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Messages - sybillevz

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Everyday Handwriting | Penmanship / Re: WWI Journal page
« on: March 05, 2023, 09:04:01 AM »
Indeed this is a the French Ronde, with a slant. Maybe a local variation taught in school or a personal adaptation. I wouldn't say it reflects typical erchitect handwriting, but I haven't seen enough of those to be sure  ;)

At the time, Ronde was used by administration and Anglaise was more of a personal hand. But both were taught in schools, the Ronde probably after the Anglaise because it was more of a professionnal style.

Thank you for sharing!

@Vintage_BE the slant of writing is actually meaningless for speed, it has more to do with the angle of the paper relative to your arm and/or the table (flat or not). If 55° or 52° is difficult for you, try turning your paper until the slant line is alined with your forearm when you write. If you bend your wrist, then adjust the paper so that when you pull your writing tool towards the baseline it is aligned with the slantline.

The width of letters has more impact on speed : rounder turns are made slower and make it more difficult to link letters. I have a vertical handwriting (with oval letterforms) but I much prefer to do slanted calligraphy than vertical because turns are easier that way.
Angled turns are faster, as long as they're not pointed (because a sudden change of direction is harder than slowing down just a bit to turn). You need lots of precision for that.

I've read all sorts of things in old copybooks... the masters after 1800 invented a lot of BS to sell their methods.  ::)

Contrary to what is believed, cursive is not the most efficient way to write : mixing script and cursive is. It make connecting letters from below and above easier. Which is why many people eventually turn to a mixed handwriting, regardless of the style they learned in the first place.

What I gather from your comments is that maintaining beautiful penmanship is a choice.
Whether you decide to teach it to yourself as an adult or whether you decide to take care of the handwriting you were taught...

@jeanwilson in another post you mention seeing beautiful penmanship taught by nuns all over the world, and the fact that some of the people who learned these styles resent the way they were taught. Well, graphologically speaking these handwritings often convey a lot of suffering. But they also look like what good handwriting was perceived to be at a point in time.
There are generational "fashionable" handwriting trends that we can find all over the world and it even crosses the writing system barrier: for example in the 90's a researcher explained how japanese girl teenagers had a tendency to produce very round characters, and a British researcher reported the same thing at the same time... Then everyone noticed it in almost every school.

Anyway, I think it all comes down to speed:
- speed erodes form
- but it is needed, especially in early adulthood (when going to university for example)
- speed has been proven to be participating in the process of automating penmanship
- so if you let speed mess up your letterforms, it's likely that these "bad habits" will stick
- on the other hand, if you train yourself to find the right balance between speed and form, you're likely to automate nice penmanship
Handwriting is also a very personal thing, and our personalities evolve through life. So it's normal to decide or happen to make some changes over time. That is especially true for teenagers (or early 20's, whenever one wants to become their own, independent person).
After that, I guess it's about what you accept as your handwriting: it has to be satisfying by being either effective or beautiful or sometimes both.

I'm just trying to make sense of my love for penmanship and calligraphy: it's unpractical and frustrating and it demands a lot of work... but it's fascinating and so satisfying!
Now I just have to figure out how to transmit that love to younger generations  ;D

Everyday Handwriting | Penmanship / Re: The Belgian connection?
« on: February 27, 2023, 10:04:31 AM »
Not that I'm aware of, although we do have a rich history of bookmaking.
There is a "cluster" or calligraphers in Bruges, which was a place where lots of books were copied in the Middle Ages. Other than that, I wouldn't say we encourage our youngs to practice calligraphy. Many people don't know what calligraphy is or "what it's for"  ;D

Thanks for your reply @Cyril Jayant it's interesting to have your point of view.
I wonder, though, isn't a bit of self-critique necessary in order to approach the model, making sure your letters are legible and things like that? It's not about pointing out the things that are not good looking, but pointing out the things that aren't working.

