Western Calligraphy

A timeline of the various "hands" (scripts) in western calligraphy [in process]

The focus will be on what is now the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, though the international nature of literary culture means that there is considerable cross-fertilization of traditions.;xNLx;;xNLx;This timeline benefits from a number of sources, including the invaluable [Wikimedia Commons](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page). Images are shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license unless otherwise stated. All errors are my own.;xNLx;;xNLx;Compiled by Miriam Jones, Humanities and Languages, [University of New Brunswick Saint John](https://unb.ca), in Menahkwesk on the unceded land of the Wabanaki Confederacy.;xNLx;;xNLx;Background images:;xNLx;;xNLx;Roman Cursive (Wikimedia Commons) ;xNLx;;xNLx;Tabula Claudiana. Discovered at Côte Saint-Sébastien, in Lyon, in 1528. (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Rustic Capitals (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Gospel Book Fragment, Durham Cathedral (Wikimedia Commons) ;xNLx;;xNLx;From the Book of Durrow, 7thc (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Opening page, The Wife of Bath's Prologue, Ellesmere manuscript (early 15yhc) of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Carolingian minuscule (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Example of Blackletter (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Italique hande from A booke containing diuers sortes of hands... by Jehan de Beau-Chesne and John Baildon (1570), 1602 edition (Wikimedia Commons), the first writing manual to have been published in England.;xNLx;;xNLx;Plate from Maria Strick, Schrijfvoorbeeld met kapitaal OSchat oft voorbeelt ende verthooninge van verscheyden geschriften, 1618 (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Trade card, John Brown, Chairs and Cabinetry, London, Vignette and calligraphy by Joseph Champion c. 1742–61 (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx; ;xNLx;From Penman's Art Journal (1898) (Wikimedia Commons);xNLx;;xNLx;Edward Johnston, letters, London Transport Museum Wikimedia Commons;xNLx;;xNLx;Asemic writing: Nancy Bell Scott, “Page 132”, Asemic writing (Critica Impura);xNLx;;xNLx;This page: Denis Brown, 2006 (Wikimedia Commons)

0001-01-27 00:00:00

Rustic Capitals

"The script was used between the 1st century and the 9th century, most often between the 4th and 6th centuries. After the 5th century, rustic capitals began to fall out of use, but they continued to be used as a display script in titles and headings, along with uncial as the script of the main text" (Wikipedia).

0043 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Roman capitals

Capitalis monumentalis, or Imperial Roman capitals, first appeared in 43 BCE, but calligraphic history focuses on the inscription on the Trajan column of 113 CE. Roman capitals were both foundational to all subsequent calligraphic hands, and, unlike many other hands, they continue in mainstream use to this day in close to their original forms.

0100 BC-01-01 00:00:00

Roman Cursive

Roman Cursive is traditionally divided into two periods: Old Roman Cursive from 1st century BCE to the 3rd century CE, and New Roman Cursive from the 3rd to the 7th centuries

0113-01-01 00:00:00

Trajan Column

The Trajan Column was built in Rome to commemorate Emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian wars.

0300-01-01 00:00:00


"Uncial is a majuscule script (written entirely in capital letters) commonly used from the 4th to 8th centuries AD by Latin and Greek scribes. Uncial letters were used to write Greek and Latin, as well as Gothic and Coptic" (Wikipedia).

0600-01-01 00:00:00

Insular (Gaelic) Script

fl. 600–850 AD

0600-01-01 00:00:00

Merovingian script

A medieval script developed in Gaul.

0650-01-01 00:00:00

Visigothic script

A medieval script that developed on the Iberian peninsula.

0715-01-01 00:00:00

Lindisfarne Gospels

0750-01-01 00:00:00

Beneventan script

A medieval script that developed in southern Italy.

0778-01-01 00:00:00

Carolingian miniscule

Enter story info here

0800-01-01 00:00:00

Book of Kells

The Book of Kells, an illuminated Latin manuscript Gospel, was produced in Ireland and Britain ca. 800.

0975-01-01 00:00:00

Ramsey Psalter

The script in this late Xth century folio is an example of later English Caroline Minuscule.

