History of Persian Calligraphy dates back to 500-600 BC during first Persian empire, i.e. Achaemenid dynasty when the original cuneiform scripts were used in monument inscriptions for the Achaemenid kings.
Almost 3 centuries later the "Avestaee" or "Avestan" script was created in Persia for writing the hymns of Zarathustra. Avestan script was related to the religious scripts of Zoroastrians' holy book called “Avestaa” and was written with a feather pen, usually on animal-skin pages. Avestan script has similarities with Arabic scripts such as “Sols” and “Naskh” that were invented centuries later .
After arrival of Islam in 7th century AD, the Persian scripts gradually merged with the existing Islamic scripts such as "Kufi", "Qebti" and "Seryani". In the 9th century AD, "Ibn Muqlah Shirazi" the Persian chancellor of Abasid dynasty, invented a new style called "Naskh" by enhancing the older "Kufi" and "Qebti" scripts using the 12 fundamental rules of Persian calligraphy that he developed and is used even to this day. The style of Persian "Naskh" which means "to copy" was used to enable faster writing and copying of documents such as Quran and it was quickly adopted throughout Islamic empire. He later invented 5 more calligraphy fonts called "Mohaqaq", "Reyhan", "Sols", "Reqa", and "Toqii" which together with Naskh formed the basis of Persian and Islamic calligraphy. It is believed that it was Ibn Muqlah Shirazi who transcended the tradition of writing to an art of calligraphy through building a foundation that could be applied systematically and be learnt methodically.
The above styles slowly evolved until 13th century when a new style called "Ta-liq" or "Tersel" gradually emerged from merging the two styles of "Toqii" and "Reqa". This style was mostly adopted for writing of official documents and minutes by professional writers who needed access to a writing style suitable for fast handwriting. Taliq is the first Persian calligraphy style which was used mainly for writing in Persian language.
The renaissance of Persian calligraphy began during 14th century, when Mir Ali Tabrizi developed "Nastaliq" calligraphy style by combining "Naskh" and "Taliq". Due to it is strength and beauty, this style quickly became the most widely used calligraphy style throughout Persia and Islamic empire. Nastaliq gradually flourished in the next 2 century until Mir-Emad Alhasani ( 1554 – 1615 AD) perfected it to the highest splendor and beauty. During Safavid dynasty in 16th century both Nastaliq and Sols were widely used by another famous calligrapher, Alireza Abasi, who supervised the design of calligraphies in most mosques and architectures in Isfahan.
Later, in the middle of 18th century, "Shekasteh Nastaliq" (or cursive Nastaliq) which is the third truly Persian Calligraphy style was developed by "Morteza khan Shamloo". This new style was a combination of the old "Taliq" and "Nastaliq". It allowed faster hand writing while keeping the same beauty and harmony of Nastaliq. The biggest improvement and perfection in Shekasteh Nastaliq was made in late 18th century AD by darvish Abdolmajid Taleqani whose influence on Shekasteh Nastaliq was similar degree of influence that Mir-Emad had on Nastaliq.
In the last two centuries the art of Persian calligraphy evolved even more and new styles such as "Siah mashq" and calligraphy painting has blossomed to become one of the greatest symbols of Persian art and culture.
Examples of various Persian calligraphy styles: