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Medieval Calligraphy

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Learn the writing skills of a medieval scribe!  Typical styles include the Carolingian, Celtic, and Gothic alphabets.


Paper - for final project, choose a thick parchment or other attractive paper
Pen - a dip pen is best (pictured right); you can also use a regular calligraphy fountain pen with cartridges, but it is more difficult to switch between colors
Ink - bottled for a dip pen, cartridges for a fountain pen

Quick Tips:
Always pad your paper - never practice calligraphy on a single sheet of paper on a hard surface.  Use several sheets of paper as padding, and ideally prop up your working surface at a 30 degree angle to your tabletop.  You will be able to write more easily for longer periods of time.
Plan out your calligraphy - write it out first, and line your paper, don't write freehand.  Even if you are writing on a curve, draw the curve in pencil first.


Hold the pen so that it rests on your first knuckle rather than sliding down to rest along your thumb.  This will give you more control.  Do not over-dip.  Dip the pen in the ink so that half or 2/3 of the nib covered, and keep dipping every few letters.  Unlike a regular pen, a calligraphy pen is typically held at a 45 degree angle to the paper, and the flat tip is at a 45 degree angle as well - see diagram left.


Gothic was a popular medieval calligraphy.  It was also called Blackletter for the dark appearance of a written page.  The letters are square in shape, and are written at a 45 degree angle. 
Click on the photo (right) for a larger image of the Gothic alphabet.  Try copying the simpler lowercase letters, then move on to the more elaborate uppercase letters.  Make sure to use a 45 degree pen angle.
Try writing your name, squeezing the letters close enough together that you could fit just one pen stroke between them.  This technique was used by monks copying manuscripts, in order to save parchment.


Chancery is a later, more flowing alphabet.  Developed in Italy as a method of quick, slanted 'Italic' writing, it is still used today. 
Use a 30 degree angle for this alphabet.  Look closely at the flourishes -- if you are using the correct pen angle, the thin and thick areas of the strokes will look like the example on the left.

More About Calligraphy? 
Go to: History of Calligraphy for more information on the evolution of calligraphic scripts.

Illuminated Manuscript - Click on the picture to see a larger image.



Questions? Email Susan at