Introduction inscription, writing
on durable material. The art is called epigraphy. Modern inscriptions are made for permanent, monumental record, as on gravestones, cornerstones, and building fronts; they are often decorative and imitative of ancient (usually Roman) methods. The only current use of inscriptions that has no accepted substitute, the marking of graves, is also the oldest continuous use. The first writing was probably universally executed on hard materials, mainly stones (rough or hewn), clay (often marked when wet), metal, bone, and ivory. When light materials like paper were developed, it was possible to distinguish between writing for temporary use and permanent recording, and epigraphy became restricted.
For the history and examples of epigraphy, see histories of appropriate cultures, countries, languages, literatures, and periods of art. See also calligraphy.
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