Why the handwritten word still matters.
Today, despite the allure of hightech substitutes, people still ask scribes to handwrite the words that really matter: they design memorial plaques, inscribe awards and gifts, coordinate with architects and interior designers, add names to Book of Remembrance pages, design hand-carved gravestones, commemorate church events, and enhance weddings with unique invitations, handaddressed envelopes, monogrammed keepsakes, and legacies like the traditional ketubah. Scripture is a popular choice for both client commissions and artistic designs.
Twenty-first-century calligraphers have the best of both worlds: the continuity of an ancient craft that connects them to their roots plus the stimulus of a modern art that challenges them to innovate. Writing by hand is still a living art just as vibrant, and just as relevant to religion, as the other arts of sculpture, music, architecture, and painting. It gives calligraphers at all levels the pleasure of making beautiful and useful things that connect them to other people. Five hundred years ago, in “In Laude Scriptorium,” Johannes Trithemius declared that “The dedicated scribe . . . will never fail to praise God, give pleasure to angels, strengthen the just, convert the sinners, commend the humble, confirm the good, confound the proud and rebuke the stubborn.” Calligraphers today still enjoy these blessings.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Calligraphy offers its devotees something more profound than just feeling happy to be useful. Beyond the beauty they create, the human connections they form, and the benefit they give to others, they are also discovering how much the handwritten word does for their own inner life. Carefully copying a text with pen and ink puts them in touch with themselves. As communication gets more impersonal and life gets more materialistic, people seek out calligraphy because it can make the very act of writing feel like a sacrament.
The spiritual benefit of writing by hand was held dear by Abbot Trithemius, who went on to describe it as the scriptorium’s ultimate blessing: “While [the scribe] sits in silence and solitude and immerses himself pleasantly in his manuscripts . . . his mind is illumined and his sentiments are enkindled.”
Calligraphy and Scripture are good for each other, but they are also good for you.
-Excerpted from Song of Songs: The Bible's Great Love Poems in Calligraphy