Sharing my collection of calligraphy books

There's Something About A BookEaster is almost upon us, and I’ve just realised that I haven’t posted anything new since last Autumn. Six months of silence, which is shameful. Such evidence would suggest that I’m not worthy of the title, “Blogger.” But I’m back now, better late than never, and determined to make amends for my inexcusable absence.

But what to write about?

My calligraphy bookshelf.

My calligraphy bookshelf.

In timely fashion, while I was considering various topics, I received a comment referring to a previous post that I wrote about The Demise of Calligraphy. In that post, I featured a photograph of a bookcase shelf, packed with my personal collection of calligraphy books.

The comment that I received was from Rachel, who requested a list of the books in the photo. So, I decided that, rather than respond directly to Rachel, I would list my collection of books in a post, adding my personal thoughts about a few of them along the way.

Yes… I know… there’s nothing more boring than a list. I do appreciate that… and I accept that I run the risk of sending you, dear reader, to sleep (or off to some list-free calligraphy blog). But hopefully my personal thoughts will help break up the bullet points, and alleviate the potential for yawns and drooping eyelids.

A plus for me is that writing this post gave me an excuse to create a new piece of related artwork, which I’ve featured above, or view it on Flickr.

So, here we go:

Calligraphy: Tools & Techniques for the Contemporary Practitioner… Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls (Amazon link)
9781906417833This is my most recent book purchase. I bought it because I admire Gaye Godfrey-Nicholls’ calligraphy, particularly her italics, which have had a great influence on my own lettering.
Her book covers both traditional and contemporary calligraphy (including digital). It features outstanding and varied examples of hand-lettering, and includes profiles of many calligraphers, some of whom are unfamiliar to me.
There are interesting chapters on pointed brush, flat brush, pointed pen and ruling pen. And I am particularly interested in the chapter on ‘Gestural’ calligraphy, a fairly modern approach to rhythmic letter-making that I am keen to learn more about.
The book is lengthy, (as is its title) at almost 300 pages, so very good value. And definitely a great buy for anyone seeking an effective all-rounder.
Whether or not you buy the book, you should visit Godfrey-Nicholls’ Inklings website, and prepare to be inspired. She is a seriously talented, and prolific, calligrapher.

More than Fine Writing… Child, Collins, Hechle and Jackson (Amazon link)
This book relates the story of Irene Wellington’s life, and features numerous examples of her awe-inspiring calligraphy. It is not an instruction manual, yet there is much to learn just by admiring the colour plates of her lettering, something I tend to do a lot of.
A few years ago, while I was reading the book, my wife noticed that I had been staring at the same colour plate for more than fifteen minutes. Curious, she asked me why. (Her question broke the spell, or else I may be staring at the page yet). The truth is, oblivious to the passing of time, I had been tracing pen strokes with my eyes, calculating pen angles, analysing the spacing, deconstructing the composition, appreciating the near-perfection of Irene Wellington’s lettering. But, conscious of how odd such an explanation would appear to my non-calligrapher wife, I lied. I told her that I had simply been daydreaming.
Yet, despite its potential for turning me into a disingenuous husband, this is a wonderful book, and I never tire of leafing through it.

Starting Calligraphy (Osmiroid)… Tom Barnard (Amazon link)
The Osmiroid Book of Calligraphy… Christopher Jarman (Amazon link)
Making Calligraphy Work for You (Osmiroid)… Tom Barnard & Christopher Jarman (Amazon link)
069521c6918569f5593263725451434d414f414151cDLFawsGL._SY300_These are ‘simple’ calligraphy books, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.
There is nothing fussy or complicated about their content or approach… just straightforward examples of professionally executed calligraphy, and practical ideas about how to put your calligraphy to work.
I still use wonderful Osmiroid calligraphy fountain pens and nibs, despite the company going out of business in the 1990s, so I have a soft spot for these three books, which bear the Osmiroid name.