I understand what you mean @jeanwilson although I have a different experience with changing my handwriting.
When I was 18 or 19, I decided to change my "schoolgirl cursive" hand and include new elements from the handwriting of someone I admired. That person uses print script, so I developed a semi-cursive hand, but it still has a few things in common with my original hand. I was able to adopt this hand very quickly, and now I can't do the cursive I had automated before.
The trouble with a continuous cursive is that it's really tiring. You also need to slow down when you make rounded turns, so it involves a lot of changes in the velocity, which is difficult to automate.

The process of making handwriting movement automatic comes partially through speed. So you'd need to consciously speed up and repeat the movements until they're right to make sure your brain and muscles do it right. It's a long process.

Thank you for sharing @Vintage_BE !
For strange cultural reasons the school model in French speaking Belgium is not exactly the same as the one in the Flemish part of Belgium.
One is inspired by the example of French schools and the other by the Netherlands I think (or germanic culture countries), which has the semi-angular turns that we also find in Spencerian.

I really appreciate your comment bout speed. I'm guessing it is the way handwriting will be seen in the future: only those who want to take the time will benefit from it.
May I ask how you use handwriting everyday? What do you write, if not personal notes and shopping lists?

The implications of this are intriguing!
Could homeopathy be a meaningful help for people who complain about their handwriting, then?

Hi @jeanwilson! I hoped you'd pitch in  ;)
I completely agree with you, especially about this :
IMHO  penmanship teachers who insist that everyone conform to a certain set of shapes rob students of any enjoyment they might have had.

It's precisely what I find tricky about teaching handwriting: a model is necessary but schools have conform to the constraint of the "cultural model". "you have to know the rules before you break them" also applies with handwriting. So children need to understand the model (and most of all what makes a given letter legible / illegible) before they can add personal variations. And this is where I have a problem with the French cursive model: people are attached to antiquated forms that are difficult to make for small fingers (looped ascenders and capitals), some forms are a constant source of problems.
There's also the problem of neatness vs speed / continuity of stroke: teachers who want neat handwritings teach "discontinued letters" (pieces of letters that make a whole thing, like we tend to do with copperplate and formal calligraphy styles). But then, the kids need to be precise. Those who manage are slow, and the letters lose their structure when they have to speed up.

So the trick is to show correct shape and ductus without focalizing too much on that.

@Starlee Your comment is very interesting and right on point!
Self-critique is definitely something important, but we have to keep in mind that most of the kids that come to rehabilitation hate handwriting. They had to endure mean comments and sometimes punishments because of it. Some love it but they're too slow because what they do is calligraphy: people tell them they write beautifully and they don't want to give that up.

You are right to point out that physical inability is underlying most problems that I see. Rehabilitation involves a lot of physical training. The lack of knowledge can only be addressed after correct movement has been made possible. But is has to be part of the process in many cases, mainly because the model is complex.

So yes, I do think calligraphy practices can help and it can bring a bit of colorful enjoyement in the rehabilitation, but I'll have to be cautious about framing the target exercises properly.

Thank you both!

Wow, thank you all for your input!

There are several things that come to mind when I read about your experiences:

1. To answer @InkyFingers : language and geography influences the writing style that is taught in schools, because we have different cultures. The American cursive handwriting is descended from spencerian, while the cursive we use in France and Belgium is closer to English roundhand. Few people here would recognize a capital I or G in BP...

2. Teaching children how to write is very different from learning a new writing system as an adult. Adults are more methodical and should have fully developed their fine motor skills, while kids need to be entertained and don't always have the fine motor skills required to have a mature penhold (we spend a lot of time working on that, even with teenagers). This difference also explains why your hand and brain are still separating cursive and spencerian: one was taught to you as handwriting when you were a child and the other was studied when you were grown up. Each style / tool sparks different connections in your brain.

