Calligraphy is a Greek/French word meaning beautiful or elegant handwriting. Calligraphy is the art of reproducing historical texts by hand, using dip pens, quills or brushes with ink or paint. In fact today there is a vast choice of writing implements and many calligraphers improvise and design their own tools.
Edward Johnston – ‘founder of calligraphy’
The person responsible for re-inventing writing, illumination and lettering as a practical craft was Edward Johnston. Prior to this, formal writing was generally produced for the legal profession; for religious manuscripts and church records; or for royal charters.
Edward Johnston was born in 1872 in Uruguay and was the son of Scottish settlers. He trained in medicine in Edinburgh, Scotland but before he began his career as a medic he had, by chance, met with professor W. R. Lethaby who was an architect and principal of the Central School of Art in London. Lethaby asked Syndney Cockerill to take Johnston under his wing and he in turn introduced him to the influential work of William Morris of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Johnston became a tutor at the Central School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London, during which time he wrote several technical handbooks on calligraphy, illumination and lettering.
As a married man Johnston lived with his wife and three children in Hammersmith, London. At the time the area was popular with the Arts and Crafts Movement and he became friends with Hilary (Harry) Peplar and Eric Gill.
The Johnstons and the Peplar family later moved to the countryside outside of London, to the village of Ditchling where they joined Eric Gill. Together they set up the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic and the private press – the Saint Dominic’s Press. The monthly journal it produced, The Game, is much sought after today, with copies being sold for at least one hundred pounds each.