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The Art of Writing by John Jenkins

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Ken Fraser:
The Art of Writing by John Jenkins

This little book which dates from 1813 contains superb examples of handwritten lettering in the English Roundhand (Copperplate) style.

The aspect and moderate shading is very close to that shown in "The Universal Penman" and I can think of no higher praise.
The extensive, descriptive text is well worth wading through...when you have an hour or so, to spare!

It's free for download on the IAMPETH site.


Thanks Ken! This book looks great!

Erica McPhee:
Thank you for the recommendation Ken. Wow, that is some extensive, detailed instruction. I like that the lettering is hand done, not so much engraved as in the Bickham text.

Hello Ken,

I was doing a search for Copperplate book's and found this thread. I downloaded 'The Art of Writing' last night and started reading it this morning.

This is a great little volume and I love all the examples that are provided. I am also enjoying the exercises for writing, in single lines and verse. I am still in my 'drills' phase so I will not be writing any of the lines anytime soon, but they put a fire under me to make sure I get my daily practice in.

Thanks for posting this book  :D

I realise this is a very old thread, but as the book @Ken Fraser kindly brought to our intention here is as old that it does not go out of fashion, I thought I'd post my questions here.

I tried to read a big portion of the text, as I am really interested in how writing of English Roundhand was taught back then. According to this text (over which I only skimmed), it was quite revolutionary in that Jenkins recommends learning the script by first analyzing and practicing the seperate strokes (as we are quite used to today when we try to learn Copperplate) as opposed to just copying texts.

I wonder if that is really true? Does anyone know something about that? I am curious because in some much earlier German writing manuals about Fraktur and German Kurrent, they also teach the »Zerstreuung« (dispersal, or fragmentaion) of the parts of which the letters are constructed. But it is true that in the Universal Penman and also in another, much smaller volume by Bickham (»Penmanship made easy«), we can only find some very short descriptions about how to cut pens, and how to write more generally, and nothing about basic strokes, or principals, or whatever.

The other thing I wonder about is if he used a broad or a pointed quill. The description of the quill cutting (the book was written before the invention of steel pens, the first issue appeared in 1791) is a bit confusing for me. Bickham still explains how to cut the quill »the breadth of the full stroke«, whereas Jenkins already writes about »Cut down the shoulders neatly to a point«, but then »cut off the point to form the nib«. Then »Both slit and nib must be in proportion to the size of the copy hand, which you mean to write«. Very confusing, especially because he also writes about »pressure and rise« of the pen, which sounds to me like »pressure and release«. He also talks about swell strokes on o, c and e (sounds like a flexible nib to me), but he says that »the hairline is drawn with the right corner of the pen« – which sounds like what you do with a broad nib.

I know that a quill is less stiff than a modern broad steel nib. So does he use a broad quill, that is still pressed a bit to flex it, or does he just use the breadth of the pen to make the body stroke …?

I am curious to hear if anyone has an idea or opinion about this.


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