@Erica McPhee : kids need to make sense of what they're learning and they don't enjoy just repeating letters and doing drills! We seldom practice letters on their own because of this, but it's also important to not focus on form and give attention to movement : so we would practice a basic stroke (begin with the loop), do a few lines of loops, differenciate between a small and a big loop, and when the child is comfortable with the movement, we show them how to transform their loops into letters and how to write words. With e and l, we can write "le" and "elle" in French... we're lucky.
You'd do the same with other basic strokes (the i, the oval, the inverted oval is useful to introduce the arch,...) and gradually introduce new letters and build bigger words.

3. @TeresaS You're not the first calligrapher to see that their handwriting deteriorated after learning calligraphy. For one, you're probably writing too fast, maybe to compensate for the slow movements of calligraphy. Speed is one thing and rhythm is another: don't just slow down, think about what you're writing.
My theory is that the study of letterforms makes us so familiar with form and movement that we are actually able to write faster (our brain can process the movement faster than before), but we just go too fast and lose rhythm and jumble all our strokes together... That's just from my own experience.

4. @InkyFingers can you write Italic as fast as your normal handwriting? Italic was promoted by calligraphers and typographers (adults) because it's neat and legible, but it's not as efficient as a cursive and children tend to distort the letters (they're too angular, children find it easier to write rounded curves).

5. @Zivio thanks for sharing these resources, they're very interesting! However, as I said, this works well for adults, but I doubt that children adhere to such exercises. We do timed drills (they write as many loops as they can within one minute) and I use a metronome, but they don't love it.

Handwriting is a very complex thing, so there's a lot to unpack!
Thanks for your comments, they're helping me see clearer ;-)

Hello dear friends,

It's been a long time since I posted here, but I'm glad to be back with a question!

I'm currently working on a dissertation that will help me graduate and officially become a "graphotherapist".
In France and Belgium, it's the name given to occupational therapists that specialise in problems related to handwriting. We mostly help children and teenagers who have illegible / painful / slow handwriting.

My dissertation is about using the calligrapher's approach of studying and practising a writing style (from the beginning to developing personal variations) to support the rehabilitation process.

So my question to you is: how, as calligraphers, do you approach a new writing style? What are the different steps that you take? And do you think these steps can help learn new handwriting habits?

My own steps are :
- Finding an appropriate model
- Studying the proportions and making guidelines that will support my practice
- Studying and practising the fundamental strokes
- Practice drills to loosen up and acquire a good general movement and rhythm
- Studying the letterforms by groups: this includes the correct letterforms and their variations, but also finding out the limits of what can be done with them, often made mistakes.
- Joined letters (minums and words by groups of letters then mix it up)
- Hard to join groups of letters
- practice at different sizes (with handwriting the goal is to ultimately write with a 2-3mm x-height max)
- practice as much as possible, with various mediums (project ideas?)

For handwriting, speed is very important. From my experience, it comes from regular practice and drills. So I start slow and gradually become more comfortable and I can write a bit faster. Do any of you have any tips to introduce more speed ?

Has your experience with calligraphy helped you in any way with handwriting?

I guess that's more than just one question... But I'd love to know what you think!

Hello Lucie,

It all depends on what you want.
If you're specifically looking for copperplate exemplars, I suggest you go to this post on my blog.
It's a list of my favorite copybooks on the subject. It should help you pinpoint the kind of copperplate you would like to work on (you'll see that the style changes from the Universal Penman in 1741 to 19th century French / Spanish / American interpretations of the hand).
I would just also add this book to the list, I don't know why it's not in there...: BECKER (George J.), Becker’s ornamental penmanship, 1854. (

Once you know which style you like, I suggest you stay on the same site and visit the Bibliography (choose the time and place that fits your needs), where you'll find links to many more copybooks.

If you're looking for a mix of different hands, models to choose from..., then I suggest:
TSCHICHOLD (Jan), Treasury of calligraphy, 219 great examples 1522-1840
JESSEN (Peter), Masterpieces of calligraphy, 261 examples, 1500-1800
Both books were published by DOVER and are not published anymore, you should be able to find them on the secondary market.

