The art of calligraphy is also practiced with the limited letter alphabet of Arabic. Because the Muslim faith discourages pictorial representation and reveres the Qur'an, the Islamic peoples esteem calligraphy as highly as do those of East Asia. The earliest Islamic calligraphy is found in the beautiful Qur'ans, written with black ink or gold leaf on parchment or paper in formal, angular script. Begun by the 8th cent., this script was fully developed by the 10th.
Elaborations, such as foliation, interfacing, and other complexities were invented later, but they are used only for decorative work. Qur'ans continued to be copied in austere and monumental letters. In the 12th cent. rounded cursive style was invented and spread throughout Islam. Many different cursive scripts developed thereafter. In Islam calligraphy decorates mosques, pottery, metalwork, and textiles, as well as books.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.