Book Reviews

Complete Guide to Calligraphy

By Vivien Lunniss
Search Press
ISBN 978-1-78221-182-2 £14.99

This is a little book with a big heart, written and co-ordinated by someone with a great passion for the subject. Not only has Vivien thanked her fellow calligraphers, but also acknowledges the debt we owe our historical scribes for giving us a long tradition of letters.

Complete Guide to CalligraphyChapter One covers the basics of form, measuring, pen handling, spacing and design in a refreshingly clear style. This book is beautifully crafted throughout, and I especially liked the use of a lively, under appreciated Batarde, written in parallel Pilot pen, to illustrate letter components.

Both Vivien and Jilly Hazeldine have given the beginner and the more advanced calligrapher reasons for owning this book, but more especially if you are a North West Calligrapher the Complete Guide to Calligraphy will delight with examples of our members' work being published for the first time, namely Barbara Alldred, Brian Colvin, Janice McClelland and Mike Orriss.

Chapter Two covers scripts, each with their own section; both core scripts and those bursting with character like Rustics, Insular Pointed Minuscule, Lombardic Versals, Drawn Uncials and Flavour of Arabia - which you won't find elsewhere. Pointed pen has its turn and Northwester Brian Colvin wrote the section on Copperplate, in the same style of multicoloured exemplar used throughout.

Favourite features are the exemplars, historical and contemporary pieces being combined, and the innovative use of QR codes giving short demonstrations. Some of these scripts are available at our workshops, which makes reading about them in this format quite something.

Review by Hilary Lewis

Stocked by Calligraphity

Touch or mouseover for Publisher's Synposis:


Contemporary Calligraphy

Barbara and Bob Alldred have kindly reviewed Gillian Hazeldine’s long-awaited book for us:
It is good these days to open a book that is easy to handle and so pleasing on the eye.  Well laid out pages with generous margins, clear type and illustrations sensitively and appropriately placed in enough abundance to illustrate each point but not to the extent of excluding the written text.
Jilly takes us through a history of writing, what you need to do it, how to get started and then a dozen scripts which are treated in enough detail for beginners to follow but are Contemporary Calligraphy bookextended and given clear pointers for more experienced calligraphers, something that is often neglected in books of this kind. Each script has a sound historical basis with illustrations of historical manuscripts as approved by Stan Knight!
As well as the scripts Jilly also covers the topics of layout and design and colour in clear and easily accessible chapters.
The gallery section at the end illustrates each script used in imaginative and very modern ways.  One of the points of the book is illustrated here i.e. that accurate scripts are the starting point for imaginative modern interpretations based on but not slavishly copying the historical models.
Altogether this book is a joy to own and study and in a different league from many calligraphy books on the market.  Well worth the long, long wait.  If you don’t own it yet – you should!

Contemporary Calligraphy is available from www.calligraphity.com (Charlie Perkins) and all other good booksellers. Cover price £25

(Review first published in North West News [Issue 90, April 2012])

CALLIGRAPHY Tools & Techniques for the Contemporary Practitioner

We recently received a promotional copy of this book from the publishers (Jacqui Small).  I’d never heard of the author, Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls, but I’m not over-familiar with the calligraphy world’s ‘Who’s Who’: she works and lives in Western Australia and has been a professional calligrapher and  tutor  for  about  20 years.
 Book Cover
Most of us might struggle to fit another calligraphy book on our bookshelves, so is this book worth the struggle?

It’s always a pleasure to hold and use a well-bound, hard-backed book, such as this one, that stays open at the page you want while you work. It’s clearly organised and laid out in colour-coded sections: The Basics, The Hands  (this  is  the  biggest  section), Design and Decoration and Digital Calligraphy. In addition to the traditional scripts, the ‘Hands’ section also covers contemporary writing with pointed and ruling pens, flat and pointed brushes.

At the end of each section and subsection are galleries of work - and isn’t it always fascinating to see another’s take on a quotation or poem? - both ‘artistic’ and commercial.

One of the most interesting features is the inclusion of several profiles of calligraphers (their names may be familiar  to  you), with examples of  their work. These highlight particular calligraphic influences and provide tips for aspiring calligraphers (which can be summed up as ‘practice, practice, practice’ and - good to know - join a group of like-minded people!).

My main reservation would be that the author has not directed this book to a more specific audience: it does not, in my opinion, have sufficient basic information for a complete beginner but has too much information about the hands and not enough about layout, colour and design for someone who is further along.

For example, although certain nibs are recommended  for   practice  of   the hands, for a beginner it would be useful to have a close-up picture of a Brause 3 mm, Speedball C2 or Mitchell nib.  How  does  one  fit  a  reservoir? What is a guard sheet and where do you put it?

I noticed a few errors: in the key points for Foundational, ascenders or descenders should be 2 pen widths on one page and 3 on the next. On page 76, 5 pen widths x-height for a 3 mm nib is given as 12 mm, not 15 mm (but it is a while since I did maths ‘O’ level).
Overall, however, the text was accurate enough for me.

Yes, this book is probably worth the price (the price offered here at least) and yes, I’d consider buying it if I could squeeze the others along the shelf.

Review by Ann Holden


In this comprehensive introductory guide to calligraphy, author Vivien Lunniss teaches readers how to master all the principal families of writing hands, from uncials and Anglo-Saxon scripts, to Roman capitals, blackletter and gothic, and even on to modern freeform 'drawn' lettering. Readers will learn how the hands originated, where and when they were used, and how to write and practice them, picking up fluency and flair through a series of exercises aimed at perfecting the style until writing becomes second nature—and a real pleasure. The hands are demonstrated with a set of detailed step-by-step instructions for each letter, punctuation, and number sets, and in addition the book is supported by a series of teaching movie clips showing how each letter is created. Suitable for beginners up, readers will find a wide range of applications for the skills learned in this book, from invitations, greetings cards, place settings, and certificates, to beautiful illuminated wall art.