If you're comfortable with French, I recommend Claude MEDIAVILLA, Calligraphie. It's a big book with nice examplars (although they're not very practical to use) and beautiful photos, there's also lots of info on the history and the penmen.
There's no mention of Spencerian in either of these books: you'll have to look for the book Erica mentioned, or Michael Sull's Spencerian script volume II (volume I is also interesting, but with less models).

Good luck!

and thanks @Estefa for mentioning Penna volans  ;) !

Introductions / Re: Hello from Sao Paulo, Brazil!
« on: July 16, 2020, 02:29:02 PM »
Thank you for mentioning it @Erica McPhee   :)
I did a manual for a class I was teaching, I still have a few! As Erica mentioned, they're in French.
The easiest way is to send me an email or private message and we'll get through the other steps together...

Ooh, I should come her more often, this conversation is interesting @AAAndrew !

I'm not sure I can add anything to what you've both said already, though.
The French texts sometimes use the term oblique which is one of the appropriate words to describe this in French, so I never really paid attention to it. It just never occured to me that "oblique" might not have been the first word that comes to mind in English to describe this kind of cut...

As I said, some French masters use the word but it's not systematic. Most of them just describe the cut as being done in a diagonal or slant, or just specify that  one tine should be longer than the other.
in 1680, Alais de Beaulieu (who was one of the famous copybook authors), calls one of the positions "oblique", he doesn't say much about the cut itself. The pen-holds he cites are "à face" (pen slit is perpendicular to the line), "oblique" (pen slit is at an angle), "de travers" (pen slit is almost hoizontal to the line)  and "inverse" (what we'd call today the off-hand pen hold). But he prefers using "oblique" to get the same effects as "inverse"... I think he just means it's more comfortable and gives the same thick-thin potential.
Royllet in 1737 uses the word "obliquité" (obliquity ?) to describe the cut. (Démonstration de l'art d'écrire, 1737)
In 1763, Paillasson uses the word "oblique" to describe the nib cut but, as @Estefa said, it's not very precise. The word oblique just means "slanted" in this case.

The British Masters at the time were more inclined to criticizing one another than to writing stuff that would have successfully helped people learn on their own... Those who describe the tip of the pen just say that some scripts necessitate a tip "with the part which lies next to the Hand (the writing itself) when you write, be small matter the shortest and narrowest." An illustration in George Shelley's second part of Natural writing makes this description a bit less "obscure".
None of them use "oblique" to describe this cut, some call it the French cut.

By 1730, all the books that describe the cut of the pen advise the use of a square cut for Round Hand. Bickham writes that he still uses an oblique cut for running hand and mixt secretary (the left side of the knib be rather shorter than the other). Other hands also call for other kinds of obliqueness described in the same manner. (The Surrey and Southwark writing-master... , c.1750)
After this, I only see masters who reccommend the use of square nibs, or finer points.

Of course, this is only for quills... All the masters seem to agree that cutting a pen is more an art than a science, every penman will have a cut that fits his own position or style.

I don't have any information regarding steel nibs themselves. I guess you could have more information by asking a collector. Looking at "left-handed" nibs section, I don't see a lot of French manufactured nibs, or mentions of the word "oblique".

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: French Roundhand Exemplars?
« on: July 27, 2019, 03:34:40 PM »
@Estefa I've come to believe that things are never simple when it comes to the evolution of scripts : every single calligrapher has his own style, some are just more quiet about it than others.... Soennecken saw an opportunity to market this script (which I think bears more "gothic" characteristics than the French ronde you can see in Paillasson's exemplars), he wasn't quiet about his own style and probably sold many nibs thanks to his marketing skills.
The thing is, the official French Ronde that was used in late 19th- early 20th century is closer to Soennecken's examples than to Paillasson's...

This is something that we can still see today : some calligraphers will make minor tweaks to a standard copperplate and call it their script... Maybelle Imasa is a name that comes to my mind today but there are others. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, though. I'm happy for the calligraphers who manage to make a living out of their craft, whoever they are ;)
... I'm just not a good marketer  ;D

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