:"Handwriting" redirects here. For scripts for writing down notes by hand, see "Cursive".Penmanship or handwriting is the art of writing with the hand and a writing instrument. Styles of handwriting are also called "hands" or "scripts".


Ancient Roman handwriting styles included Roman cursive, and the more calligraphic rustic capitals and square capitals, the latter of which forms the basis for modern capital letters and was used in stone inscriptions. With the fall of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages, new scripts developed from the old Roman ones, such as uncial and later blackletter. The Carolingian period saw the development of Carolingian minuscule, the basis for modern lower case letters, and the era saw a vast improvement in the quality of penmanship.

Carolingian script was more easily readable and led to the creation of new manuscripts. The period is often described as a Carolingian Renaissance. The 15th century Renaissance saw a return to the square capitals of the classical period and the minuscule of the Carolingian period, from which modern Roman-based scripts developed.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in part because printing replaced most formal communicationsFact|date=February 2007, handwriting became cramped, small, and difficult to read.Fact|date=February 2007 The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw another revival of clean formalized handwriting.Fact|date=February 2007 In the early twenty-first century, with the increasing popularity of electronic communication, some note a decline in the quality of penmanship similar to that brought on by the advent of printing. In the present time, handwriting tends to be a mixture of cursive and printing; some consider this as evidence of the decline of handwriting.Fact|date=February 2007

Forgery of a person's handwriting is a frequent occurrence and commonly appears in the legal court system. Signatures etc are analyzed by a questioned document examiner.

Books used in North America

Platt Rogers Spencer is known as the "Father of American Penmanship." His writing system was first published in 1848, in his book "Spencer and Rice's System of Business and Ladies' Penmanship". The most popular Spencerian manual was "The Spencerian Key to Practical Penmanship", published by his sons in 1866. This "Spencerian Method" was taught in schools until the late 1890s.

George A. Gaskell (1845-1886), a student of Spencer, authored two popular books on penmanship, "Gaskell's Complete Compendium of Elegant Writing" and "The Penman's Hand-Book" (1883).

Starting at the beginning of the 20th century, Zaner-Bloser Script and the Palmer Method, introduced by Charles Paxton Zaner (15 February 1864 - 1 December 1918) and Elmer Ward Bloser (6 November 1865 - 1929) of the Zanerian Business College and A. N. Palmer in his "Palmer's Guide to Business Writing", published in 1894, became the dominant copybooks in North America. Fact|date=February 2007 The A. N. Palmer Company finally folded in the early 1980s — Zaner-Bloser continues, and accounts for roughly 40% of handwriting textbook sales in the USA. Fact|date=February 2007

New scripts include D'Nealian Script and Getty-Dubay — both published in 1976. D'Nealian (named after its inventor, Donald Neal Thurber) uses a slanted, serifed manuscript form followed by an entirely joined and looped cursive of the typical American variety. Getty-Dubay (named after its inventors, Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay) uses a slightly slanted, optionally serifed Italic manuscript followed by a partially joined, unlooped Italic cursive with letter-forms similar to those of Italic manuscript. D'Nealian accounts for 40% of American handwriting textbook sales; Getty-Dubay, which accounted for less than 1% of American handwriting textbook sales in 1995, by 2003 had come to account for 7% of American handwriting textbook sales, and has reportedly continued this growth.Fact|date=February 2007

The remainder of the American handwriting textbook scene comprises more than 200 published textbook curricula, all differing from these and from each other in often confusing ways: particularly as regards cursive. (E.g., the cursive capital "T" of the Harcourt-Brace handwriting program closely resembles the cursive capital "F" of most other American handwriting programs and in fact looks much more like their "F" than it looks like the "T" of those other cursive programs.)Fact|date=February 2007

See also

* Calligraphy — the art of writing itself, generally more concerned with aesthetics for decorative effect than normal handwriting.
* Regional handwriting variation
* Palaeography — the study of script.
* Letterer - Comic book lettering
* Diplomatics — forensic palaeography (seeks the provenance of written documents)
* Sütterlin — German cursive writing, used from 1915 to 1941.
* Cursive — any style of handwriting in which all the letters in a word are connected.
* Graphology — the study and analysis of handwriting especially in relation to human psychology.
* Right-handedness
* Left-handedness
* Ambidexterity

External links

* [ Lessons in Calligraphy and Penmanship]
* [ An Elegant Hand: The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy] by William E. Henning, ed. by Paul Melzer
* [ The Golden Age of American penmanship] , including scans of the January 1932 issue of Austin Norman Palmer's "American Penman"
* [ Improving handwriting]
* [ Several scripts]
* [ Exercises and examples of French cursive penmanship]
* [ The Handwriting Is on the Wall; Researchers See a Downside as Keyboards Replace Pens in Schools] Article in Washington Post.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Penmanship — Pen man*ship, n. The use of the pen in writing; the art of writing; style or manner of writing; chirography; as, good or bad penmanship. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • penmanship — index handwriting, script Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • penmanship — 1690s, from obsolete penman copyist, clerk, scrivener (1610s), from PEN (Cf. pen) (1) + MAN (Cf. man) …   Etymology dictionary

  • penmanship — [pen′mənship΄] n. 1. handwriting considered as an art or skill 2. style or quality of handwriting …   English World dictionary

  • penmanship — /pen meuhn ship /, n. 1. the art of handwriting; the use of the pen in writing. 2. a person s style or manner of handwriting: clear penmanship; poor penmanship. [1685 95; PENMAN + SHIP] * * * …   Universalium

  • penmanship — pen|man|ship [ˈpenmənʃıp] n [U] formal the art of writing by hand, or skill in this art ▪ children practicing their penmanship …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • penmanship — [[t]pe̱nmənʃɪp[/t]] N UNCOUNT Penmanship is the art and skill of writing by hand. [FORMAL] …   English dictionary

  • penmanship — noun Date: 1695 1. the art or practice of writing with the pen 2. quality or style of handwriting …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • penmanship — noun the art or skill of good handwriting; calligraphy …   Wiktionary

  • penmanship — Synonyms and related words: autography, calligraphy, chirography, fist, graphanalysis, graphology, graphometry, hand, handwriting, longhand, manuscript, paleography, pencraft, penscript, script, scription, scrive, stylography, writing …   Moby Thesaurus

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