Calligraphic Styles… Tom Gourdie (Amazon link)
Mastering Calligraphy… Tom Gourdie (Amazon link)
Calligraphy for the Beginner… Tom Gourdie (Amazon link)
6594519-M1446769780800811884Speaking of soft spots, these three books mean a lot to me. Mainly because I attended a calligraphy class back in 1987 that was taught by the late Tom Gourdie. As I explained in a previous post, that two week class changed my life.
I purchased my copy of Calligraphic Styles directly from Mr Gourdie in the classroom, and I am honoured that he signed and dated it for me in his fine Italics.
Calligraphy has moved on since these books were published, but if you are seeking instruction that is presented in a pure, honest, uncluttered format, then purchase any book by Tom Gourdie.

Calligraphy Projects… Margaret Shepherd (Amazon link)
Learning Calligraphy… Margaret Shepherd (Amazon link)
Borders for Calligraphy… Margaret Shepherd (Amazon link)
Capitals for Calligraphy… Margaret Shepherd (Amazon link)
61fpFt4ciSL._SL500_SY300_71A7P79QRWL51h-Zb7IV-L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_5186l6LmdTL._SY300_Another four books that were influential when I was teaching myself calligraphy back in the early 80s.
Although Margaret Shepherd’s lettering styles differ greatly from Tom Gourdie’s, the two author’s books share a simplicity that I believe is advantageous to anyone setting out to learn calligraphy. Calligraphy Projects is a particularly useful book, in that it shows many ways in which calligraphy can be put to practical use. If you are learning calligraphy, but don’t know what to do with your new-found talent, Calligraphy Projects will certainly come in handy.

Layout and Design for Calligraphers… Alan Furber (Amazon link)
Using Calligraphy… Alan Furber (Amazon link)
alan-furber-151EyFaE76xL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Two books that I cannot recommend highly enough.
If you want to learn about calligraphic composition, layout and design, you should buy these two books… today!
I have already featured the books in a previous post, in which I wrote extensively about their merits, so I urge you to read that post rather than I repeat myself here.
All I want to add is, you should buy these two books today! (Did I say that already?)

Mastering the Art of Calligraphy… Janet Mehigan (Amazon link)
51Z+XT15X3L._SY300_If I was asked to recommend a single calligraphy book for the beginner, this is it.
I suggest to all of my calligraphy students that they should treat themselves to a copy, because it is an amazing all-rounder… professionally presented in full colour with clear instruction, practical projects, and a gallery of top-class calligraphy.
Required reading for every incipient scribe.

Digital Calligraphy… George Thomson (Amazon link)
Digital Calligraphy with Photoshop… George Thomson (Amazon link)
Digital-Calligraphy-978082301297851gt7UQ+7WL._SY300_Anyone who is competent at calligraphy, is computer literate, and has a scanner and a software package such as Adobe Elements or Adobe Photoshop, will find these two books invaluable.
They explain how to transfer calligraphy from ink and paper onto a PC or Mac, to be viewed on a monitor. Once the calligraphy is ‘digitised,’ the possibilities are endless. Resize and recolour lettering at the click of a mouse. Easily reposition lines of calligraphy to try various design solutions. Add a subtle shadow effect or glow (but be careful not to overdo the novelty aspect), then reproduce the completed design on an inkjet or laser printer.
These two books have proved to be invaluable to me. I learned so much from them, and almost all of the calligraphy artwork that I now produce is created in digital form, using techniques that I learned while following George Thomson’s instruction.
The books are not for everyone, particularly not for calligraphy purists or traditionalists, but would benefit anyone wishing to create contemporary calligraphy in a digital form.

