Author Topic: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!  (Read 1043 times)

Offline Zivio

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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.)
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Offline InkyFingers

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2022, 08:17:59 PM »
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


Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #2 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.

Offline Cyril Jayant

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2022, 04:53:22 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.


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.

Offline K-2

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2022, 10:04:27 PM »
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

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2022, 11:45:31 AM »
I am loving this thread! I started learning the more rounded version via Michael Sull’s text. And I am now amalgaming into the more angular version via Nina Tran’s class and studying the archives of newsletter tutorials. I was confused by these discrepancies at first as I didn’t discern the difference. But I knew there was “something” different. I feel like the rounded version allowed my work to be more sloppy. Once I began studying the more angular version, it “cleaned up” my Spencerian a bit.

I was also confused by the shading of Spencerian as I saw many examples that had more shade added than was instructed. I later learned that some people combine elements of Engrosser’s script into Spencerian as sort of a hybrid variation, similar to Madarasz’ script. But then learned it was considered ornamental penmanship and not necessarily Spencerian. This is my favorite.

In terms of preference, I see beauty in both.
Truly, Erica
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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2022, 07:35:25 AM »
I remembered a conversation with Bob Hurford at IAMPETH - and the angular caps are often associated with several styles that have the name Spencerian Ladies Hand. Bob noted that the ladies hand is a bit more compressed that the original Spencerian and it is a tiny bit more upright. His opinion was that the Ladies Hand was a variation that would allow a person to simply get more words onto the page without sacrificing any of the beauty of Spencerian.

If you Google *Spencerian Ladies Hand* you can find examples - and looking at a full page of it - does reveal a very nice texture. The original Spencerian can be gorgeous in a full page letter - but it also looks better if there are nice margins. With the Ladies Hand - you don't need wide margins. Maybe someone can come up with an example of each one - to illustrate the difference.

Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2022, 10:21:20 AM »
I remembered a conversation with Bob Hurford at IAMPETH - and the angular caps are often associated with several styles that have the name Spencerian Ladies Hand. Bob noted that the ladies hand is a bit more compressed that the original Spencerian and it is a tiny bit more upright. His opinion was that the Ladies Hand was a variation that would allow a person to simply get more words onto the page without sacrificing any of the beauty of Spencerian.

If you Google *Spencerian Ladies Hand* you can find examples - and looking at a full page of it - does reveal a very nice texture. The original Spencerian can be gorgeous in a full page letter - but it also looks better if there are nice margins. With the Ladies Hand - you don't need wide margins. Maybe someone can come up with an example of each one - to illustrate the difference.
From the New Spencerian Compendium of Penmanship, here are examples of both.
Principal differences in these examples:  Ascenders and descenders in LH are 4x-ht versus 2x-ht in medium script, and the use of recommended capitals (although there are many variations acceptable, as noted). Slant in each is the same. Difference in placement of the shades. Compression is about the same in standard form, but medium hand was written in many levels of compression, with the stretched versions of medium hand being common  (a la Madarasz) in the later 1800's.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2022, 11:01:46 AM by AnasaziWrites »

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2022, 12:18:11 PM »
That letter of credit is gorgeous!
Truly, Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2022, 08:01:08 PM »
@K-2  Yes, I think I’d seen somewhere that your expertise lies more with Medieval or Renaissance periods … or rather I’ve come to the conclusion that your are the consummate “Renaissance Man” from having read so many of your informative posts!  In any case, thank you for the interesting essay.  I’d not considered the “ideological impetus” perhaps lying behind a particular script.

Oh, and I think I got some plows for a nib!   ;D

@Erica McPhee I, too, am enjoying this, and any other civil and chatty exchanges of ideas, many on this very forum!   And I’ve never met a letter of credit I didn’t like – especially when endorsed to yours truly as bearer.

@Jean Wilson  @AnasaziWrites  Well this is interesting!   I’d encountered the “Ladies Hand …” before but hadn’t pored over them very closely.  This also goes to my (perhaps infelicitous) comment about whether one style or other has a particular sense of gender.  To me, what I called the “rounded” less angular style capitals had seemed more feminine.  But with these new examples, I can see that it’s not just the form or letter shapes, but compression, proportions, fineness of lines, etc. that speaks about the writer.

So much for the “angular” vs “rounded” style question.  As for my other questions, now having looked at more examples, I think it was off base to think that one letter form over the other could communicate any particular clues to the personality or person writing them.  There are just too many variations and alternatives and flexibility to even one of the forms to draw any conclusions based upon that. 


