The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting
  • Alternative view 1 of The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting
  • Alternative view 2 of The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting
  • Alternative view 3 of The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting
<Previous >Next

The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting

by Philip Hensher
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

When Philip Hensher realized that he didn't know what a close friend's handwriting looked like ("bold or crabbed, sloping or upright, italic or rounded, elegant or slapdash"), he felt that something essential was missing from their friendship. It dawned on him that having abandoned pen and paper for keyboards, we have lost one of the ways by which we come to

Overview

When Philip Hensher realized that he didn't know what a close friend's handwriting looked like ("bold or crabbed, sloping or upright, italic or rounded, elegant or slapdash"), he felt that something essential was missing from their friendship. It dawned on him that having abandoned pen and paper for keyboards, we have lost one of the ways by which we come to recognize and know another person. People have written by hand for thousands of years— how, Hensher wondered, have they learned this skill, and what part has it played in their lives?

The Missing Ink tells the story of this endangered art. Hensher introduces us to the nineteenth-century handwriting evangelists who traveled across America to convert the masses to the moral worth of copperplate script; he examines the role handwriting plays in the novels of Charles Dickens; he investigates the claims made by the practitioners of graphology that penmanship can reveal personality.
But this is also a celebration of the physical act of writing: the treasured fountain pens, chewable ballpoints, and personal embellishments that we stand to lose. Hensher pays tribute to the warmth and personality of the handwritten love note, postcards sent home, and daily diary entries. With the teaching of handwriting now required in only five states and many expert typists barely able to hold a pen, the future of handwriting is in jeopardy. Or is it? Hugely entertaining, witty, and thought-provoking, The Missing Ink will inspire readers to pick up a pen and write.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Abigail Meisel
Bemoaning the decline of the written hand smacks of fogyism, but the British novelist Philip Hensher…enlivens his musings about penmanship's demise with sharp insights and wry wit…Like a charming dinner guest, he brims with fun facts, good humor and amusing reminiscences.
Publishers Weekly
Attempting to document the value of handwriting and make the case against its disappearance, this book satisfies the former goal better than the latter. Novelist, columnist, and art critic Hensher (The Northern Clemency) sets out bemoaning the decline of handwriting in daily life, and his conclusion that handwriting should hold a spot in our hearts similar to that of cooking a meal from scratch, while sensible, arrives as predictable. The body of the work contains more interest than its bookends, examining how handwriting became a universal skill in Western society. Chapters on the Protestant-ethic genesis of copperplate and the pseudoscience of graphology, in particular, prove fascinating. Hensher punctuates this history with eight engaging though meandering short interviews with individuals and groups about handwriting in their daily lives. Overall, the book is not cohesive—the section on forgeries of Hitler’s handwriting, for instance, feels out-of-place, and a page-long anecdote about italic script, signifying for Hensher the preparation for death, is frustratingly murky. The value, limitation, history, and decline of handwriting are undeniably topics worth examining, but the book only fills half the glass of discursive possibility. 30 b&w illus. Agent: Georgia Garrett, Rogers, Coleridge & White. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“Rediscover the joys of writing . . . Like a charming dinner guest, [Hensher] brims with fun facts, good humor and amusing reminiscences . . . [He] enlivens his musings about penmanship's demise with sharp insights and wry wit.” —Abigail Meisel, The New York Times Book Review

“An ode to a dying form: part lament, part obituary, part sentimental rallying cry . . . Eloquent . . . There remains something wonderful about receiving a letter that has been physically touched--actually crafted--by the hands of your correspondent.” —Julia Turner, Slate

“Lively.” —Gregory Leon Miller, San Francisco Chronicle

“We all communicate, of course (tweet tweet tweet, and yack yack yack on the mobile), but not by pen and ink. Does it matter? I didn't have to read 274 pages to be persuaded that it does, but I am very glad indeed that those pages were written and that I have read them. From this book, the wisest and wittiest argument imaginable for the preservation of handwriting, I have learnt so much, and by it have been so happily entertained, that I am compelled to recommend it to everyone.” —Diana Athill, The Literary Review

Kirkus Reviews
Critic and novelist Hensher (Creative Writing/Univ. of Exeter; King of the Badgers, 2012, etc.) laments the loss of handwriting instruction and surveys the history of our love affair with the pen. After some introductory comments about the once-important but now diminishing significance of handwriting in our culture, the author zooms back a few thousand years for a glimpse at the invention of writing. He then gradually moves forward to look at the various styles and techniques and teaching philosophies that once rose, reigned and fell. He occasionally inserts minichapters (all called "Witness") that comprise interviews with people of differing ages, genders and professions discussing their handwriting, how they learned it and how they feel about it. (These are not the most riveting sections of the text.) Hensher looks closely at the methods that once were prominent--copperplate, Spencer, Palmer and others--and offers some surprising tidbits along the way--e.g., hand printing (as opposed to script) did not emerge until the early 20th century. The author also discusses the handwriting of significant historical figures ranging from Dickens to Hitler; talks about the role of handwriting in literature from Sherlock Holmes to Proust; charts the history of the quill, the steel nib and ink; and sketches the history of the "pseudo-science of graphology." He waxes ironic and amusing, too, several times suggesting that a person who dot his i's with little hearts is a "moron." The author ends with a wistful list of things we might do to save the dying art. Informative, amusing and idiosyncratic--just like an interesting letter written in unique hand.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780865478947
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
11/27/2012
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
441,127
File size:
1 MB

Meet the Author

Philip Hensher is a columnist for The Independent, an arts critic for The Spectator, and one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. He has written one collection of short stories and eight novels, including The Mulberry Empire, King of the Badgers, and The Northern Clemency, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize. He lives in South London and Geneva.


Philip Hensher is a columnist for The Independent, an arts critic for The Spectator, and one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. He has written one collection of short stories, a book on handwriting called The Missing Ink, and eight novels, including The Mulberry Empire, King of the Badgers, and The Northern Clemency, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He lives in South London and Geneva.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >