• Grace Amos

Broad-Nib Calligraphy

A piece done in foundational hand, a broad-nib script, using one of the more popular broad-nib tools available, the Pilot Parallel Pen
An example of modern pointed-nib calligraphy. Sourced from Unsplash.

There are several categories of calligraphy, but one of the most prevalent divides is between broad-nib and pointed-nib calligraphy. Broad-nib calligraphy (BNC) is characterized by the angle of the tool while writing. Generally, the angle remains fixed, creating thick and thin strokes along the letterform and only changing angle for aesthetic details. On the other hand, pointed-nib calligraphy (PNC) is characterized by the pressure applied while writing. In practice, the tools used for PNC expand with applied pressure, which causes it release more ink as one writes, commonly along the down strokes. These definitions are particularly important when looking at very small broad-nib tools or very large pointed-nib tools. Of course, there are tools such as a flat-head paintbrush which can vary in both angle and pressure. But the script you see is generally identified by how the artist used the tool, rather than which tool the artist used.

Example of a sharp Italics script

There are several different BNC styles, which include (but are certainly not limited to): Blackletter, Italics, Foundational Hand, Uncial, and Roman Capitals. Each of these scripts, similar to languages, have "dialects" which may be more or less pervasive based on their origin and functionality. There are also several calligraphers who create their own "spinoffs" of these parent scripts, much like typeface designers.

Because of the consistency and style of the strokes in BNC, these scripts are often associated with more functional applications than their pointed-nib counterparts, which are often considered more decorative. Of course, broad-edge calligraphy has many decorative elements, but often where it shines is in its beautiful legibility. BNC has a more rigid form, which is often holds the connotation of age (and therefore longevity), importance, or authority. Yet one of my favorite applications of BNC is in its ability to be abstract. An abstract calligraphy piece takes the structure of form and applies them to space rather than words. The results are fantastic.

BNC is a fun space to create in, but in my experience, it is also one of the easiest places to begin learning traditional calligraphy. Part of the reason is because of the availability of tools such as the Pilot Parallel Pen, which takes out the need for understanding nibs and inks and helps one focus on learning the scripts. Another reason is that, generally, BNC letterforms are not connected, unlike PNC scripts like copperplate. For people who did not grow up learning cursive, these separated letterforms are arguably easier to understand and learn as it focuses on one stroke at a time.

For me, it was the clarity, boldness, and beauty within the many varieties within BNC that appealed to me and led me to choose it as my calligraphy niche. The types of pieces that I enjoy creating, the types of messages I hope to share with others, I believe are best served in this format. For each project, I take care to choose which script serves to best communicate the message, and which variation of the letterforms will appropriately communicate the right emotions. When I create pieces for others, the success of the piece often begins with the success of the communication between myself and the client. In this I aim to serve as a designer beyond my own works to aid others in finding the right form to serve their goals.

I'd love to invite you to look through the gallery to see more of the work I've done, or to reach out to me and connect with any questions or inquiries for projects. Thank you for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon.