Calligrapher | Book Artist

Recommended Reading

I have a library containing hundreds of calligraphy and art books, and I have an opinion on them all. If you've got a comment or question about a calligraphy book, e-mail me and I'll be happy to give you my free opinion on it; it'll be worth every penny! As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. They guess (accurately) that if they give me some money back, I'll promptly turn around and spend on it more books :) Most titles are linked to Amazon, and take you away from this website.

Recommended Reading: Calligraphy

The essential canon of calligraphy books:

Scribe: The Art of the Written Form, by John Stevens. The ultimate inspirational book on calligraphy by the master of calligraphy. See my review of the book on page 26of the Guild of Book Workers Newsletter, Number 211, December 2013.

The Golden Thread: The Story of Writing, by Ewan Clayton. An informative and entertaining read by a calligrapher and scholar. See my review of the book on page 8 of the Guild of Book Workers Newsletter, Number 214, June 2014.

Foundations of Calligraphy, by Sheila Waters. Published by John Neal Bookseller in 2006, this is destined to be a bible of calligraphy. Mrs. Waters covers all of the main calligraphy hands, showing beautiful exemplars and examples as well as ways in which the student can go wrong. The gallery at the back of the book shows is classic and reproduced beautifully. This book has particularly good information and exemplars on gothicized italic.

Historical Scripts, A Handbook for Calligraphers, by Stan Knight. A must for anyone wanting to study historical hands.

A Book of Formal Scripts, by John Woodcock. A wonderful survey of hands, with beautiful exemplars and clear instructions, as well as basic working information and historical context.

The Art & Craft of Hand Lettering, by Annie Cicale is an inspirational and solid instructional calligraphy book focusing on practical projects using letter forms.

The Mystic Art of Written Forms: An Illustrated Handbook for Lettering, by Friedrich Neugebauer. An inspirational and instructional book, the alphabets are not for beginners.

The Calligrapher's Handbook, ed. Heather Child. A 1986 update of the original edition, and long-time "industry standard." Excellent exemplars. Updated information is available elsewhere, but it is scattered throughout many books.

Painting for Calligraphers, by Marie Angel. The most beautiful miniature paintings, integrated with calligraphy. With practical instruction materials and techniques.

A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel. A huge book with many color plates, this is both entertaining and informative.

Other excellent books on calligraphy:

The Anatomy of Letters, by Charles Pearce. Very good exemplars, good basic information about history and materials.

The Calligrapher's Dictionary, by Rose Folsom. A very thorough reference.

Calligraphy School, by Gaynor Goffe & Anna Ravenscroft. An attractive book full of information from lettering styles to tools and materials to layout.

Creative Lettering Today: Calligraphy in the Graphic Arts, by Michael Harvey. This book covers so much that is not covered elsewhere. The most important thing in this book is information about drawing letters. Re-touching, digital letterforms and logo design are also covered, but are dated. I'd like to see something equally concise which covers current digital techniques.

Layout and Design for Calligraphers, by Alan Furber. This book provides very practical and visually accessible layout instruction for those with little or no graphic design background.

Pen Lettering, by Ann Camp. A very solid beginning calligraphy book, with a very good foundational exemplar.

Speedball Textbook — The 24th edition was edited by Angie Vangalis and Randall Hasson. Previous editions are all very different, and all very interesting. An unbelievable amount of lettering by a great many calligraphers packed into one book.

Writing & Illuminating & Lettering, by Edward Johnston. The classic. Because of its age, though, other references are more helpful; the inks and pens and papers available to Johnston are generally not available to us now.

Written Letters, by Jacqueline Svaren. Completely hand-lettered, this book is an inspiring collection of 33 alphabets which Ms. Svaren has developed. While it is no substitute for the study of historical hands, this book is an excellent source of study for the intermediate-to-advanced calligrapher, with admirably clear and copious instructions for each alphabet. And her enthusiasm, evident in the text, is infectious.

Illuminated Manuscripts: The Book Before Gutenberg, ed. Giulia Bologna, is another large-format illustrated book that is a great visual reference for illumination throughout history.

Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms, by Michelle Brown. A good reference; organized like a dictionary.

The Illuminated Alphabet, by Patricia Seligman & Timothy Noad. A very beautiful and practical instruction manual which give complete instructions for copying 12 different illuminated initials from 5 different historical periods in graduated lessons. In addition, there are many thumbnail sketches of other initials and period information on styles and materials.

The World Encyclopedia of Calligraphy: The Ultimate Compendium, ed. Christopher Calderhead and Holly Cohen. An excellent and comprehensive collection of calligraphy from around the world.


Letter Arts Review. The major international journal for lettering arts. This link takes you to their web page.

Recommended Reading: Book Arts

The top tier of bookbinding books, must-haves:

Books, Boxes & Wraps; Binding & Building Step-By-Step, by Marilyn Webberley & Joan Forsyth. My very favorite reference book on bookbinding. There are no photos in this book, but many, many excellent illustrations. The section in the back entitled "Binder's Tool Chest" is alone worth the price of this book; it includes subsections on knots & closures, working tips, adhesives, materials, and a paper chart packed with technical specifications.

Fine Bookbinding: A Technical Guide, by Jen Lindsay. For the serious student, this book takes you through a fine binding step by step, with explanations of the rationale behind each step. Designed to be used as you work.

