What Are the Different Types of Modern Calligraphy?

Emily Daw

Calligraphy, which comes from the Greek meaning "beautiful writing," dates back almost to the earliest days of written language, in cultures across the world. Beyond simply being a fancy way of writing, calligraphy is often considered a highly advanced art form and even a type of meditation. Modern calligraphy styles include various Latin- or Roman-based, East Asian and Islamic or Arabic scripts.

Graffiti is sometimes considered calligraphy.
Graffiti is sometimes considered calligraphy.

Most modern calligraphy in the Western hemisphere is based on the Latin alphabet. The Modern Gothic style evolved from medieval illuminated manuscripts and features large, highly elaborate capital letters. It often has thick, bold lines and right angles. The Italic calligraphy tends to have a simpler elegance. Its lines vary in thickness and are generally slanted to the right, with upstrokes that are taller than the capitals.

Islamic caligraphy is often based on the Koran.
Islamic caligraphy is often based on the Koran.

In Western society, some are coming to consider graffiti to be a form of modern calligraphy. Graffiti, which originated as illegal street art, has developed its own conventions and styles of lettering that many consider both creative and beautiful. Many artists are attempting to legitimize graffiti as an art form by painting on canvas or in public places with the consent of local government.

A traditional quill may be used in calligraphy.
A traditional quill may be used in calligraphy.

Calligraphy is an integral part of nearly all East Asian art, with elaborate characters often being drawn on pottery, screens or other pieces. Chinese and Japanese calligraphy are taught in schools as a form of both communication and art. Especially among Buddhists of certain sects, modern calligraphy can even be considered a metaphysical practice. Both reading and writing calligraphic scripts is believed to be a form of meditation, which links contemporary and ancient practitioners of the art.

Modern Islamic styles of calligraphy also have a rich tradition. Early Islamic law prohibited art that depicted living organisms, especially people, so artists turned to the written word as an artistic medium. Modern calligraphy of the Islamic world is often written in Arabic, the language of the Koran, but may also be in any other language spoken and read by Muslims. Passages from the Koran are frequently the source material for Islamic calligraphy.

Modern calligraphy often draws inspiration from medieval writing styles.
Modern calligraphy often draws inspiration from medieval writing styles.

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