Even so, I did promise to answer my own survey later:

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

I’ve only recently learned the majuscules, and I began with the Mott Media materials for this, which was primarily the “angular style,” with some interesting changes in one of the copy books.  I have to start somewhere, and might take up the other later after making more progress.

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

I have no idea what this means!

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

Honestly, I prefer the “angular style.”  I became acquainted much later with the “rounded style” mainly through Michael Sull’s book.  It’s possible I was prejudiced because of the timing of seeing them. But then, in terms of artistic, decorating and fashion designs, I’ve always enjoyed geometrics, so maybe that’s it.

++ Does one or the other communicate any particular personality characteristics to you?  What is the first thing that comes to your mind – gut reaction?
 
Answered above … it’s more about the specific writer’s style, proportions, shading choices, fineness of lines, compression, purpose (business? Ornamental?) etc.  Can’t pin it down to the capitals alone.

++ What other characteristics come to mind if you more logically consider the writing?

On a quick glance, the angular style seems more rigid, controlled, serious … That tends to describe me at times which may also explain why I prefer it.
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Offline Starlee

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #10 on: June 17, 2022, 05:45:25 PM »
I too love this thread! I love the delicate precision of the first but the bold expression of the second exemplar. Which I use would depend on the spirit of the piece being created.

The last part of your survey really got me excited. I love this topic. I studied handwriting analysis in high school. Then, I thought for sure, you could tell personality traits from handwriting. Now, a couple of decades as a neuroscientist, I still think there is some logic there....but with some caveats. Handwriting reflects your state of mind. A scribbled note to ourselves will likely look very different from a carefully crafted thank you note to the boss vs a letter to friend. In addition, our thoughts and emotions are reflected in our handwriting. Where my mindset has shifted, is that instead of thinking the traits I perceive in the sampled writing (open, reserved, expressive, attention to detail, etc.) are immutable 'personality traits' of the writer as I did in high school, I now think it more a reflection of the individual's state of mind at that time. For example, a lot of mistakes can signal an otherwise normal person is distracted and thinking of other things than the act of writing (speaking from experience on that one....)

I don't think this applies to calligraphy as well as the whole point, expressive forms aside, is to typically stay true to the letterforms. And I have to confess, I think I am a terrible calligrapher. I am terrible at separating my feelings from my writing. As a result, I struggle with consistency despite my now 5+ years of practice.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2022, 05:47:41 PM by Starlee »
Star

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2022, 07:40:24 PM »
I totally agree Starlee about the expressiveness of the writing as a reflection of the writer’s state of mind. I see that myself in my own handwriting and calligraphy. It makes sense. There may be some traits which are analogous to personality (such as a left slant), perhaps.

BTW, you are not a terrible calligrapher! Your calligraphy has its own *consistently* gorgeous style!  :-*
Truly, Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2022, 08:10:12 PM »
… I thought for sure, you could tell personality traits from handwriting. Now, a couple of decades as a neuroscientist …

@Starlee  Thanks for this post -- you had me at neuroscientist and I stayed for immutable ‘personality traits’!   ;D   Early in my career, scores of years ago, I had discovered and fallen in love with psychometrics as used for employee recruiting, communications and team building. Many years later I encountered Annie Murphy Paul’s The Cult of Personality which argued how various personality tests/inventories/surveys are flawed ... or worse.  Apparently, it isn’t just handwriting analysis, but also assessment instruments specifically designed for the purpose of measuring elements of personality, that are tools too coarse for the job. Add to this more contemporary thinking about neurodiversity … we are complex systems, too fluid, too dynamic to assign any fixed or enduring attributes.  Big digression, but I got excited.

Your comment about calligraphy staying true to the letterforms makes sense which certainly could remove personality from the equation.  My interest in learning Spencerian is, I’ve often said to others, that one day my hand will compliment, and not detract from, the sentimentof my correspondence with loved ones.     

I love what you’ve shared!  It really helps me to think differently about my original thoughts and intention of this post.  I had been considering that a person’s handwriting in general may communicate something about them to the recipient. Your comments may put the lie to that line of reasoning.  Yet reading how it may rather reflect the writer’s state of mind at the time, gives me hope that it still may communicate something beyond the verbatim text … from empathic condolences all the way to the delight of an experience being described!  Certainly difficult to quantify, but it makes me think of how nonverbal body language and microexpressions support or detract from words being spoken. 

~Karl
« Last Edit: June 17, 2022, 08:13:32 PM by Zivio »
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Spencerian Capitals – Angular vs Rounded: HISTORY? – SURVEY!
« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2022, 10:02:19 PM »
I split this topic into a new topic for the handwriting study as it was way off the original post.  :)
Truly, Erica
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