|When scribes first put pen to page they began the long struggle to control the written form of language and balance the demands of form and function. From humble beginnings adapting inscriptive lettering to other media, the stylistic and functional demands on written language have grown and changed and over the centuries writing has become an art form as well as a vital tool.
Early writing was often carved in stone or wood, which imposed a certain angularity of style. In the Roman period, as more and more written records were kept on vellum and papyrus, the scribes faced different restrictions and the shapes and characters of the letters began to change, becoming more
rounded and often more decorative. By the 6th or 7th century a wide diversity of distinct calligraphic styles had emerged, from the open uncial styles of Northern Europe to the formal styles of Lobmardic documents and the rough, informal lettering of Roman bureaucrats.
After the decline of Rome the focus of learning and of the written arts moved to the north and west, with much of the cultural tradition of the ancient world being preserved in the cloisters of Ireland and the British Isles. Irish monastic culture spread through Europe in the so-called Dark Ages, taking with it new styles of lettering derived from the insular minuscule and uncial styles.
With the rise in ascendancy of the Church of Rome more formal and elaborate lettering styles began to become popular. Putting aside the somewhat paganistic ornamentation of the Celtic period, the gothic styles began to emerge, with more rigid and angular character forms and elaborate majuscule letters, taking on some of the character of the complex architectural style of the high middle ages.
Gothic styles remained popular until the advent of printing, and even into the modern era in printed form in Germany and other parts of Northern Europe.
By the 14th century diversity began to reemerge in writing styles. With the growth of the middle class in England and the lowland countries, secular literacy began to increase, and a demand developed for calligraphic styles which were legible, attractive and also efficient enough to allow manuscripts to be reproduced rapidly and commercially. This period saw the emergency of court and chancery hands, informal gothic variations and the growth of the popular Bastarda or Lettres Batarde hybrid lettering style which became the standard for secular writing.
Even with printing on the horizon, the Renaissance saw the emergence of new lettering styles as widespread literacy created great demand for easy to read and quick to write styles, such as the humanist cursives of Renaissance Italy.
Early printing emerged in a variety of styles based on the diversity of calligraphic styles popular in the early modern period, but even as printing became more standardized, calligraphy did not disappear. Hand lettering remained the standard for decorative titles, captions, posters, maps and many other uses, but moved more and more into the realm of the artist. Illustrators and poster artists of the 19th century produced a diversity of unique lettering styles, from the radical slavic excesses of Alphons Mucha to the playful pseudo-uncials of Howard Pyle and Charles Folkard.
The Scriptorium’s collection of historic calligraphy is unrivaled. We offer over 140 fonts based on specific historical or artistic styles, from Roman to Medieval to modern times. All of these fonts come in TrueType or Postscript format for Macintosh and PC-compatible computers. They are available singly for between $12 and $24 each, or as a collection in a highly discounted package. The new fourth edition of our calligraphic fonts CD package is only $169. It includes all of our calligraphic fonts (over 140 at last count), plus parchment and vellum textures to simulate the look of antique papers and other surfaces.
Our single fonts complete calligraphic fonts CD can be ordered online, by mail or by phone for delivery online or by mail. To order our Complete Calligraphic Fonts collection with over 140 fonts online go to ONLINE ORDERING or if you prefer to buy your calligraphic fonts individually, try our SINGLE FONTS SECTION.
To order by phone call 1-512-656-8011.
To get an idea of what our calligraphic fonts are like, try out the shareware version of Offenbach Chancery. It doesn’t have all of the punctuation and special characters, but should give you a good idea of what calligraphic fonts can look like on your computer.
Download Offenbach for Windows (PKZip). Download Offenbach for MacOS (StuffIt).