Frequently Asked Questions

Shepherd at work
Photo credit: Peter Williams, Museum Services

Using Learn World Calligraphy to explore writing.

Q. How can I learn to write a language I can’t read?
It’s easier than you think. Each chapter in my book teaches you the correct pen, paper, and hand position, as well as the basic pen strokes. You can follow simple exercises and learn the alphabet or a similar core of common characters. Go further by learning the language behind this now not-so-foreign script, or use the script to flavor the Roman alphabet that you already use. Each chapter offers you a “Virtual” alphabet to enjoy and use for your own projects.

Q. I’m not a calligrapher. My fingers are all thumbs.
You can enjoy Learn World Calligraphy just for the fascinating history behind each script. Learn, for example, why the intelligentsia made fun of Korea's new alphabet because it was too easy to learn, and why lettering in ancient Greece was like mowing your lawn. Prepare or follow up when you travel to an exotic locale by learning to read a few key words.

Q. I’d like to help my child learn how other people in the world write.
Learn World Calligraphy suggests simple materials, lets you print out guidelines for your child, provides letters to copy, and describes what lies behind each country’s special alphabet. Many of the projects are simple to do with adult guidance. A chapter from Learn World Calligraphy can supplement what the child learns in school.

Using the basic lessons in Learn Calligraphy to get started.

Q: I've just ordered your book Learn Calligraphy, and I’m wondering how to begin. I’ve heard that beginners should start with Italic or Uncial. But I like Black Chancery. Is this okay?
While you logically ought to start with Roman, the oldest alphabetic letter, (even older forms of writing include cuneiform and hieroglyphics) you should begin with the letter style that interests you most and that you have immediate use for. For instance, if you are addressing envelopes or making place cards, start with Italic and be sure to include the chapter on numerals. If you are lettering plain directional signs, start with Bookhand. If you have medieval and ornate designs to do for graduation, a Rennaissance Faire, or Christmas card, start with Gothic (your Black Chancery).

Q: Learn Calligraphy starts with the Roman alphabet. Can I skip ahead to the Italic chapter? I want to freshen up on what I remember from a course I took years ago, so I can do a poem for my sister's wedding.
I organized the book to take you through a whole year of historical calligraphy. But each chapter stands by itself. Before jumping in, be sure to read the introduction and to review some of the techniques, principles and materials that are useful for all letter styles..

Q:I want to improve my handwriting so that I can write more every day. Which book will help?
If your ambition is to refine your handwriting by studying Italic, use the Italic chapter in Learn Calligraphy. If you are content to repair or rescue your script, then The Art of the Handwritten Note is the better choice. This book will give you practical tips, handwriting exercises, and practical projects to expand the role of handwriting in your life.

Which books...

Q: What book do you recommend for the absolute beginner?
Learn Calligraphy is a complete course, but can be used for individual design projects. Calligraphy Made Easy is even more basic, covering Italic and Gothic with very structured practice worksheets and suggesting simple crafts projects. Using Calligraphy and Calligraphy Projects will give you more everyday ways to put your calligraphy to use. The important thing is make a start, and then build upon what you learn.

Q: I’d like an autographed copy of your new book.
There are three ways to do that:
1. If you already own the book, email me what you would like me to write on a label. I will send you the label and you can paste it into the book. No charge.
2. Go to a talk or book signing (see my Facebook author page for upcoming events).
3. Send a $35 check to me at 40 Commonwealth Ave, Unit E, Boston MA 02116 and I will sign and mail a book to you. (Don't mail me a book!). The extra money pays for postage, a free marker, and my disorganization. This only applies to Learn World Calligraphy and Learn Calligraphy.

Q: Can I run copies of master sheets, guidelines, and whole chapters from Learn Calligraphy to hand out to my class?
Yes and no. Yes, guidelines are something I am happy to share: copy them from the books or print them off my website. You can enlarge or reduce them to fit your pen and project. The master alphabet sheets and chapters are another matter. Both my publisher and I make our living from books that are sold. If you run copies of chapters, people may not buy the book. Also, your students are cheated out of seeing the other chapters and introductory lessons.

Q: I noticed that on page 46 in Learn Calligraphy you left the “J” out of the Rustica variation of the Roman Alphabet. There is also a missing “N” in the Italic chart. Any reason?
Temporary inattention by the author and editor. J is similar to I; you can design your own. And be on guard against the demon Titivulus, who plagues scribes by making them omit letters!

Q: Do you teach a course or do private lessons?
I teach every so often. Check my Facebook author page for workshops and demonstrations. I am always happy to give a talk to a nearby group about calligraphy and handwritten communication. I also give monthly guided walks along Boston’s Calligraphy Trail. Check with the Boston Public Library Rare Books and MSS Department at (617)-536-5400 x2225. Groups of more than 6 can schedule their own time.

Q: Where can I look for calligraphy lessons?
Try your local YMCA, adult education, art association, museum, library, art store, or college. Search the Web for “calligraphy organizations" and join a group in your own area. If there is not a group already, start one.

Q. I’d like to help my child learn to write thank-you notes for gifts.
The Art of the Handwritten Note devotes a number of pages to the special topic of helping your child learn this skill. You can try any of the ten tactics offered there. But start by making sure your child knows what a thank-you note is and why it feels so good to receive one.