Learning Index >> Calligraphy: an education in letter form

Historical context >> Calligraphy and arts and crafts
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Edward Johnston

The initial effect that the Arts and Crafts movement had on printing can be dated to a crucial lecture given in Hammersmith in 1888 by Emery Walker, William Morris was present. From Walker's surviving notes and a report in the next days papers, written by Oscar Wilde, we know that Walker showed his audience magic lantern slides of early printed pages and photographic enlargements of manuscripts of a comparable date (late fifteenth century). Walker had access to this new technology because his family business was at the forefront of experimenting with the application of new photographic techniques to printing.

Walker's argument was that if printing was to develop into a new age in a healthy state it needed to become more critical of its technical and aesthetic standards. He suggested that the printed texture of pages in most Victorian book production looked uneven in tone and lacked clarity of arrangement when compared with early printing. In line with arts and crafts philosophy he suggested that printing could benefit from the same conditions it had at is origin, the existence of a flourishing tradition of handwork. A lively school of calligraphy would provide a new modern movement in printing with ever fluent prototypes of letterforms and arrangements and a constant critique. The modern calligraphic revival in Britain grew out of this thought. Essentially it was focused upon books and book culture.



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