Calligraphic omnipresence

Nobody cares about the channel as long as it’s the only available one. Just like art has no place in a world dominated by artisans, so calligraphy isn’t recognised as such in a chirographic culture. The beginnings of calligraphy in the West postdate the invention of print, which had the effect of demoting handwriting (from the production of books) and promote it as an autonomous art valuable in itself. Beyond the West, calligraphy had a different destiny because it preserved a cultural, religious or political function – all lost in the early modern West.

All European book writing before Gutenberg was calligraphic. While not all handwriting may be called calligraphic, book hands showed enough precision, care and grace to be described as beautiful (kallos) writing (graphia). Although, to some extent, no writing before the emergence of calligraphy as an artistic pursuit ipse factum should be called calligraphic at all.

The farther we are removed from the simple act of handwriting, the more we tend to appreciate calligraphic scripts and those who make them. Our alienation from day-to-day handwriting enwreathes the calligraphic hand in a blend of art and magic. As we are no longer able to write cursive or beautiful letters (since calligraphy requires serious practice), we wonder at how others can make the beautiful yet mysterious shapes.

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