Books/methods for learning calligraphy

I'm wondering if anyone has a recommendation for a book on traditional calligraphy technique that could be used for self-directed study and practice. I'm a type designer, primarily, so I'm not looking to absolutely master calligraphy per se, but rather develop a working understanding of its basics, the movements of the pen and hand, etc. 

I'm not interested in the trendy hand lettering styles that seem to dominate popular calligraphy how-to books. I'd be much more interested in learning to draw blackletter and Old Style roman letterforms (especially roman capitals).

I'm confident that if I were to practice calligraphy for a few months, it would have a positive impact on my digital drawing skills, use of stroke modulation, stress, etc.



  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,701
    Get the Speedball Textbook.
  • Though it is not widely known nor up-to-date, I can recommend Schrift und Schreiben by Hildegard Korger. It focusses on a few principal writing styles (Capitalis, Minuscule, Italic, Blackletter – and variations thereof) in a very profound manner and concentrates on essentials of formal writing. Helped me a lot when I was a student.
  • France HernandezFrance Hernandez Posts: 4
    edited April 16
    Here's a long-ish list of possibilities for you:

    If you want to practice a range of lettering styles, the Speedball books (many editions; I like the old ones) are great. The alphabets do rely on ink and Speedball nibs, of course. These are still available to purchase, but more rare than they once were. If you're working digitally, there won't be much problem making a match with brushes in Illustrator or wherever.

    If you want to learn flat nib italic calligraphy, there are lots of true calligraphy instruction books floating around. (Try "italic calligraphy" on Amazon, for example). A bit of caution regarding these books: Some authors are not good calligraphers, so their alphabets are ugly. Since what you learn in the early stages will stick with you forever, choose carefully and make sure YOU like the letter styles you're learning! (On Amazon that probably means just skipping the books that don't have pics of interior pages.)

    One program for italic calligraphy that is really strong is Getty-Dubay. This group produces books to teach calligraphy-based italic handwriting to kids, but also has a couple flat-nib italic calligraphy workbooks on offer. (As an added benefit practicing with this system really cleans up one's daily handwriting!) The founders of this organization are super-good calligraphers themselves.

    OK, last item: There are LOTS of lettering books, including calligraphy books, on Internet Archive. That's (searched "lettering" and filtered for books). I have tons of fun and inspo with the old ones that can be viewed without borrowing, but see many there that would be worth signing up to borrow. 

    In fact, a few old Speedball texts are present on Internet Archive. Like this one, 16th edition. Who could not find hours of fun in a book that begins like this?

    Now, having reminded myself of all of these fun resources, it's going to be difficult to get back to my day job. LOL

  • This was my first post as a new member of Type Drawers, and I have to say, this is so exciting to be getting such in-depth advice. I will look into all these options!
  • just two additional hints:
    • Always look also at specimen from the actual period. Go to museums, historic libraries or lapidaria where you can see originals unfiltered.
    • Study the main styles in their chronological order, start with the Roman capitals. So you will experience the morphogenesis of letterforms in the succession it happened.

    When you master to write one style with one hand, start with the other one in the adverse direction. Write single letters onto cut potatoes and then cut off the ‘white’ around the lettershape. Start printing it. (You can also use carrots or beetroot, with the letter you don’t need extra ink ;)  Enjoy!
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