Beautiful hand-writing through history

Ms Yukiko Fukaya

Saturday, 24 February, 2007; 7:45-9:00pm

Seminar room, No1. Newnham Terrace, Darwin College

Even in Japan where English is hardly used or spoken, the western alphabet set appears everywhere in the form of logo marks of companies and restaurants, signboards and titles of advertisements. Most of them are designed and printed by using computers or printers. They are called typography. On the other hand, writing by hand is called calligraphy. Some people tend to say that beautiful hand-writing is similar to typefaces. However, the fact is the opposite. Calligraphy is the origin of typefaces.
The alphabet from A to Z which we use everyday changed through different regions during the long European history. Almost all the Bibles, the charters and books had been transcribed by the scribes in the monasteries until Gutenberg invented the ‘letterpress technique’ in the middle of the 15th century. I would like to retrace the history of the alphabet by appreciating old gorgeous manuscripts, some of which are possessed by the University of Cambridge.
After the invention of the printing technique, a lot of books were published at low prices and then transcription was on the decline. But at the end of the 19th century, Edward Johnston, who is a calligrapher and known as ‘the father of modern calligraphy’, reviewed it through the ‘Arts and Crafts Movements’. He analysed the letters from old manuscripts, revised them, constructed the way of studying calligraphy and produced new formal scripts. Thanks to his these achievements, calligraphy revived and is recently being studied and used not only in the UK, the European countries and the US but also in Japan. In England for instance, people still prefer to order hand-made invitation cards for weddings, parties and so on from calligraphy studios.
In the modern age of computers and printers, where and how can calligraphy be used to serve its purpose? I would like to explore by introducing the tools and some masterpieces of worldwide calligraphers and my work in the course in London which belongs to the school of Edward Johnston.