Simple History & Definition: What Is Copperplate Calligraphy?

Pen Over A Practice Sheet Of Calligraphy

Copperplate calligraphy is a well known style of calligraphy. Given that, there are many misconceptions that surround this style of calligraphy. I’ll do my best to condense and simplify the information for it to be easily digestible for beginners, as it was something I would have appreciated when I started.

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What Is Copperplate Calligraphy?

Copperplate is often used to refer to the Roundhand style of writing. It is often called Copperplate because it was one of the scripts used in the early engraving of books. Now, Copperplate Calligraphy can refer to any of the scripts that were used when engraving said copperplates.

While it’s easy and convenient to leave it at that, there is a more detailed explanation and rich history to it.

The term copperplate was derived from the fact that certain classic styles of script that fall under it were used to engrave copper plates for mass printing of books. It’s easy to see why it became a blanket term as the style has many forms because of this.

One of the more popular original styles it was based on is the Roundhand Script developed by John Ayres & William Banson. The style follows a thin upstroke and thick upstroke that is commonly made through pointed nibs or quills, as they were limited by the writing tools of the time.

Due to a great demand for people able to write in the 18th century, and as the style grew in popularity because it was the primary style used in printing, it lead to different variations. One of note is called the Engrosser’s Script.

Many forms of calligraphy, not just copperplate, are recorded in The Universal Penman by George Bickham. The book has been one of the greatest resources calligraphers can use to explore different styles across history, and is still one of the best resources to date.

There you’ll find many of the uses and practical applications of Copperplate or Roundhand Calligraphy.

You can also distinguish the difference between Copperplate and Spencerian styles of calligraphy by the lowercase letters. Copperplate will have shading or the thicker lines, while Spencerian lowercase letters will not.

I’ll throw in an interactive infographic below on the other types of calligraphy. I’ll even throw an infographic you can share with your friends! You’ll find all the other kinds you can also try there.

Why Is It Called Copperplate?

Copperplate calligraphy got its name as it was a blanket term often used for scripts that were typically used to engrave copper plates. While the style is based on Roundhand script, this gave way to many different variations and styles of their own.

Fast forward to current times, the term Copperplate has become an accepted blanket term to refer to these scripts.

As the original copperplate scripts, or roundhand script and its variants, were based on using quills, the modern copperplate style has evolved around more modern tools. Instead of working around the quill, calligraphers have now developed their own styles around the use of nibs.

Of course, these nibs are still pointed nibs but the main difference is that it is based on the flex of the nibs. Flex is when the tines of a nib spread because of the pressure applied to them. This creates the thick and thin line variations to make the signature style of Copperplate calligraphy, as earlier mentioned.

How Long Does It Take To Learn Copperplate Calligraphy?

Learning Copperplate is relative to the student. The basics of Copperplate lie in the strokes, angles, and overall control of the pen. While one can learn Copperplate calligraphy principles relatively fast, mastering the skill is a different beast.

The basics are actually easy to get. It’s mastering copperplate calligraphy that is hard. It requires tons of deliberate practice to get right. The muscles in your hand also need to develop the muscle memory of each script, to properly execute them.

Needless to say, this will all take time.

A professional calligrapher may take years to develop enough skill to do it professionally, or maybe just months. It’s all up to the talent level of the individual.

You don’t really need to pressure yourself, though. I am by no means an expert. All I have is the resources made available to me by virtue of the internet, and lots of time and effort invested into it. And you know what, I pale in comparison to those who have been doing it as long as I have.

Do I care? Will I stop?

Of course not.

It’s my hobby and I’m having fun with it. I’m having fun seeing the masterful works people make. And I have fun trying to improve myself and reach the pinnacle of what I can reach. I have fun going around the internet and trying to make resources people will find useful.

No doubt, once you have found this and delve deeper into calligraphy, in no time you’ll probably be better than me. And you know what, I’m rooting for you!

Just remember to have fun with it.

Conclusion

So, basically, Copperplate Calligraphy encompasses a wide range of styles that are based on the thick and thin line variations of the Roundhand style. Copperplate styles further evolved with the times and the tools available to them.

While you can refer to Copperplate as a general term for the overall style, there are many scripts and styles you can learn to create different kinds of copperplate scripts. That’s why a quick search of calligraphy fonts on google will net you many styles of what can be described as copperplate without them being the exact style of modern copperplate.

As promised, here’s the interactive infographic on the other types of calligraphy! Feel free to swipe left or right!

Here’s the infographic you can share with your friends!

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