Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

(ka LIG ra fee)

The art of producing beautiful writing, often created with a special pen or brush

From Greek kallos "beauty" +  graphẽ "writing."

Encyclopaedia Britannica
(online April 2019)

In the Middle East and East Asia, calligraphy by long and exacting tradition is considered a major art, equal to sculpture or painting. In Western culture the plainer Greek- and Latin-derived alphabets and the spread of literacy have tended to make handwriting in principle an art that anyone can practice.

Nonetheless, after the introduction of printing in Europe in the mid-15th century, a clear distinction arose between handwriting and more elaborate forms of scripts and lettering. In fact, new words meaning “calligraphy” entered most European languages about the end of the 16th century, and in English the word calligraphy did not appear until 1613. Writing books from the 16th century through the present day have continued to distinguish between ordinary handwriting and the more decorative calligraphy.
The Art of Islamic Calligraphy
-  Gardner's Art Through the Ages, Tenth Edition, by Richard G. Tansey and Fred S. Kleiner. Harcourt Brace College.  Pub. 1996, p. 339.

More  revered even than the art of textiles in the Islamic world is the art of calligraphy, the art of ornamental writing. The sacred words of the Qur'an, its verses (suras) must be reproduced in as beautiful a script as human hands can contrive and must appear on whatever material surfaces can carry it unsullied, from architecture to the fragile pages of books. The practice of calligraphy was itself a holy task, and one requiring long and arduous training. The scribe must be a person of exceptional spiritual refinement:  an ancient Arabic proverb proclaims: "Purity of writing is purity of soul." Only in China do we find calligraphy holding so supreme a position among the arts. 

As the language of the Qur'an established the form of classical Arabic, so the many scripts in which it was written fixed a standard of elegance for Arabic calligraphy and, later, Arabic print. ...

The esthetic achievement of Arabic calligraphy lies not only in itself, but in its perfect union with that system of Islamic ornamentation that... is known as arabesque.


Photos and their arrangement 2010 Chuck LaChiusa
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