Friday, February 24, 2017

The Art of Penmanship

Friday, February 24, 2017
Alfred Stevens, The Letter

Loretta reports:

Periodically, an inquiry pops up on social media about whether or not children ought to be taught cursive handwriting. Some say it’s no longer necessary. Others worry that our letters and journals will become the equivalent of Egyptian hieroglyphs, which were a complete mystery for about 1400 years. We’re still not positive about how to pronounce the ancient Egyptian words, since the hieroglyphs don’t bother with vowels.

But the Is Cursive Really Necessary? contingent maintain that there will always be experts who can translate our funny little marks on paper, just as there are experts today who can translate the numerous scripts of centuries past, like this letter written in English Chancery Hand.
Who Can Learn to Write
The Picturesque

In other words, our diaries and such will make perfect sense to a small group of nerdy history writing scholars in the centuries ahead.

For now, though, a great many of us are still writing and reading cursive. Some of us ancient ones remember being taught the “Palmer Method” in elementary school. While reading Ann Trubeck’s The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting, I learned that the Palmer method was a simplification of a very beautiful style that was popular from about 1850 to the 1920s, and used for one of the most famous logos on earth, Coca-Cola®.

It’s called Spencerian script, and it was developed by Platt Rogers Spencer, who thought that our writing should be inspired by the forms in nature. The forms of his letters truly are beautiful. The words are easy to read. But it’s no easy feat to get good at it. If you’re interested, though, you can read the New Spencerian Compendium of Penmanship here at Internet Archive or in this PDF.
Ladies' Hand
Images: Alfred Stevens, The Letter, courtesy Wikipedia.
Handwriting advice and samples from the New Spencerian Compendium, courtesy Internet Archive.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Michaela said...

Wow, that Chaucery hand is crazy! I've seen images of it before...but I've never tried to read it.

As a music teacher for kids, mostly between the ages of 6-12, I'm shocked of the number of children who can't read my handwriting. I write in block letters, and they tell me they can't read cursive. I'm not even writing in cursive! My G's and J's sometimes get a swoop, but that's it. And then it occurred to me that kids are not being given any practice at reading even plain handwriting except their own. Isn't that sad? No one just hands out anything handwritten anymore, it's all been typed out and printed.

Anonymous said...

I am a 66 year old left father sat at night with me and I practiced my writing...I have beautiful cursive handwriting unlike my siblings that are right handed. I take pride in it. My husband says he cant read it but I just think he is lazy. I have been complimented on my writing.

Unknown said...

I've had the privilege to attend Michael Sull's Spencerian Saga; ; It is a week long seminar of instruction in Spencerian writing with Master Penman Michael Sull. It was a wonderful experience that I highly recommend.

Ann said...

There's an authentic Chancery Hand (also a number of other traditional hands) font at Crazy Diamond Design,

Including a special Harry Potter Wizarding collection as well. The fonts are authentic historical recreations.

Susan, OFS said...

I work in adult education at my local public school system. Even the adults under the age of 40 rarely seem to write in cursive (I am 55, so they aren't that much younger). Our students have often complimented me on my handwriting. I think they think it is a quaint, old-fashioned skill, like quilting or knitting. But they are kind to notice!

I can well remember the hours of practice when I learned Palmer script in the 2nd grade in my Catholic grammar school. I was a natural lefty, and had spent kindergarten and 1st grade in public school, where the teachers forced me to use my right hand until I did not use my left hand anymore.

By the time I got to 2nd grade, I had been converted to using my right hand. I wanted to have beautiful handwriting like Sister Jean Patrice, so I practiced every day until I developed a callus on the middle finger of my right hand, which remains to this day. My writing never developed as beautifully as Sister's, but I do have clear writing.

It is rather sad the children are not taught this skill anymore. I understand it is coming back in some schools, so maybe the tide will turn!

Loretta Chase said...

Susan, I haven't thought about that callous in ages! Yes, I have one, too. Not that my handwriting is anything to brag about anymore.

Unknown said...

I love cursive and I have been working on getting mine back into lovely shape. I'm in my early 40s and when I was in grade/high school I only used cursive in all my writing, and I feel like it was the first handwriting I learned. I stopped using it in my 20s but my love of history has revived it.

My first-grade daughter likes to do what I do :) so she has taught herself cursive (with my help) and now wants to use it frequently, to the puzzlement of her friends. I've told her not to worry, it's a wonderful and interesting skill -- and an art. I don't know that her public school instructors will ever teach her cursive in class.

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