I love watching people do calligraphy and I’ve seen it included in “satisfying” compilation videos. Even just writing with a good pen (I prefer 1mm smooth gel!) makes me happy. I wish I took more notes by hand. I have so many journals and composition books I buy - because I have an office supply fetish I occasionally indulge but mostly keep in check - and then feel anxiety about “ruining” them by writing on the pages…
I have a thing for making lists. Shopping, things to do, ideas for a game, favorite songs of the moment.
(Random musing mode on)
Anyway I like handwriting too. I use different styles depending on the content, and how focused I feel. Block, cursive and shorthand all come into play. Practised some Runic alphabets last year which was fun.
Had a fountain pen and ink pot when I was a boy. Our school desks had holes for ink pots, and many desks stained black where spills left their stories. We didn’t use ink in school, so thinking on it now, those desks must have been ancient.
Decades ago I had a friend throughout junior and high school. He was a very talented artist and went on to become a professional. I was amazed by his writing. He could write beautiful script and calligraphy on the fly. It was so effortless for him. Beautiful.
I don’t get the opportunity to handwrite much anymore, but I’ve always aspired to that cool architectural triangular script you see on blueprints. (This is an example from a real architect.)
What it kind of turns out to be is just ‘Default Dude Blockscript’ which looks a lot the same as how my Dad writes (all in upper case, non cursive.)
Sophia has posted many examples of handwriting and I’m not surprised: her writing could almost be a font.
[probably going to split this to a new topic]
Very relateable. This is in large part why I picked up the hobby of keeping a diary, (when I feel up to doing so, though if I’m focusing a lot on my creative work, then the amount of writing by hand I do in my notebooks for that satisfies the itch), so I wouldn’t accumulate too much (paper, notebooks, pens, inks, stickers…) It’s been a very satisfying experience in determining my preferences and finding the combination that elevates writing from the mundane to an experience.
That being said, something kind of random that helped me with overcoming that fear (for the most part) is when I started looking around at scans of old monk manuscripts. The kind that they illustrated with silly snails and inky paw prints from cats, and uncouth marginalia. When people flip through those books- sure, the actual content is interesting, the illuminated letters pretty: but I find that most lay people are far more interested in seeing the little silly insights into how people have always basically been people, and really enjoy the little ‘defacements’ along the edges or along the spines.
The only wasted journal is a pristine one. Nowadays, they’re so mass produced, it’s not really inherently special just by existing. But what is special is the way you choose to use the book- your handwriting is your own, after all, and even alternate instances of you in parallel timelines might have written about something else on the same page, or shaped their A’s slightly differently…
When I pick up books from the second hand and antique shops, the most fascinating ones are books that used to belong to someone else. It’s quite rare to find one intact- often the clerks (or perhaps the families) will rip out the guts and thin out the pages before handing them off to be sold, but when you do, it’s a wonderful look into how someone else lived: and that’s the real magic, connecting with someone else who you might be separated from with goodness knows how much time and space.
I’ve found old journals from people’s wedding planning, a young woman’s diary after she had passed, a slim prayer book: and I always regretted the fact they had been emptied out and ripped away before I could get to ‘meet’ their authors. (For very understandable reasons, some of them were bound to be deeply private and personal, but it does leave so much room for the imagination to fill in the gaps…)
It helped set it a bit into perspective for me. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s just a book. What matters are the words we put into it, not just the opportunity it presents, sitting tucked away neatly on its shelf.
I love looking at handwriting from people pre-printing press eras. Their handwriting is immaculate and stylized.
(One of my favorite jokes in 1776 is John Hancock is the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence and the response when he shows it is (something like) “John, why’d you take up half the page? Now there’s practically no room for anyone else to sign!”
I once found a box of letters in my grandma’s basement. After glancing through it, I discovered a good deal of them were between my grandpa and a woman who was not my grandma! They were all dated in envelopes and at some point I did the IF thing (it was like the ultimate feelie!) and sorted them in chronological order and read what became practically an epistolary novel of their relationship and family issues happening around it - my grandma is even mentioned as another person he was dating and there are side-plots between other members of the family who sent him letters. Grandpa’s paramour always signed and dated that her letters came from the “City of Love” - I totally should have preserved them and made a coffee table book called City of Love
One of the other fun things I discovered: apparently writing paper was “scarce” in the 30’s and 40’s so they would do things like write only on one side of the paper and the recipient would flip it and write their reply on the backside of the original. Or families would each take a turn writing their section of the letter, or they’d include multiple letters in one envelope to save postage. One missive was written completely sideways in the margins of another letter that took up the rest of the paper.
I love this stuff too, but I’d say there’s a real difference between handwritten documents that were prepared with an eye towards publication/publicization, like the official versions of the Declaration and Constitution or even much of the correspondence written by significant figures who knew their letters would be passed around or saved for posterity, and more personal, jotted-off stuff. In the former case there’d usually be an initial draft that after revisions would be turned into a “fair copy” meant to look nice; in the latter case, you’d get to see all the stray ink, cramped spacing, and scribbled words that went into the process.
It’s still much more legible than the awful scrawl most of us, myself included, can produce these days, don’t get me wrong. But it’s still not exactly a pleasure to read – I wrote a long paper in law school based on reading through of John Jay’s papers from the five years he was Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation, and I definitely gave myself a headache squinting my way through all the memos where he was complaining about not having a budget for office furniture, or begging his aides to try to scrounge up copies of the legal codes of the various states so he could know what their relevant laws actually were, or trying to wrangle the diplomatic incident with the Netherlands caused by a guy who’d kind of self-appointed himself the local American envoy deciding to meddle in domestic politics.
