A quick history of Copperplate Calligraphy
When I first heard the term “Copperplate Calligraphy”, I immediately thought of the font Copperplate Gothic and stone-carved lettering. How wrong I was! So, seeing as though us calligraphers practice Copperplate Calligraphy so often, I thought I’d give a quick rundown—today’s history lesson.
To achieve a Copperplate style, calligraphers use a pointed steel nib or quill to achieve thick and thin strokes. Today, because of the popularity of calligraphy we often use the term Copperplate a bit more loosely.
The Copperplate style originates from Europe in the early seventeenth century. At this time, business and trade was on the rise in England. A business boom, meant more need for work, which brought the need for more scribes. To fulfill this need, education began in penmanship.
By the beginning of the eighteenth century, many craftsman considered themselves masters in writing. To encourage people to follow in their footsteps (and increase business) they decided to make their penmanship more accessible for people to learn. So they began to produce books so people could practice.
It was around this time that metal-engraving also became accessible, so scribes would team up with engravers and use this printing process to produce their publications. The engraver would recreate the scribes artwork onto plates—it was here they could cheat a little to perfect the lines and curves. The metal that was used for the plates was copper—hence, the name, Copperplate.
It’s probably important to note, there was not only one style referred to as Copperplate, it was rather, a wide variety of styles that were using thick and thin stokes as well as the metal-engraving printing method.
Copperplate calligraphy, back then referred to as Roundhand, took off quickly as it was seen as a very readable cursive script that was efficient, fairly easy to learn and clear.
Over the years, mostly due to advances in quills, pens and technology, pens became replaced with inflexible tools and the thick and thin strokes most commonly seen in Copperplate was lost. But in the past few years, here is The Copperplate Craze again.
If you’re thinking of learning Copperplate, a must for your library is Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy, by Eleanor Winters.