Saturday, April 20, 2013

The pen and the keyboard

Charlotte Allen doesn't much care for the book she is reviewing about the disappearance of cursive handwriting, but she does use the opportunity to provide interesting information. For instance I had no idea (although I probably should have) that "italic" script originated in Italy.
.... During the 15th century, the Italian humanists developed a graceful script that slanted obliquely to the right and featured the joining of letters. This “italic” penmanship, one of whose virtues was that it allowed the writer to lift his pen from the page less frequently, and thus write even more speedily than the Gothic scribes, became the basis of modern cursive.
One of its offshoots was “copperplate,” so named because it was modeled after a hand used on copper engravings, whose clarity and delicate flourishes made it the dominant script of the 18th and 19th centuries in England and America (the signed fair copy of the Declaration of Independence was executed in copperplate), and it lives on among calligraphers. 
During the 1840s, an American, Platt Rogers Spencer, developed a simplified form of copperplate and also set up a school for teaching his new style of penmanship. Thanks to the energy of Spencer and his disciples, who traversed the American heartland promoting their invention, Spencerian script—most famously preserved in the Coca-Cola and Ford Motor Company logos—became the American standard until the 1920s, when the typewriter rendered it otiose for business correspondence and the Palmer method supplanted it in schools. Now, even the Palmer method—along with every other handwriting method—is on life support....
I’m now one of the few human beings I know who still corresponds with a pen on stationery. (Whether anyone can read what I write is a different story.) .... [more]
She writes that increasing numbers of school districts no longer teach cursive — concentrating instead on keyboarding.

It has been years since I wrote a letter in cursive and my handwriting is increasingly terrible. Even my signature is becoming less legible. Almost everything I write is through the keyboard even though I never learned touch typing. I don't miss writing in cursive but I would miss not being able to read it. It will be another sad disconnect with the past when we can't read our grandparents' letters and journals.