Arabic calligraphy is a primary form of art for written Islamic visual expression. Written from right to left, the Arabic script at its best can be a flowing continuum of ascending verticals, descending curves, and temperate horizontals, achieving a measured balance between static perfection of individual form and paced and rhythmic movement. Confused? Alright, let’s break it down to more digestible bites.
The early Arab culture was prolific in terms of writing and poetry. Long before they were gathered into the Islamic fold, the nomadic Arabs felt an immense appreciation for the spoken and written word. Jazm is the earliest referenced Arabic script. This script is believed to be an advanced form of the Nabataean (nomadic Arabs) alphabet. The stiff, angular, and well-proportioned letters of the Jazm script lead to the advent of the famous Kufi script meaning the script of Kufa, an Iraqi town.
Tools of the Trade
Calligraphers used a reed and brush pen called Qalam, scissors, a knife for cutting the pens, an ink pot, and a sharpening tool. It was essential that they knew how to identify the best cane suitable for a good pen, how to trim the nib, and how to split the cane exactly in the center so that the nib had equal halves. A good pen was cherished and, sometimes, was even handed down to another generation. Other times, it was buried with the calligrapher when he died.
The most outstanding writing techniques or scripts in Arabic Calligraphy are are Gulzar, Maraya or Muthanna, Zoomorphic, Siyaqat, and al-Khat al-Hurr.
Arabic script is derived from the Aramaic Nabataean alphabet. The Arabic alphabet is a script of 28 letters and uses long but not short vowels. The letters are derived from only 17 distinct forms, distinguished one from another by a dot or dots placed above or below the letter. Short vowels are indicated by small diagonal strokes above or below letters.
ADACH’s Conservation Lab
In an attempt to preserve and restore exquisite works of Arabic calligraphy and other paper-based collections, a Paper and Book Conservation Laboratory was launched by ADACH last month.
“When dealing with manuscripts and historic books, we have to keep in mind that a book actually consists of much more information than the written or printed text itself. By closely looking at papers, writing inks, pigments and binding structures, much knowledge can be gained about the origin, age and history of a book.”
Fabienne Meyer, a paper conservation specialist
Once a database documenting the materials and binding structures of Islamic Books is compiled, it will be shared with similar collections globally.
Guide section: Generalities
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