penmanship and was devised to accentuate the essence of language. While hand lettering is font-oriented and used primarily in creative depictions.
  • The origin of calligraphy and hand lettering stand at opposite poles. Calligraphy originated in East Asian countries, while hand lettering work was practiced across the world, starting the modern age.
  • Calligraphy was used for writing long format texts. It powered various religious and cultural texts. Meanwhile, hand lettering has been limited to writing attractive headlines, logos, or short sentences.
  • Once Calligraphy is done, it has no erasing or modification and it should be done in one go. While with hand lettering, the writer has the chance to correct and modify the text.

Usage of Calligraphy and Hand lettering

Calligraphy and hand lettering are the finest nuances of what writing can serve. Taking shape of letters in turned and explicitly twisted format produces a charm of their own for readers. As a reason, both the writing forms can surely defy their conventional applicability. Listed are some good uses of calligraphy and hand lettering:

  1. Calligraphy and hand lettering can heighten the appeal of a handwritten thank you note. The special connect created by a beautifully written thank you note can turn anyone an overnight star.
  2. Both the writing forms can be used as a business. Writing special notes, letters, and texts for special occasions can help earn some money.
  3. Hand lettering style like faux calligraphy allows flexibility and thus it can be used in writing postcards and hand notes.
  4. Calligraphy can be used in generating traditional artwork. It can become perfect pieces of art in pictured frames.
  5. Modern calligraphy or typography can be used for developing graphically rich media, which can further be utilized for art productions.
  6. Calligraphy and hand lettering offer separate potential for learning. They both can effectively be adopted as subjects, aligned with art.

Significance of Calligraphy and Hand lettering

Calligraphy and hand lettering show that writing can be also be treated as a form of art. It can be one of the best displays of human creativity and skills of hand. As an art done manually, the value of calligraphic text and handwriting have distinctive importance in human life. Calligraphy is integral to how languages and culture evolved with various Eastern, Western, and Arabic written forms transformed, over the period of time.

Hand lettering or lettering became synonymous with producing creatively expressive text. More than attaching itself to cultural transformation, hand lettering came up as a means to present written letters in an artistic format, more often with designed or graphics-based elements. Resultantly, the significance of hand lettering is more on the side of modern written text format rather than conventional. On the other hand, away from the traditional forms of calligraphy, modern calligraphy works according to a different concept. When traditional calligraphy works on Copperplate and Spencerian forms, however, is considerably different in terms of order and rules. Since modern calligraphy bends the rules of traditional form, it presents an opportunity to include different elements of drawings such as nature, musical note, and handmade designs. Thus, modern calligraphy though deviates from its source, yet creates a chance to explore something new.