The History of Formal Calligraphy has been thoroughly documented, and the demise of what people see as beautiful handwriting is frequently deplored, but the details of the teaching of this skill during this century have gone almost unrecorded. Everyday handwriting is ephemeral and school books soon disappear. It seemed important to write this history while those who learned to write at the beginning of the century, or taught the subject soon afterwards, can still tell of their experiences. The main purpose of this book is to create a historical record, however, techniques are illustrated that may be useful for teachers today, while the ever-changing views of the stylists provide examples, as well as a warning, to those who plan for the future.
An individual sample of handwriting reflects the writer's training, character and environment. Collectively, the handwriting of a population of any period is a reflection of educational thinking, but overall it is influenced and ultimately moulded by economic need, social habits and contemporary taste.
The intricate Copperplate of the eighteenth century writing master, reflects in one sense the skill training and leisure of those who lived and wrote at that time. The flowery decorativeness also speaks of the convoluted courtesies of the age, the gentleman's extravagant bow, the intricate yet controlled movement of the gavotte, the music of Handel, and the rococo tastes of the time. Like those social conventions, Copperplate hid under its deceptive air of grace and elegance a steely discipline. The writers were locked into a rigid movement. Only the unconventional and strongest characters broke away to develop an efficient personal hand.
Within the short space of the period covered by this present study, the changing educational policies, economic forces and inevitable technological advance radically altered the priorities and form of handwriting. These changes show in the models and examples throughout this book as an inexorable (though not entirely smooth) journey towards speed and efficiency. The downgrading of skill training and the freeing of children's creative talent have done the rest. You might say that at the end of the century we have the handwriting we deserve. That statement can be read several ways. It would be a pity to think that our students do not deserve to be taught strategies that enable them to write fast without pain. It might, however, mean that we are edging towards the flexible, efficient, personal handwriting needed to deal with the rapidly changing situation that is likely to face us in the next century.
Dr Rosemary Sassoon trained as scribe and designer, working mainly in the field of letterforms. Later, specialising in handwriting, she was awarded a PhD by the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication, University of Reading, for her work on the effect of models and teaching methods on the joins in children's handwriting.
As a researcher, and international lecturer, her many publications include: The Art and Science of Handwriting and Acquisition of a Second Writing System both published by Intellect, Handwriting the Way to Teach it, and Handwriting a New Perspective, published by Leopard Learning. She also researched and developed the Sassoon family of typefaces, originally meant for children and all educational purposes.
What others have said about this book…
“For those dedicated to recording the history, development, manufacture and use of writing equipment this book provides the long awaited link between the tools and the activity of handwriting. Rosemary Sassoon's comprehensive and enthusiastic research provides a feast of detail about man's constant quest after fluent and clear handwritten script.” - Michael Woods, Editor: Journal of the Writing Equipment Society
“The older history of handwriting has been extensively explored, but now we have a wonderfully comprehensive and very readable account of how handwriting has developed and been taught during the twentieth century. It will be fascinating reading for anyone concerned with the teaching of handwriting.” - Nigel Hall, Reader in Literacy Education, Manchester Metropolitan University
“Rosemary Sassoon's latest book is a must for anyone interested in handwriting. She writes the history in such a way that one easily grasps the reasons for the successes and failures of handwriting methods. Sassoon's latest book will help to improve handwriting instruction throughout the western world.” - Nan Jay Barchowsky, Calligrapher and handwriting specialist, Washington DC
1st edition1999, Pb, 208pp, packed with examples and illustrations, 17.5 x 24.5 cm