Taking a perspective based on folk lore, this text is an ethnographic study of the tools, artifacts, and other expressions of the material culture of literacy as it is found in the clerics' diverse activities within the context of the Hausa society in northern Nigeria. This study fills a gap in African data by addressing how informational, magical, as well as aesthetic potentials of the written word have been adapted in local contexts. It explores the origins of the diverse roles and types of malams (represented primarily by malaman Qur'ani and malaman Ilmi). The history and origin of the current calligraphic styles adapted and developed by the Hausa malams are investigated as a guide to understanding calligraphic designs and writings on manuscripts, charms, amulets, Qur'anic boards, architectural decorations, and other artifacts. Field research was conducted primarily in Kano, but also in Zaria, Sokoto, and other cities and rural areas in northern Nigeria. Archival, museum, and library research was conducted in Nigeria, England, and the United States.