Books, Boxes & Portfolios: Binding, Construction and Design -- Step-by-Step, by Franz Zeier. A thorough and detailed examination of the architecture of books and boxes and other paper structures. He investigates the issues of board depth, displacement, and corners more thoroughly than any other book I've come across.

Japanese Bookbinding: Instructions from a Master Craftsman, by Kojiro Kegami. The book to get for stab bindings, butterfly books, scrolls and traditional Japanese working methods.

Bookbinding & Conservation by Hand: A Working Guide, by Laura S. Young. A good solid manual for bookbinding and simple restorations; clear, accurate step-by-step instructions.

Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue, by Keith Smith. A wealth of information. There are complete instructions to so many structures and covers and variations in this book that it would take you a very long time to make a prototype for each one. I know :)

Theory and history of artist books and books in general:

Century of Artists' Books, by Johanna Drucker. One of the first comprehensive critical histories of the modern book as art.

No Longer Innocent: Book Art in America 1960-1980, by Betty Bright. A critical guide to book arts as they relate to artistic and social movements in the US.

Books which showcase artist books:

Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists, ed. Lark Books. A photographic collection of artist's books by 43 master book artists, curated by Eileen Wallace.

500 Handmade Books: Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form, edited by Steve Miller. As the title says.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques, ed. Lark Books. Inspirational collection of books and essays by book artists who have taught at Penland.

Other volumes which may reside in a well-rounded book arts library:

Bookbinding Techniques and Projects, by Josep Cambras. An enjoyable manual which includes good photographs and information about tools and materials, a little restoration, several surface decoration techniques, and some step-by-step instructions for making books, boxes and other enclosures.

Book Art Studio Handbook, by Stacie Dolin and Amy Lapidow. Similar to Cambras' book, this manual also has great photographs, information about tools and materials, and interesting step-by-step project instructions.

Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms, by Alisa Golden. Culled from her three previous books, Expressive Handmade Books, Unique Handmade Books, and Creating Handmade Books, which all focus on integrating content as well as book structures.

Making Books that Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn, by Gwen Diehn. A delightful book full of great ideas that adults and children can implement. With lots of photos of really impressive children-made books, the book suggests content and approaches to match specific book structures.

Making Journals by Hand, by Jason Thompson. A wide range of inspirational book designs, with a strong approach toward content.

Cover to Cover, by Shereen LaPlantz. Lots of creative ideas and good photographs. This is a hands-down favorite with many artist bookbinders.

The Art and Craft of Handmade Books, by Shereen LaPlantz. Published in October 2001, this quickly became a standard for those interested in making artists books.

Creative Bookbinding, by Pauline Johnson. The book is not snazzy, but the information is solid and covers many structures and paper decorating techniques.

Hand-Made Books: An Introduction to Bookbinding, by Rob Shepherd. A valuable book, written from the standpoint of a craft bookbinder rather than an artist bookbinder.


Bonefolder. an e-journal in PDF format. Many excellent articles on book structure, art criticism, tools, materials, and more.

Bound and Lettered. A magazine which focuses on book structures, paper arts, and lettering. This link takes you to their web page.

Somerset Studio. This photo-rich magazine is dedicated to decorative paper techniques, paper structures of all kinds including books and boxes, rubber stamping, and calligraphy. This link takes you to their web page.

Recommended Reading: Various


Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in the Life and the Arts, by Stephen Nachmanovitch. All about creativity and practice and making mistakes and getting inspiration. I return to it time and time again. I even bought an extra copy so I could loan it out.

Color theory:

Color: A Workshop Approach, by David Hornung. An excellent book on color theory which covers terminology, color structure, hue, value, saturation, optical mixing, tonal progression, retinal studies, color inventory, and more. This was the textbook for a color theory class I attended. I learned a lot by working through the exercises.

Color Choices, by Stephen Quiller. A practical book on color theory, complete with a pull-out color wheel which shows the actual tube colors in their place on the wheel.

Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolors, by Michael Wilcox. A thorough reference for watercolorists, this book list most tube colors which have been manufactured with analyses of their makeup and much valuable information about the pigments which go into paints.

Digital Arts

Digital Arts Studio: Techniques for Combining Inkjet Printing with Traditional Art Materials, by Dorothy Simpson Krause, Karin Schminke, and Bonny Pierce Lhotka. A real eye opener. This book delves into an array of ways to integrate digital work with traditional art media, and includes a showcase of integrated artwork.

I wish I knew of more books to recommend in this category!


Miniature Painting: A Complete Guide to Techniques, Mediums, and Surfaces, by Joan Cornish Willies. A valuable resource for book artists wishing to illuminate or illustrate books.

Formulas for Painters: 200 Formulas for Making Paints, Glazes, Mediums, Varnishes, Grounds, Fixatives, Sizes, and Adhesives for Tempera, Oil, Acrylic, Gouaches, Pastel, Encaustic, Fresco and Other Painting Techniques, by Robert Massey. I believe the title is self-explanatory!

Oriental Painting Course: A Structured, Practical Guide to the Painting Skills and Techniques of China and the Far East, by Wang Jia Nan, Cai Xiaoli with Dawn Young. I don't know much about oriental painting, but this is the only book I've seen that seems to offer a both beautiful photos and well-organized, in-depth information about the subject. If anyone has an opinion about this book, I would like to hear from you.


American Craft. A source of inspiration, although not about calligraphy or bookbinding.