A Beginner’s Guide To Andalusi Calligraphy: A Documentary

14 May 2016

“This is the story of a calligraphic script that is almost extinct, yet which was once a crucial part of the most extraordinary cultural flourishing of the Middle Ages. We trace its journey from its origins in Madinah to its pinnacle in Al-Andalus, where we look at the rich context it evolved in. How did this once ubiquitous style fall into disuse, and what remains of it today?”

Al-Andalus, that golden era of the Islamic arts and sciences, would never have reached its full splendour were it not for the role played by Andalusi calligraphy. Its bold, graphic elegance belie its simplicity, which enabled Andalusi Muslims to reproduce millions of books, creating some of the most impressive libraries of the era.

With scribes in all the major cities of Al-Andalus dedicated to translating and copying classical texts, the importance of a practical script was paramount. What was needed was not a decorative or monumental script, but rather a simple, efficient style of handwriting that would be easy to write and to read. The use of paper as opposed to vellum or parchment, which were expensive and took much more time and effort to produce, meant that the contents of these manuscripts were now within the reach of the masses, leading to unusually high literacy rates among everyday Andalusis.

To learn more about the documentary, view the project details and watch the trailer.

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