Complete Guide to Calligraphy – Vivien Lunniss

The Complete Guide to CalligraphyI’ve always loved the aesthetic side of writing. I remember sitting in class, waiting for the bell to ring out freedom while watching the tip of my pencil score out nonsensical words into the page of an exercise book, leaving a small furrow and graphite trail in its wake as it trailed across the textured surface. There’s just something so therapeutic about creating lines of looping, flowing letters and letting your thoughts spill out onto the paper.

Naturally, then, I’ve also always been fascinated by calligraphy – and I was recently given the perfect opportunity to give it a go myself.

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy was released by Search Press in April of this year. Written by acclaimed calligrapher Vivien Lunniss, the book provides all the guidance you need to go from utter typographical novice to a pro – provided you’re prepared to put in the hours!

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Bonus points for guessing the reference!

As luck would have it, shortly before opening this book I had received a letter from a good friend of mine. The letter was handwritten on old-style parchment, with a fountain pen, and fastened with a wax seal. My friend had gone all out on this; naturally, I couldn’t allow myself to be outdone.

Click for a close-up!

Click for a close-up!

And so I set about learning Copperplate.

Let me first say that, while it is not difficult to get the general feel of a typeface and to begin writing successfully using some approximation of it, it is another thing altogether to become proficient in it. I must have spent ten evenings, many hours and countless sheets of scrap paper trying to master this one type – and I’m still not there yet, although I’m definitely heaps better than I was at the start. (I did manage to conduct a full A4 letter in Copperplate in the end and finished it off with a wax seal that I had custom made on Etsy for the occasion, and am now smugly awaiting a response.)

Click for a close-up!

I used the top-middle contraption for Copperplate

I once tried to practise calligraphy in school, but our books didn’t illustrate the subject very well so it wasn’t long before I gave up – looking at the Complete Guide to Calligraphy it is immediately evident just how much I was doing wrong, from the nibs I was trying to use, to the way I was holding my pen, to the direction that I was making my strokes in.

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy is set out in a very logical way, and so begins with the basics, outlining the tools that you need, from different nib types to the appropriate paper weight to use. It shows you which nib is needed for which type, how to hold and load it, how to use its breadth to measure out the x-height of the letters you’ll be drawing. It goes into detail about the differences of form between broad-edge and pointed pen calligraphy, left-handed and right-handed approaches to writing, how best to hold the pen, how to mark out the guidelines for every typeface and so on, but it does this in a very clear and concise way. The book is exhaustive without being exhausting.

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy

There are twenty styles of lettering to learn in the Complete Guide to Calligraphy, each illustrated with examples, both modern and old; miniscule and majuscule alphabets; and step-by-step instructions on creating a few of the letters. The alphabets are also colour coded to show the order and direction in which to make each stroke, making the entire process very straightforward.

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy

Calligraphy is both a practical and highly creative art, once you get hold of the basics – I’m certainly planning on keeping it up and hope to some day soon get to the point where I can make lovely transcripts of literary quotes and poetry for display.

It’s also very affordable to start up, with dip pen handles costing around £2 in art shops and nibs usually less than £1. Ink and paper vary in price depending on what you want, but overall you can get yourself adequately set up for less than a tenner.

So, what are you waiting for? Go forth and create something beautiful – and remember to share the results!

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy

The Complete Guide to Calligraphy


Search Press are specialist art and craft book publishers based in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. They are the leading publishers in their area in the UK and have recently been scooping up lots of awards, including ‘IPG Independent Publisher of the Year 2015’ and the ‘Craft Business Awards Best Book Publisher 2015’, among others. You can find out more about them and their books online at www.searchpress.com. I thought I’d introduce them as I have a few more books of theirs lined up for review, each more crafty than the last! I can scarcely wait – but wait I must, as I have to get at least moderately ok at each craft before sharing it with you guys. Until next time!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.