(I had a ton of fun with that paper – you read about the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, but it’s a whole other thing to get a bureaucrat’s-eye-view of the car crash).
Agreed, yeah. The Declaration of course was formally lettered…
On July 19, 1776, the Continental Congress ordered the Declaration of Independence to be engrossed—or written out in a large legible hand. Timothy Matlack , a clerk in the Pennsylvania State House, was the scribe charged with this task.
…but what’s interesting is it’s legibly and carefully written in cursive except for headings and important words that have ornamentation. Cursive is becoming a lost art.
Another amusing fact - many times in the City of Love letters, multiple people repeatedly apologized for their poor or “hard to read” penmanship (often due to dim lighting or illness or exhaustion or mental state) when to me it always was immaculate cursive script that could be straight off a wedding invitation.
One of them was even from a nephew who was “still learning to write” and it was on the school newsprint paper with wide-lines and a dashed alignment midline exactly as you’d picture in huge letters with all the a’s and e’s backwards!
I thought it might be fun to share some random recent handwriting samples.
My writing is very round, I think? And the lettering is mostly consistent. When I was younger, people always wanted to work on group assignments with me because I could do the cool bubble lettering for the top of our posterboards.
Also, I was taught cursive as a child, so I can still read it. However, I was never really able to properly shape my ‘R’ and the ‘S’ often gave me trouble too. I can’t really write it without having to look at a guide to re-acquaint myself with some of the trickier letters, but I can/my normal handwriting when I’m in a rush can superficially resemble it sometimes when I join letters.
And these are my current main notebooks, the blue one is for drafting, the decorated one is my diary:
Check out The Universal Penman, basically a British early 18th century zine to show off good handwriting. These people were doing this with quills.
(There’s a fairly affordable Dover reprint in paperback.)
“Morganatic” is an enticing title! I mean, terrible concept in reality, but rife with narrative potential and it’s just a cool-sounding word.
This is an interesting phenomenon. Without intention to gender-stereotype, all through school and most of my life it was often surprisingly easy to know from a glance that something was written by a woman. It may just be that girls at my school all wanted to mimic each other but it’s not limited to my neighborhood and students likely carry their learned handwriting into adult life.
“Girl” printing tends to be all curves - very rounded and vertically aligned with very few points or slanted strokes. Often dots over the letter
I would be circles instead of stabbing the paper (Walt Disney and his unique - now copyrighted - font also included spiral strokes instead of dots.) I have actually seen men’s handwriting that I mistook for “girl font” and I have also known one or two women with horrible “chicken scratch” penmanship.
All the boys I was in school with often wrote terrible cursive (we were usually not allowed to print a handwritten essay) if there was a cool “boy font” it usually veered more toward the architectural type of printing (very angular with sharp strokes) though usually not as skilled. If a guy had neat handwriting it usually meant they enjoyed writing, which was rare in grade and high school.
I also was very impressed in high school when girls showed me notes from their Shorthand classes (I think maybe one guy took Shorthand, which is condensed note-taking language primarily used by secretaries and legal clerks who often needed to make notes with someone talking at normal speed and then transcribe it verbatim) because it was whimsical and beautiful and a completely alien language:
(I believe every character is an entire word, or made up of connected syllables for maximum speed.)
Penmanship is likely psychological and attitudinal and not gender-specific - people who are more communicative likely cared more about what their writing looked like. Girls in my school were always writing stuff, and guys rarely passed notes or wrote unless they had to.
Thank goodness I learned to type!
Imagine if everything you wrote looked like a wedding invitation!
From The Universal Penman:
(A philosophical aside on words and meaning, no doubt inspired by the author’s strongly held conviction that if one wishes to communicate meaning to another person through the written word, that word bloody well better be legible, and preferably aesthetically pleasing while one’s at it.)
“Words are those Channels, by which the Knowledge of Things is convey’d to our Understandings: And therefore upon a right Apprehension of them depends the Rectitude of our Notions; and in order to form our Judgments right, they must be understood in their proper Meaning, and us’d in their true Sense, either in Writing or Speaking.”
Also, this is abstractly really funny to me- the singular most persistent comment (after ‘a pleasure to have in class’) I got every single year throughout elementary to highschool was ‘needs to improve handwriting.’ My handwriting has more or less looked the same all my life, but it was always the one piece of feedback I got smacked on the wrist for, because it was considered ‘unclear’ and ‘untidy’ and ‘unreadable.’
On the shorthand, the glyph is clearly inspired by tyro shorthand (little known fact, mid-late Empire/early Dark Ages the Western world was on the verge of shifting from alphabet to ideographic/syllabic writing, because of the diffusion of the tyro shorthand)
Generally speaking, my writing is a bit compact, albeit with age is less compact than before…
Best regards from Italy,
My handwriting is solid and serviceable, not particularly decorative, and I still get to practice it reasonably often because I have multiple penpals who use pen and paper.
Mine started out terrible and gets worse every year. I’m not allowed to even fill out price tags because it’s so bad. And I’m no longer allowed to leave Tom handwritten notes because he can’t read them. Text or email only. It’s really, really bad.
For the last couple years I had a phase where I got really into handwriting, and my penmanship went through multiple phases. Now it’s settled (mostly because I switched from hand-written notes to digital), but it’s much messier than it was before and I kinda wish that I could get back to that handwriting.
I have a huge box of nice office supplies (mostly pens/highlighters) that I’ve bought for myself or gotten as gifts. They were sitting in my daily pencil case until I realized that I’m “saving” them and they were taking up too much space. Now they sit in the box, forgotten.