I’ve been looking at books of handwriting that talk about the history of the art as well as modern manuals that are supposed to help me improve my handwriting. Both of course are really quite fascinating.

The historical books, while somewhat dry, are leading me to believe that there is probably a very interesting story of intrigue and politics and religion in there somewhere. What the two manuals I have teach are the Italic script. The Italic originated in Italy–for some reason I never made the connection until it was spelled out for me–during the Renaissance. It is based on chancery script and can be both formal–for use in official documents and manuscripts–or informal–for everyday use in notes and personal letters.

The Italic sprang up and was made popular by the Humanists. They found the Gothic script being used in Germany and France too difficult to write and read. Legibility and ease became the rule of the day. Of course, there were handwriting masters and besides teaching handwriting, they tried to use geometry to come up with the perfect shape for each letter. Once printing presses became numerous though they started losing their jobs and began to complain about how no one could write legibly anymore.

My two handwriting manuals, Fluent Handwriting by Nan Jay Barchowsky and The Italic Way to Beautiful Handwriting by Fred Eager, are each useful in their own way. Fluent Handwriting has great exercises. Here are some of my practice sheets:


I found the Eager manual more useful in explaining things like which letters can be joined and how. He also made it a point to say that the writing in the book was only a model, real writing doesn’t, and shouldn’t, look like the model. Handwriting needs a model so one knows how to form and connect letters properly but after that, handwriting should be individual and full of personality. That helped me feel better since in my practice I was having trouble with o’s and d’s and I couldn’t quite get the angle of the baseline join right–mine were too round and then I’d overcompensate and make them too sharp. Here is my before and after handwriting sample (click for bigger size):

handwriting samples

I don’t think I had bad writing to start with though it could use some cleaning up. And there wasn’t a significant improvement, though I had only practiced and hour. I was also concentrating so hard on the second version that I forgot how to spell!

I will keep practicing a little more until some of the new things I learned become easier and more natural. I find that after so many years of handwriting habit behind me, changing it is a bit of a challenge. I feel sort of silly about it too. But it is fun to play now and then, so why not?