Author Topic: Spencerian vs. Ornamental Penmanship  (Read 5298 times)

Offline tintenfuchs

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Spencerian vs. Ornamental Penmanship
« on: June 28, 2014, 03:55:50 PM »
Hi folks,

I've been wondering for a while but was kinda too embarrassed to ask: What exactly is the difference?
I mean, when you look at the books by C.P. Zaner, called "ornamental penmanship" and the books by P.R. Spencer for what he calls Spencerian ... they're not really that different. And the two are often used synonymously ... so ... are they one and the same thing? Is the ornamental penmanship just the flourished version of Spencerian? Or is there a deeper difference I haven't yet discovered?

Hoping for insight ;)
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Offline AndyT

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Re: Spencerian vs. Ornamental Penmanship
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2014, 05:30:14 PM »
I think this is quite a tricky judgment to make at this distance, but no doubt back in the day all those penmen knew exactly where the dividing line lay.  I do make a distinction, and really it comes down to this: if you can write it with an ordinary not-so-flexible nib, it's probably Spencerian.

The things which characterise Ornamental Penmanship for me are: lots of contrast, with heavy shades and very fine hairlines; more use of variant lower case forms; often a steeper slant and wider spacing; more emphasis on the overall look of a page than immediate legibility; creative variations to the capitals including some novel forms.  You're quite right in my opinion that a lot of this is superficial, and the underlying fundamentals of the lower case in particular are the same.  The same can equally be said of business writing, which is why I'm so envious of people who were taught Palmer Method.

Offline Faeleia

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Re: Spencerian vs. Ornamental Penmanship
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2014, 08:16:47 AM »
I think what I really like it Ornamental Penmanship, the really swirly wirly over the top style, but the base of it is mainly spencerian, just more decorative and deliberate I believe. The regular Spencerian's supposed to be written at a brisker pace than copperplate, minimal shading (I actually think the shades really resulted from natural pressure that opened the tines than deliberate (but don't quote me on that), and I think with OP, the speed is slowed down again because you have to consider shades and placement of loops and design etc..

But it does seem like an interchangeable phrase when I refer to books..

Offline schin

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Re: Spencerian vs. Ornamental Penmanship
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2014, 01:21:51 PM »
Spencerian script is developed by PR Spencer as a way to standardize handwriting back in his day and make to writing easy to learn. It is very consistent and not very flourished or shaded or super swirly. He is more concerned with the fundamentals of letter forms. It is like a basic tea.. just hot water and dried tea leaves, real simple and fundamental..

Ornamental penmanship is an extension of Spencerian, once his students has mastered the fundamentals, they will want to add stuff to it to make it more exciting and as a way to show off their skill. So here comes the flourishes and swirls, every penman has his own style to show each other how much they have mastered Spencerian. So OP is like a starbucks green tea frap.. sugar, milk, cream, frothed, shaken, stirred with mint leaves etc etc.. but still basically a 'tea'..

Here is Mike Sull's definition of both terms:
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