Posts Tagged ‘spencerian penmanship’

vintage nibs and inkwell

Break out those fountain pens, fancy stationery sets, perfectly sharpened HB pencils. Take a moment to write a holoalphabetic sentence such as “The five boxing wizards jump quickly” or “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs” — these are also known as pangrams (sentences which incorporate all 26 letters of the alphabet). Write your chosen sentence not once or twice, but several times, and once you’ve done that, look over the sum total of your work. Do your J’s swoop? W’s dive below the baseline? Perhaps your penmanship looks similar to a doctor’s prescription, as opposed to the handsome script of your third (fourth?) grade teacher, the one who first introduced you to the idea of cursive writing. Each of these quirks make up your handwriting, a tool utilized every day and often taken for granted. Consider your handwriting to be a personal seal, almost like a fingerprint of sorts; your handwriting is unique to you. No one else can copy the way that you write. (Forgery — now that’s something altogether different…)

Many people consider Platt Rogers Spencer to be the grandfather of “fancy” lettering. This was a man obsessed with penmanship; as per WikiPedia: “Platt was passionately fond of writing and, because paper was difficult to obtain at the time, Spencer wrote on birch tree bark, sand, ice, snow, the fly-leaves of his mother’s Bible and, by permission of a cobbler, the leather in his shop”. In 1840, Spencer realized the need for a penmanship style which could be written both elegantly and efficiently, for use in matters of business and commerce. Over time, the Spencerian method of penmanship was adopted in school systems and became synonymous with standardized writing.

Take a look at your sentences one more time. Do you like your handwriting?

Many people are dissatisfied with one aspect or another of their handwriting. There are penmanship fixes, and they are usually pretty simple. For example:

–Chicken scrawl? S-l-o-w down a bit. The tendency to rush through a written message means that the end result will often look messy. As you write, pay attention to what you are writing and give it your full concentration. I know, I know: it sounds silly. But really, I promise — it will help.

–Perhaps there’s ink all over the page, or strange smears in all the wrong places. Adjusting the way that you sit or the angle of your writing hand may be the answer. Sometimes folks don’t even realize that they are gripping a writing pen too tightly or leaning forward at an awkward angle. Changing these routines may be the solution.

In the book “Script and Scribble” by Kitty Burns Florey, it is mentioned that Spencer’s last request was for his pen, and he passed away with it clutched in his hand. One can only wonder what his final written message was (I’m sure it is recorded somewhere…) but we can be certain that it was written in an immaculate hand.

Some further reading:

–“Spencer’s New Standard Writing“; scans of an original penmanship lesson book from 1884

–“Teach Yourself Better Handwriting” by Rosemary Sassoon

–“Handwriting in America” by Tamara Plakins Thornton

Want to try your hand at Spencerian script? John Neal Booksellers has all the tools, equipment, and instructional books that you would ever want or need

Happy Handwriting Day — go out there and write something beautiful!


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