1000-01-01 00:00:00

Lombardic capitals

Enter story info here

1066-01-01 00:00:00

Court hand

Script used for legal documents from the 11th to the 18th centuries

1100-01-01 00:00:00

Blackletter hands

12th – 17th centuries

1300-01-01 00:00:00

Gothic cursive

Gothic cursive scripts dominant in Europe in the late medieval period

1300-01-01 00:00:00


A blackletter script with multiple variations used in North-Western Europe in the 14th and 15th centuries.

1300-01-01 00:00:00


A subgenre of blackletter script related to the Carolingian miniscule, used in Southern Europe.

1400-01-01 00:00:00

Humanist minuscule

A secular hand developed in Italy from Carolingian book hands.

1420-01-01 00:00:00

Cancelleresca corsiva

The name of this hand can be translated as the "cursive chancery hand."

1430-01-01 00:00:00

Clara Hätzlerin

Clara Hätzlerin (ca. 1430 – 1476) was a professional scribe in 15th century Augsburg.

1460-01-01 00:00:00

Giovanni Tagliente

Giovanni Antonio Tagliente (Giovannantonio) (c. 1460s – c. 1528) was a Venetian calligrapher, author, printer and publisher.

1475-01-01 00:00:00

Ludovico Arrighi

Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi (1475?–1527?) was a papal scribe and type designer in Renaissance Italy.

1480-01-01 00:00:00

Sigismondo Fanti

Sigismundo Fanti was a mathematician and astronomer from Ferrara who was active in Venice in the16th century.

1500-01-01 00:00:00

Secretary hand

"Secretary hand is a style of European handwriting developed in the early sixteenth century that remained common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries for writing English, German, Welsh and Gaelic" (Wikipedia).

1514-01-01 00:00:00

Fanti's Theorica et pratica

Sigismondo Fanti's Theorica et pratica de modo scribendi fabricandique omnes litterarum species (Rome, 1514) was the first printed writing manual of the Italian Renaissance.

1515-01-01 00:00:00

Giovanni Palatino

Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Palatino (c. 1515 - c. 1575) was born in Calabria, but moved to Rome and acquired citizenship in 1538.

1522-01-01 00:00:00

Arrighi's La Operina

La Operina was the first copybook devoted to the chancery cursive.

1523-01-01 00:00:00

Arrighi's Il modo

Il modo de temperare de Penne, the second part of Arrighi's La Operina.

1524-01-01 00:00:00

Tagliente's Lo presente

Giovanni Antonio Tagliente's Lo presente libro insegna la vera arte de lo excellente scriuere went into many editions.

1529-01-01 00:00:00


French typographer and printer Geoffrey Tory (c.1480-1533) published his classic text on typographic proportions and design, Champfleury: The Art and Science of the Proportion of the Attic or Ancient Roman Letters, According to the Human Body and Face.

1534-01-01 00:00:00

Giovanni Cresci

Gianfrancesco (Giovanni Francesco) Cresci (c.1534/5–early 17th century), born in Milan, was a calligrapher and copyist in the Vatican Library.

1540-01-01 00:00:00

Palatino's Libro nuovo

Giovanni Palatino published Libro nuovo d’imprare a scrivere tutte sorte lettere antiche et moderne in 1540.

1544-01-01 00:00:00

Bernardino Cataneo

Bernardino Cataneo was a writing master at the University of Siena active 1544-1560.

1557-01-01 00:00:00


Typeface introduced by Robert Granjon based on Secretary hand

1569-01-01 00:00:00

Perret's Exercitatio alphabetica

The first writing manual produced with copperplate engravings.

1577-01-01 00:00:00

Maria Strick

(Holland, 1577–c1631)

1589-01-01 00:00:00

Louis Barbedor

Louis Barbedor (1589-1670) was a writing master active in Paris from 1630-1670.

1600-01-01 00:00:00


1650-01-01 00:00:00

Barbedor's Les Ecritures Financière

Louis Barbedor published Les Ecritures Financière Et Italienne Bastarde circa 1650.

1660-01-01 00:00:00


Developed in the 1660s, the Round hand developed into the standard in the 18th century.

1872-02-11 00:00:00

Edward Johnston

Edward Johnston (11 February 1872 – 26 November 1944), British craftsman, was a key figure in the so-called "calligraphic revival."

1876-11-20 00:00:00

Rudolph Koch

Rudolf Koch (20 November 1876 – 9 April 1934) was a German type designer and calligrapher.

Western Calligraphy

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