Customer Reviews for

Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting

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  • Posted July 5, 2009

    Light, Learned and a Delight to Read

    5.0 out of 5 stars Light, Learned and a Delight to Read, July 5, 2009
    By Bill Marsano (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
    By Bill Marsano. In the New York Times' dailt crossword puzzle of July 3, the clue for 37 Across (seven letters) was "Calligraphy, some say." It was one of the last answers I filled in: "Lost Art." I hate to admit it, but it's true. And now here's Kitty Burns Florey to tell us some marvelous things about well, not calligraphy, exactly, but the plain and simple act of writing by hand with pen or pencil. Like me, she grew up in Catholic schools and was schooled in a writing style called the Palmer Method (she remains loyal; I have defected long since), so the subject is personal to her. To that she has added research and her own grace as a writer. The result is this absorbing, captivating and anecdotal book.

    Along the nicely illustrated way we learn plenty of interesting things. Who'd have thought that in early 18th Century London a clerk or a contractor would write so fine a hand that his bill "for work and materials" on a house in Tower Hill would be a thing of beauty in itself, preserved and admired to this day? Who'd have thought that the beautiful writing by commoners would spark a backlash amongst the upper crust, who would distinguish themselves from lesser folk by scribbling as sloppily as possible? That Copperplate, Spencerian and Palmer method were all "scientific" styles, distinct and replete with rules, rules, rules not only about the shapes of letters but proper posture for the writer and whence must come the light source?

    As a professional writer I am bound to my computer--even as I compose this review--as once I was to the typewriter, but still I write with a fountain pen every day (Parker Duofold, italic nib) and have a dozen other back-up pens. I use them all from time to time, to sign checks and letters, and especially to address envelopes. Here's why: everybody gets junk mail, and it's obviously junk. But suppose that in your daily stack you were to see an envelope that was just as obviously addressed by hand, by a real person? You'd open it first, of course. Lost art though it may be, calligraphy still counts in some places. Thank-you and sympathy notes must be hand-written. Some people even hire calligraphers to address invitations because the touch of a human hand means so much. (There are numerous computer typefaces that mimic handwriting. don't even dream of them. They are pathetic. )

    And so I recommend this book even as I forgive Ms. Florey for being a copy editor and for paying insufficient attention to Chanery Cursive, even as I recommend that you but this book and invest ten bucks more in a Sheaffer Mini Calligraphy Kit (also available from Amazon) so you can, after just a little practice, see what PERSONAL expression looks like.--Bill Marsano is an award-winning writer on travel, wine and spirits.

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    Posted April 22, 2009

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