chirography vs penmanship vs calligraphy, in musical scores

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Kotuku33

Senior Member
French & English, Alberta, Canada
Dear forum members,

I'm trying to work out whether there are subtle differences between chirography, penmanship and calligraphy. I'm putting this out here as a general topic yet to be covered in this forum.

I also have a specific question: do any of these words apply to the writing of musical scores? Here is my sentence:
"In some cases, the scores are difficult to read due to imprecise calligraphy on the part of the composers."

The author, whose first language is not English, has used calligraphy, but I sense that it only applies to the writing out of letters, and especially letters with flourishes. I am considering changing it to "penmanship" but the same issue may arise. I only just learned the word "chirography" and don't know anything about contexts in which it might be used.

Thanks in advance!
 
  • Tegs

    Mód ar líne
    English (Ireland)
    I would say the imprecise/poor penmanship of the composer. Calligraphy is the art of writing beautiful letters - it is not something which you see in musical compositions, rather, it's something you might see in a wedding invitation, a special certificate, or a book handwritten by monks ;) Have a look at wikipedia examples of calligraphy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calligraphy

    As far as I know, chirography is the study of handwriting, so it's not a style of penmanship in itself.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In my 74 years, I never encountered "chirography" before this post. It seems to exist only as an amusing anachronism .

    I presume you are no referring to modern musical scores. I doubt that Andrew Lloyd Weber spent time drawing ornate figures on his scores.

    Or ... do we even know that 18th century composers, for example, drew their own ornate figures? (Handwriting, of course, was much more of an art back then)

    Rather than use "calligraphy," I would use "ornate writing."

    I would not call it "poor penmanship," since it could have been quite normal in its day.

    You might review We Be People from 2-3 days ago in which the poster apparently confused the ornate writing of "the" to contain the word "be."

    I certainly would not call that 'poor penmanship.'
     
    Last edited:

    Kotuku33

    Senior Member
    French & English, Alberta, Canada
    These are handwritten scores from 100 years ago, yes. I doubt they spent time on ornate figures either. I think the author just misused the word "calligraphy". I think it's merely that they were writing out the notes quickly and we can't read them properly as a result.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    These are handwritten scores from 100 years ago, yes. I doubt they spent time on ornate figures either. I think the author just misused the word "calligraphy". I think it's merely that they were writing out the notes quickly and we can't read them properly as a result.

    Quite possible, but I have trouble in general with reading handwritten notes from that period.

    Good luck.
     

    Kotuku33

    Senior Member
    French & English, Alberta, Canada
    Aha, if you Google "chirography", Google offers this:
    noun: chirography
    • 1.
      handwriting, especially as distinct from typography.

    Right, that helps too. My example certainly does call for the word "chirography". Wikipedia says it's the study of handwriting and penmanship. A bit different from Google's take on it.
     
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