Calligraphy Qalam: An Introduction to Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Calligraphy

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Ta‘liq


Taliq image

Taliq script.

(Pronounced “tah-leek”)

Meaning

  • “Ta‘liq” means “suspension,” or “hanging together”

Uses

  • Used for official correspondence in the royal court
  • Used for writing books and letters
  • Used for transcribing literary works
  • Sometimes used for poems and calligraphy specimens


Taliq image

Taliq script.

Timeline

  • Formed in 11th century, standardized by 13th century
  • Still in use today

Distinctive characteristics

  • Letters that don’t connect on the left are often connected in this script (unauthorized ligatures)
  • Descending strokes appear as loops
  • Letters are rounded with extreme contrasts in letter spacing
  • Wide spaces appear between lines
  • Lines ascend upward as they move from right to left
Taliq image

Taliq script.

Nasta‘liq


Nasta‘liq image

Nasta‘liq script.

(Pronounced “nes-tah-leek”; called "talik" in Turkey, called “farsi” in the Arab world)

Meaning

  • “Nasta‘liq” is thought to be a hybrid of the words “naskh” and “ta‘liq”

Uses

  • Nasta‘liq was originally devised to write the Persian language
  • Used in Persia and India/Pakistan for literary and non-Koranic works
  • Used for writing Persian poetry
  • Used for albums of calligraphic specimens, called qit‘a
Nasta‘liq image

Nasta‘liq script.

Timeline

  • Developed in 15th century Iran and perfected in the 16th century in Baghdad and Tabriz
  • Still in use today

Distinctive characteristics

  • Features characteristics of both naskh and ta‘liq
  • Vertical strokes are short, horizontal strokes are broad and sweeping
  • Letter shapes appear to be deep and hook-like
  • Letter shapes vary widely in thickness
  • Overall impression of swiftness, calm, fluidity
  • Letters appear to “float” or “hang” across the page. This quality is increased when the text is arranged diagonally, as is common in nasta‘liq poetry
  • Nasta‘liq is never written with vowels except an occasional hamza and shadda

Notes

  • Very difficult to execute
  • Possibly created by Mir ‘Ali Tabrizi as a result of a dream about flying ducks
Nasta‘liq image

Nasta‘liq script.

Shikaste


Shikaste image

Shikaste script.

(Pronounced “shi-kas-teh”; Persian–Shekasteh)

Meaning

  • “Shikaste” means “broken,” because this script is a “broken” version of the nasta‘liq (or ta‘liq) script

Uses

  • Used for longer documents because it was easy to write quickly
  • Used for poetry because of its flowery visual style
  • Used for official proclamations


Shikaste image

Shikaste script.

Timeline

  • Developed in 14th century
  • Used widely in 19th century Iran during the Qajar dynasty
  • Still in use today

Distinctive characteristics

  • Shikaste is the ta‘liq or nasta‘liq script written rapidly. Each word is written with a single pen stroke, without lifting the pen off the page
  • Letters and words that don’t connect on the left are often connected in this script (unauthorized ligatures)
  • Vertical strokes are extremely short
  • Letters are written diagonally across the page
  • Letter shapes are intricate, complex and dense

Notes

  • This script is illegible to the inexperienced eye
Shikaste image

Shikaste script.