I am a firm believer that handwriting and its practice is important for a lot of reasons. It is an excellent way to learn fine motor control. It has been shown to improve thinking skills in children. You do it with a pen – no need for a computer – paper, too. Writing implements and paper run from super cheap – hey, steal that pen you use at the office! – as is paper – to crazy expensive.
Jake Weidmann’s Ted Talk is worth the watch – so many reasons presented as to why penmanship and writing are so important. There is history, there is pleasure, there is beauty, there is – there is – there is.
And then, yesterday, for whatever reason, I came across a 7-day course on learning Secretary Hand, the hand of scriveners, scribes, clerks, and everyday people who needed to write things down 500 years ago. I began today..I thought I would write down my thoughts about it using my homemade iron gall ink and a genuine, hand cut quill. Read it if you want some more information. The recipe I used to make my own ink is here – and it is still fine a year later!
This is my first exercise, with notes to myself as to how various letters were made in the 1600s as opposed to in the 2000s. Back then, the alphabet consisted of 24 letters, not our 26. I and J were interchangeable, as were U and V. There are different ways to make various letters, such as the S, depending on the letter’s location within a word. H can be made in the way we recognize it today, or in a form of shorthand that lends itself to quicker, more casual cursive.
And finally, here is a sample of my alphabet in cursive. The top sample is using my homemade ink and using a dip pen nib from the 1800s along with my nib holder from the same era. The bottom sample is with the same ink but with a quill pen.
My own lessons in cursive began in third grade. The style we learned was very typical for American school children, based on the Palmer Method of handwriting, the goal of which was a clean, functional, and easy-to-read handwriting. I’ve changed a few of the letters around, to suit my taste, such as the capital A, M, N and Q – they are based upon the letters in the Spencerian alphabet. Additionally, they lend themselves more readily to writing with a dip pen, fountain pen, or quill in my opinion.
Cursive is designed for speed in writing. As someone who taught for several years, I find it appalling that kids today say, “I can’t read your handwriting,” meaning cursive. They print. Sometimes they are told they have to print since their cursive is abominable, and a computer and keyboard and printer are not available.
So, Secretary Hand will continue to be practiced. It’s fun to learn something new, as well as by learning how to write it, I will actually be able to read documents from the early modern times of the 1500s-1600s! Sounds pretty cool to me.
More to come!