Russia’s World Calligraphy Museum

In the present day, pride in penmanship is becoming a thing of the past. Still, if you receive something written in calligraphy, you can be absolutely sure it’s important. But where does this knowledge come from? And why does the written word merit its own museum?

Calligraphy sits at the intersection of art and writing. It’s the transcription of language in its most aesthetic form. Once upon a time, people put their pens to paper, or rather quills or brushes to parchment, with a mind to the harmony that exists there, as well as what they wanted to say. There was an intentional balance between the usage of the blank space and that which their letters occupied that could only be achieved by a practised hand.

In the World Calligraphy Museum, located in theOrekhovo village in Russia, this art has been immortalised with permanent expositions. The museum’s aim is simple: to educate and preserve the past. The various forms of calligraphy on display stretch across continents and their history can be traced back hundreds of years. Not only were the shapes and forms of the letters different but the techniques and materials used to create them differed greatly too. All are echoes of individual cultures and the pride of place that calligraphy held within them.

Across China, Japan and Korea, in particular, calligraphy was esteemed as an art form of the utmost importance. In ancient China, its mastery reflected status. In Japan, dedication to this art continues to serve as a way to develop mental discipline. In other parts of the world, ironically though, that very time needed to excel at it is perhaps why it’s ever less present in our lives. 

But, while it may be beautiful to look at, calligraphy is by no means practical. And while nostalgia and appreciation for the form endure, the art of writing has taken on an entirely new meaning in today’s world. Immediacy and convenience reign over how we now communicate, and sloppy, “doctor’s handwriting” has become so commonplace that there are even online forums dedicated to deciphering illegibly scribbled notes.

That doesn’t mean that calligraphy no longer has a place. Only that its importance nowadays has shifted into the niche. It’s found a home in wedding invitations and certificates and art that the particularly word-obsessed have framed in their offices. And most importantly, in museums like the World Calligraphy Museum, where countries’ histories unfold on the page, not only through what is written and by whom, but how.