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Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!

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Zivio:
HISTORY?

Early on I discovered there seem to be two different basic forms for Spencerian capitals.  Sure, there’s a huge variation and alternatives, but I’m speaking to what I’ll call the more “angular” style versus “rounded.”  Angular has those straight lines in the A’s, M’s, N’s.  Many rounded style caps have large and “easy” leading ovals and other features.
I’m very curious about the provenance and history of what looks to me like two very different foundational styles or starting places, both called Spencerian if anyone may shed light on this.

And @K-2 please free to engage in pedantry and wax pedagogical should you have insight into this topic – I absolutely love many of your prior posts where you’ve shared very interesting information!

SURVEY!

I’ve often encountered articles claiming one’s handwriting is a reflection of that writer’s personality, for better or worse.  How you write tells people who you are as much as what you write.  Makes me think of non-verbal communications compared to verbal.  And the impact of one’s SIGNATURE even more so.   I’ve seen this in the historical instructional books and Business Educator articles.

So I’m curious to hear your reactions to these two different styles of majuscules.  Feel free to answer any or none of the questions.  I really haven’t thought much about these myself but thought it might be fun to play.  I’ll answer the survey myself later, in any case:

++ For those who write Spencerian, which general style have you adopted?  Why?

++Does one or the other seem more Spencery to you?

++ Which style do you prefer aesthetically?  Love or hate anything about either? Why?

++ Does one or the other communicate any particular personality characteristics to you?  What is the first thing that comes to your mind – gut reaction?

++ What other characteristics come to mind if you more logically consider the writing? Not to prejudice your thoughts, but some ideas:  introvert/extrovert, artistic/scientific, openness/rigidity, warm/cool, conservative/liberal  …. gender (don’t want to start any fights with that one, but you may have a first thought, and I personally think Harry Styles “fluid” fashion sense is admirable.)

InkyFingers:
The two examples you posted are both Spencerian as you stated. One is more flourished than the other.  One would not use flourishes if the pen does not allow for flex.  For instance, with a Biro, I would lean toward the first example. I can extract a little of shading with a Biro.  If I had my fountain pen or when I use a dip pen, it would be the latter

jeanwilson:
I, too, prefer some fluidity - especially when it comes to caps with Spencerian.
Ideally, you learn all of them and then you learn which ones to use in a particular situation.
On your signature, the caps in your name need to blend with each other.
For me JMW - J has so many lovely ways to start - the MW needs to partner up - in a pleasing way.

On envelopes - you can use the more ornate versions on the name
and then give the postal workers a break and use less ornate caps on the street
then you may want to continue with a simple style or you can go crazy on the city/state
- because they won't read/need the city/state - if the ZIP is correct.

On a letter - you might decide how ornate vs simple based on where the caps pop up -
and the overall layout.

On a broadside (a name used for a piece of calligraphic artwork) the caps might be huge focal points.
Maybe some are focal points and others are more subtle.

The collecting of caps is one of the most enjoyable parts of Spencerian. Also, one of the most enjoyable parts of going to IAMPETH where you see others doing things like *The Killer O* - or flipping through books in the archive - making notes of caps you've never seen before.

Bottom line - start with a very simple set - for envelopes - then branch out into variations.

Cyril Jayant:

--- Quote from: jeanwilson on June 11, 2022, 12:53:35 PM ---I, too, prefer some fluidity - especially when it comes to caps with Spencerian.
Ideally, you learn all of them and then you learn which ones to use in a particular situation.
On your signature, the caps in your name need to blend with each other.
For me JMW - J has so many lovely ways to start - the MW needs to partner up - in a pleasing way.

On envelopes - you can use the more ornate versions on the name
and then give the postal workers a break and use less ornate caps on the street
then you may want to continue with a simple style or you can go crazy on the city/state
- because they won't read/need the city/state - if the ZIP is correct.

On a letter - you might decide how ornate vs simple based on where the caps pop up -
and the overall layout.

On a broadside (a name used for a piece of calligraphic artwork) the caps might be huge focal points.
Maybe some are focal points and others are more subtle.

The collecting of caps is one of the most enjoyable parts of Spencerian. Also, one of the most enjoyable parts of going to IAMPETH where you see others doing things like *The Killer O* - or flipping through books in the archive - making notes of caps you've never seen before.

Bottom line - start with a very simple set - for envelopes - then branch out into variations.

--- End quote ---


This Is a real simplification to have good  learning a curve.

Thank you Jean for this essence  of learning a calligraphy  style based on SPENCERIAN.
Even if you add one more different style as COPPERPLATE /ROUND HAND It will give you more flexibility to  go into the other when you feel board.

K-2:
Okay, @Zivio - here's your pedantry!

I'm not a specialist of the 19th century or of American culture, but here's what I generally understand about this issue about different styles of capitals and how Spencerian writing fits into its historical moment.

Platt Rogers Spencer developed his script in the mid-1800s, beginning in 1840 through the time of his death in 1864.  He established a school for the purposes of teaching it, through which it reached the common schools, and eventually became the standard script across the United States, retaining its hold until around 1925, when the typewriter finally supplanted it as the primary means for business communication.

Now, the middle of the 19th century saw some technological and social changes that Spencerian writing participates in.  First, the industrial revolution spurred great advances in steel.  On one hand, the new types of steel allowed for the westward expansion of the US, by making the prairie farmable through steel plows (invented by John Deere in 1840); previous plows were not able to turn the prairie soil.  On the other hand, the new types of steel and industrialization allowed for factory production of flexible steel pen nibs for writing (1820, Birmingham, UK), supplanting quills.  Spencerian writing gets developed as these steel nibs become widely available in the US.

Furthermore, P.R. Spencer was a great student and reader of American History and Literature.  Although he never went to college, he was well aware of the literary and philosophical trends of his era -- the era of American Transcendentalism (Emerson and Thoreau) and the American Renaissance (Hawthorne, Whitman, Melville), which represented the emergence of a new national US culture that specifically rejected what it thought of as stodgy old British ways.  The United States was growing and defining itself in all sorts of ways - colonizing the West with that John Deere plow, but also establishing the border with Canada and the border with Mexico in the 1840s as well.

So Spencerian script allows for quite a bit of individual variation, including capitals, because that was the prevailing philosophical mode - a national philosophy that emphasized individualism, self-expression, and freedom from constraints.  Spencer posited his free-flowing adaptable script in opposition to Copperplate, with its rigid and rigorous form, heavily associated with British conformity (note, this is the Victorian Era in Britain, with its corsets and strict etiquette and general prudery).  So the existence of so many variations of capitals, and the script's tolerance for individual variation and expressivity is actually a manifestation of the ideological impetus behind its invention.

I hope you have enjoyed this installment of pen pedantry!
--yours truly, K

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