The ART-ery
"I want to learn calligraphy"

Question: Where do I start if I want to learn Calligraphy? What books would you recommend to a beginner? Also, do you use dip pens, or pens with cartridges, or both?

My first recommendation would be that you find a calligraphy society in your area and scout out a good teacher. I think John Neal Books can be of some help here, as can The ART-ery's calligraphy classes. If you cannot attend or you want to get started right now, I've made some recommendations about books and materials.

Materials: Dip pens or fountain pens?

Fountain pens are used for writing correspondence and practice and sometimes a teaching device. The inks in cartridges are not permanent for serious work meant to last and the nibs (tips) usually need to be worked a little bit (sharpened & polished). if sufficient interest comes of this I will explain in more detail. Fountain pens are sometimes used for convenience by scribes who address a lot of envelopes. In the hands of experienced scribes, fountain pens can yield beautiful results.

However to gain the most control and understanding of writing with a broad edged pen, one needs to learn to handle a dip pen. Metal nibs by Mitchell or Brause are the most commonly used. Others include: Speedball, Automatic, Coit. Of course we need to mention the reed and quill. Quills are cut from feathers, and reed or bamboo pens are cut from these 2 materials. Info on reeds and quills will be featured in an advanced calligraphy class to be offered in the future at the ART-ery.

One can fill the dip pen by actually dipping or feeding the reservoir with a brush.

Inks / Pigments
Higgens Eternal, Pelikan 4001, are good bets for beginners.


Bond paper that is fairly smooth and doesn't bleed are good for practice. Nekoosa Bond, Mohawk superfine can be gotten from printers and/ or their paper suppliers.

Higher quality ( and more expensive) papers are used for finished work. There is a vast array of writing surfaces including handmade paper and vellum (skin). New York Central is a great source as is John Neal. Twinrocker is a hand made paper mill and can be reached through the Internet if you'd care to search. All of these materials can be ordered from John Neal Books & Paper & Ink Books.

Letterforms or Alphabets
is a vast subject, which is why I have recommended books below. However, most people start with either italic (chancery cursive) or some variation of Roman book hand (foundational, book hand, humanist, etc.) If you're a beginner, I'd stay away from learning Blackletter (Olde English) as your first foray into the subject.

Workshops and Learning Opportunities

It is advisable that you take advantage of the many opportunities to learn. You can start by checking to see if there is a calligraphy society in your area, as they usually hold calligraphy workshops for beginners on a regular basis. There is also usually annual conferences.

Societies / Publications

Letter Arts Review

Scripsit (The Washington Calligraphy Guild Journal) publishes a Journal several times a year.

Are of two types: One person or a group of people are having one for a limited time or there are places to see original calligraphy on a ongoing basis. If you can get to any of these, your time would be well-spent.

The British Museum, The V&A (London), The Klingspor (Germany) The Pierpont Morgan Library & New York Public Library (NY), The San Francisco Public Library, The Getty (Los Angeles) The Cary Library (RIT, Buffalo,NY), The Newberry Library (Chicago)Books

Recommended books for beginners or people wanting to get back into calligraphy.

You can get these at John Neal as well as supplies.

Paper,Ink & Books

Pen Lettering Ann Camp
Our Price: $5.95
In-Stock: Ships within 24 hours
Format: Paperback, 69pp.
ISBN: 0800862724
Publisher: Taplinger Publishing Company, Incorporated
Pub. Date: March 1979

Calligraphy School
Gaynor Goffe Anna Ravenscroft
Hardcover, 176pp.
ISBN: 0895775247

The Anatomy of Letters: A Guide to the Art of Calligraphy
Charles Pearce
ISBN: 0800801997

Step-by-Step Calligraphy: A Complete Guide with Creative Projects
Susan Hufton
ISBN: 0806939877

Writing and Illuminating and Lettering
(This is in depth and considered the "Bible" by a scribe who is responsible for the calligraphy revival.)
Edward Johnston ISBN: 0486285340

The Italic Way to Beautiful Handwriting (Cursive & Calligraphic)
Fred Eager
(This book is out of print, but you should be able to find a few copies through's used section, Powell's books,, or - Well worth buying because if you want to improve your handwriting, it does exactly what the title says it will do)

Books of examples and more advanced or specialized but nevertheless- highly recommended

Belle Lettre Award 1997
Carlo Buffa• Edizioni Entrooffset ( Available from John Neal & Paper & Ink Books)
ISBN: 88-90022906
A wonder book & collection of work from an exhibit held in Italy


The Fine Art of Letters 2000
The Work of Hermann Zapf
ISBN: 0-910672-35-0
Catalogue of an exhibit at the Grolier Club by one of the great masters of all time.


Historical Scripts-Stan Knight
Oak Knoll Press 1998
ISBN: 1-884718-56-6
A must-have for anyone interested in learning more about writing (calligraphic styles) throughout history. The historic approach is the one laid down by Edward Johnston, and still offers great inspiration and insight into calligraphy and western writing. Of course one should also see manuscripts themselves, but good photos are very important, and this book has a bunch.

The Calligraphers Handbook
ISBN 0-8008-1198-4
A collection of articles written by many top calligrapers on methods and practice.


Calligraphy: The Art of Written Forms
Donald M. Anderson
ISBN: 0486272125

Contemporary Calligraphy: Modern Scribes and Lettering Artists II
David Godine
ISBN: 0879238771

Lettering as Drawing
Nicolete Gray
ISBN: 0800847296

Handbook of Type and Lettering
Hildegard Korger
ISBN: 0830618341

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