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CALLIGRAPHY – A GUIDE TO HAND-LETTERING (article first published : 2002-11-22)

The Oxford Dictionary defines Calligraphy as “Beautiful handwriting”.

Webster’s says “Beautiful or elegant handwriting”.

So, for once England and America almost agree but both these definitions really describe the end product and it’s left to Brittanica to get it right: “The art of fine writing” (quote).

And this is what Margaret Morgan’s very comprehensive book - Calligraphy, a guide to hand-lettering is all about – it’s ART.

In the West, calligraphy was accepted as an art-form from the early centuries A.D. as it was in the Orient hundreds of years B.C. and here some of their calligraphic brush-strokes used to form their oriental characters you can find today in their pictorial arts and particularly Japanese Sumi-e style of art with which I have had a certain amount of experience.

Calligraphy is a very disciplined art and has been since man sensed the beauty of perfect writing. Despite the discipline Margaret Morgan does not reject inventiveness in her very authoritative book. It lifts the reader from the academically strict rules which must be mastered, into the realms of artistic imagination with only one model – the alphabet! The expression “As simple as ABC” takes on an entirely new meaning under the instruction of Margaret Morgan.

From the history of calligraphy on page 6 to the final instructional chapter on page 76, Calligraphy, a guide to hand-lettering crams into those few pages a complete course on the subject. It will generate great interest for the beginner and the experienced will be inspired by the new ideas depicted in this beautifully presented book, which in itself is a work of art.

The specially commissioned photographs by John Freeman provide added compliment to this very fine publication. Calligraphy, a guide to hand-lettering is published by New Holland and retails at a very reasonable R119.95.

If you embark on setting up a room as a studio – and after reading this book I fell sure you will – reverse the advice on page 12 about a north-facing window. Margaret Morgan had her book published in the Northern Hemisphere – so what you need here is a south-facing window. Think about it – it makes sense. – John Simpson




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