Modern Mark Making… Lisa Engelbrecht (Amazon link)
modern-mark-making-from-classical-calligraphy-to-hip-hand-letteringSpeaking of contemporary calligraphy, this is a book that drags the craft into the 21st century.
Modern, bold, brash and vibrant, every time I leaf through its colourful pages, I’m compelled to get my pens out and start lettering.
One word of caution: whenever I teach calligraphy, I always begin with the Foundational alphabet. It’s the natural place to start, and every available calligraphy book will back me up on that… except Modern Mark Making.
Curiously, it starts with Italics, a very unusual choice. But the book is all about breaking rules, experimentation, taking risks, and above all… enjoying the art of letter-making.
So I think Lisa Engelbrecht can be excused for dismissing Foundational in favour of having fun.
If you like to do things differently, this is the book for you. For more information, see my previous post, My Favourite Calligraphy Book Of The Moment. The book has since been retitled, “Modern Calligraphy and Hand-Lettering.”

Parallel Pen Wizardry… Brenda Broadbent
ppwizardry_bookIf you own a set of Pilot Parallel Pens, do yourself a favour and buy a copy of this book. These pens are an amazing writing tool, particularly their potential for colour transition, and the book is their perfect companion, telling you everything you need to know about them.
Although it is a very slim volume, at only 26 pages, it is definitely worth owning.
On behalf of one of my calligraphy students, I recently tried to source the book in the UK, but without success. So calligraphers in the UK may need to order from a US supplier, such as John Neal. Despite the extra effort and extra postage costs that would entail, I would still recommend the book to all owners of Pilot Parallel Pens.


Although I have given the above books my special attention in this post, the following books in my collection have also played an important part in my progress as a calligrapher. These books may have been slightly less of an influence than those described above, but each of them is worthy of inclusion in any calligrapher’s book collection.

In no particular order, they are:

Calligraphy Step-by Step… Gaynor Goffe & Anna Ravenscroft
Calligraphy Masterclass… Peter Halliday
The Complete Beginners Guide to Calligraphy… Mary Noble
The Complete Guide to Calligraphy Techniques and Materials… Judy Martin
The Calligraphy Source Book… Miriam Stribley
Logo, Font & Lettering Bible… Leslie Cabarga
Simple Stroke Calligraphy… Marci Donley
Creating Letterforms… Rosemary Sassoon & Patricia Lovett
Lettering and Applied Calligraphy… Rosemary Sassoon
The Practical Guide to Calligraphy… Rosemary Sassoon
Contemporary Calligraphy… (no author) published in association with the SSI
The Art of Colour Calligraphy… Mary Noble & Adrian Waddington
Calligraphy Techniques… John Lancaster
A Manual of Calligraphy… Peter E Taylor
Colour Calligraphy… David Graham
The Calligrapher’s Project Book… Susanne Haines
A Pocket Guide to Calligraphy… Susanne Haines
How to Become a Professional Calligrapher… Stuart David
100 Great Calligraphy Tips…Judy Kastin
Out of the Ordinary: Calligraphy and Meditations… A Dove & C Caldwell
Proverbs… Timothy R Botts
Doorposts… Timothy R Botts
Calligraphy Made Easy… Gaynor Goffe
Written by Hand… Aubrey West
How To Write Like This… (no author) a Rexel publication
A Book of Scripts… Alfred Fairbank

And that’s it. For a list, it wasn’t so bad, was it? I’m hoping that at least some of you who started reading actually got this far. I thank you for your perseverance.

And I thank Rachel for her comment that inspired this post.

If anyone owns a worthy calligraphy book that I haven’t mentioned above, please leave details in the comments below. I’m always on the lookout for new sources of inspiration.

The Amazon links included above will allow you to read reviews about the books, but don’t forget to visit Calligraphity, the online calligraphy bookshop.

In the meantime, happy reading!


2 Responses to Sharing my collection of calligraphy books

  1. Rachel says:

    Thanks for sharing the titles from your personal library. I was excited to find “Calligraphy: Tools & Techniques for the Contemporary Practitioner” at my local library. Although it took me a minute to discover the USA cover is not the same as what is shown on the Amazon-UK website.

    • Hopefully you’ll find the book interesting and helpful, Rachel. I certainly do. Don’t forget to visit the author’s website at Surprisingly (and disappointingly) it hasn’t been updated for a few years, but it contains an amazing amount of quality lettering.
      Thanks for getting in touch.

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