The Demise of Calligraphy (according to one Edinburgh Bookstore)

A proper calligraphy bookshelf!

While visiting Edinburgh a few days ago, I entered a large high street bookstore to check if there were any new calligraphy books on offer. In the Craft section I found a sign that stated, “Craft books displayed alphabetically,” so I searched along the spines in the general direction of “C”.

Books on Basket Weaving, Beads, Bookmarks, and Buttons were all present and correct. As were Candles, Ceramics, Collage, Crochet, and Cross Stitch. But there was an obvious omission.

I considered that the books on calligraphy must have been misplaced, so I went back to “A” and carefully worked my way through the entire Craft section, all the way from Applique to Wreaths, but there was not a single calligraphy book to be found, misplaced or otherwise.

I approached an assistant and asked him where I could find calligraphy books.

“In the Craft section,” he said.

“I just checked there, and there’s nothing,” I replied.

He tapped his computer’s keyboard and peered at the stock list on his monitor. He shook his head and I feared the worst.

“I’m afraid we don’t have any calligraphy books,” he said.

“No calligraphy books?”

“No, sir.”

“You don’t have a single calligraphy book?”

“To be honest, there’s not much demand for calligraphy books these days,” he said, and I almost gasped out loud in the face of such effrontery.

During the 25 years that I have been involved with calligraphy, I have become used to seeing the same old familiar titles on bookstore shelves. But never before have I drawn a complete blank. Despite the assistant’s comment, I simply refuse to accept that there is no demand for calligraphy books, and my current class of sixteen incipient scribes would surely back me up on this.

The experience has been bugging me for a few days now, and I’m close to penning a letter to the bookstore to point out the error of its ways. I’m even considering writing it in a fairly flamboyant fashion, just to prove that calligraphy is alive and well, and is no less deserving of representation in the Crafts section than Crochet or Cross Stitch.

The next time I’m in Edinburgh, I’ll make a point of checking out the Craft section again. Hopefully, the inclusion of a few calligraphy titles will have pushed the Buttons and the Candles books a wee bit further apart.

And, you never know, their availability might even spark a resurgence of interest in calligraphy in Edinburgh. A demand for calligraphy books must surely follow.


If your own local bookstore has an equally unenthusiastic attitude towards calligraphy (and calligraphers), I can recommend Calligraphity as the place to go for Calligraphy books online. You’ll be spoiled for choice!


Incidentally, the bookshelf illustrated at the top of this post is my own, and contains some of the many calligraphy books I have collected over the years.


8 Responses to The Demise of Calligraphy (according to one Edinburgh Bookstore)

  1. Scarlet says:

    Yes, I have noticed much the same thing. The last book I bought I ordered online from the US via Abebooks. Expensive but it was a ‘must have’ in my opinion – The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing. Worth every penny in my opinion.
    I am meaning to share a recent post on my blog by my blogging friend Pearl – she’s a non-calligrapher, but a funny writer and she wrote a post about penmanship in the US – the comment box is very interesting. It’s HERE.


    • Hah!
      So your friend Pearl wrote about the demise of Cursive within a day of me writing about the demise of Calligraphy. What are the chances, eh? More evidence, if evidence be needed, that we scribes are going to hell in a handcart, and we are taking our calligraphy pens with us. The End Of The World Of Calligraphy Is Nigh, and we will soon be referred to as the inky-fingered dinosaurs of our age.
      Pearl’s post was funny though, as were the comments. Thanks for sharing, Scarlet.

  2. Scarlet says:

    P.S I seem to have over opinioned in my comment!

    • Not at all. I agree with your sentiments, Scarlet, so it’s you and me versus the doom-mongers. The only person who over-opinioned was Kate Gladstone, and only because she posted the same comment twice.

  3. Hadiza says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog in my search for anything Calligraphy-ic. I am interested in Calligraphy. where do I start from please? desperately need advice. Ok maybe not ‘desperate’ but you get the picture 🙂

  4. Laura Jefferson says:

    And yet. I’m in the States, started doing calligraphy in about 1972 (if I had practiced much since then I’d be much better than I am) with Eager’s Italic Guide to Beautiful Handwriting. I started wanting to improve my handwriting again last fall, and found myself lingering among the pen-porn. Got an italic nib for the Lamy, a nice book from the museum… Then I was at Michael’s, a big chain craftstore and said, “Calligraphy will be coming back, I picked it up again.” The woman behind the counter nodded. “We have half an aisle now.” And they did. I think it’s a side effect of scrapbooking, and or me, the LotR and Hobbit movies, but it’s picking up here. The remaining big chain bookstore sells a few sets, and there are books in the crafts section.

  5. Rachel says:

    I own a handful of your recommended Calligraphy books and book jackets and would like to seek out the rest. May I have the titles and authors of the books on your shelf?

    • Hi Rachel.
      Thank you for getting in touch. I’ve responded to your request for book titles by listing them in my latest blog post.
      I hope that’s helpful.
      Best wishes,

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