Author Topic: Why Spencerian?  (Read 33204 times)

Offline ItzmeNeng

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #15 on: August 31, 2014, 09:31:38 AM »
 :) ive noticed it too, but i like to learn the spencerian though i find it hard, but still im trying cuz i want to change my writing, i love the slanting of the letters....
I've noticed that there are many members who are interested in Copperplate and Modern Calligraphy, as well as others, and the interest in Spencerian seems rather small by comparison.

Why do you like Spencerian? Is it one of several hands that you've learned? Where did you first learn about it?

The calligraphy books I've found in stores make no mention of it at all. I first saw Spencerian online, although I don't remember where. I just know that I instantly fell in love with it and knew that I had to learn it.

I think I'm drawn to the oval shapes and the slant. It looks so neat and organized. Maybe that has to do with being a system, rather than a typical alphabet, as I understand it. I know that I'm drawn to it strongly enough that I've made a commitment (to myself) to put in the time to learn it properly and thoroughly. It's obvious that the amount of time this takes will not be insignificant!

Looking forward to learning from all of you and seeing more of your work,
Denise

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #16 on: August 31, 2014, 10:21:43 AM »
I guess most books don't talk about spencerian because it's not so ancient. Some books don't even consider copperplate...

That's usually the case with British calligraphy books - it's the curse of Edward Johnston.  Ordinarily there will be a brief mention of copperplate (never, ever Spencerian), often with a dismissive reference to pointed pens and the "debased" penmanship of the Victorian era.  Recently I came across a book (which has its good points, to be fair) which starts out by defining calligraphy as "letters produced by the means of a square ended implement".  So that's us told then.   :(

Offline Ken Fraser

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #17 on: September 01, 2014, 03:00:26 AM »
That's usually the case with British calligraphy books - it's the curse of Edward Johnston.  Ordinarily there will be a brief mention of copperplate (never, ever Spencerian), often with a dismissive reference to pointed pens and the "debased" penmanship of the Victorian era.  Recently I came across a book (which has its good points, to be fair) which starts out by defining calligraphy as "letters produced by the means of a square ended implement".  So that's us told then.   :(

AndyT

If you find that irritating, you're going to love this quote!

"In the early years of the century, attempts to reform handwriting were made.......however, less beneficial influences - the Spencerian copybooks and the Palmer method of business writing - held penmanship in their mechanical grip well into the twentieth century."

Heather Child "Calligraphy Today" 1988

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #18 on: September 01, 2014, 06:02:26 AM »
If you find that irritating, you're going to love this quote!

"In the early years of the century, attempts to reform handwriting were made.......however, less beneficial influences - the Spencerian copybooks and the Palmer method of business writing - held penmanship in their mechanical grip well into the twentieth century."

Heather Child "Calligraphy Today" 1988

Ah well, at least she acknowledges the existence of the American styles.  And looking at the classroom photographs and some of the exercises in Palmer's books, the word "mechanical" isn't entirely out of place ... the same could be said of the Civil Service method taught in the UK.  I suspect you'll disagree, Ken, but the styles of Marion Richardson and Fairbank's "Dryad Writing Cards look no less rigid to me.

Your example after Lupfer is much more spontaneous to my eyes: you've varied the shading on a,b,c,g and y for instance, put a longer cap on the t in "character", and decided to swing the final d off in "build" but not "and" - lots of little touches which the reader may not notice but keep things interesting for the writer.  Much more fun.

Offline Ken Fraser

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #19 on: September 01, 2014, 07:34:49 AM »
... the same could be said of the Civil Service method taught in the UK.  I suspect you'll disagree, Ken, but the styles of Marion Richardson and Fairbank's "Dryad Writing Cards look no less rigid to me.

Far from it....I posted that quote just for fun - to see what your reaction would be!

In fact, I agree with you 100%. This appalling disregard for pointed pen scripts, dismays me. The following quote is typical of this shortsighted view. Although living in America, Pearce is an English calligrapher of some note. Many calligrapher who use broad-edged nibs exclusively, don't even consider writing with a flexible, pointed nib to be calligraphy, and ignore it completely. Even those who grudgingly admit that English Roundhand existed, never even refer to the American "Golden Age of Penmanship" which must be the ultimate insult.
This attitude isn't limited to the the UK. I understand that the late Byron J. MacDonald was an American. His book on Calligraphy is devoted entirely to broad-nib lettering. (Incidentally, if you haven't got a copy, I strongly suggest looking out for it, as it's superb.) However, he betrays his blinkered outlook with the title of his book which reads like a definition  "Calligraphy - The Art of Lettering with the Broad Pen". Inside, he makes no reference whatsoever to the possibility of writing with a flexible, pointed nib.

Here's the quote by Charles Pearce.




« Last Edit: September 01, 2014, 07:46:17 AM by Ken Fraser »

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #20 on: September 01, 2014, 11:06:50 AM »
I find the idea of Edward Johnston as the inky-fingered Indiana Jones who rediscovered the edged pen very appealing.  :)

This business of the revival of pre-Renaissance letterforms and techniques must have been very exciting at the time, and I think I've drawn a parallel with the activities of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Arts and Crafts movement here before.  All this talk of debased pointed pen scripts does smack somewhat of a kind of calligraphic eugenics though, and it's baffling that such a strong prejudice has survived so long.  Isn't it odd that you don't hear copperplaters and Spencerian enthusiasts running down those broad pen people with their inflexible ways?

Thank you for the tip off about Byron J MacDonald's book, Ken: I shall certainly keep an eye open for it, Pearce's too.  My quotation about "letters produced by the means of a square ended implement", incidentally, came from George Evans, who wrote Roman letters about as good as any I can recall seeing done with a pen.  His book "An Introduction to Calligraphy" is well worth having for the sections on layout and spacing alone (and can be bought very cheaply), but of Roundhand you will find no mention. 

Offline Scarlet Blue

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2014, 08:15:56 AM »
I was taught Marion Richardson! I still have my handwriting book from Primary School... some of the exercises are still worth doing. My Mum, Dad and elderly relations all seem to have been taught a version of copperplate - they all have/had beautiful writing - even when using a bic biro or a pencil.

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2014, 10:20:24 AM »
I was taught Marion Richardson!

Me too!  You'll remember the posters on the classroom wall, presumably?  :)

I wound up copying my dad's copperplatish handwriting in the end though, because it's quicker to write, and looked more grown up to me.

Offline Scarlet Blue

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2014, 11:38:35 AM »
I think that's what originally made me interested in learning handwriting styles... I wanted my writing to look grown up! My Granddad's writing was totally beautiful... and this was only from what he learnt at school... and later he did clerical work, so it had to be neat.

Offline Deckard_47

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #24 on: September 09, 2014, 09:04:00 AM »
I guess most books don't talk about spencerian because it's not so ancient. Some books don't even consider copperplate...

That's usually the case with British calligraphy books - it's the curse of Edward Johnston.  Ordinarily there will be a brief mention of copperplate (never, ever Spencerian), often with a dismissive reference to pointed pens and the "debased" penmanship of the Victorian era.  Recently I came across a book (which has its good points, to be fair) which starts out by defining calligraphy as "letters produced by the means of a square ended implement".  So that's us told then.   :(

Interestingly enough there's a parallel here in military history. The British historians and military theorists from post-WWII through the early 1990s dominated the discourse on WWII. The majority of WWII histories came from a Brit's pen (or typewriter/computer...). Naturally, they sometimes presented a somewhat different interpretation of things than American military historians did when they finally started writing about WWII. For 20-30 years we just had the Official Histories (the "Green Books") written by historians turned into colonels and put on active duty to write the history of the war based on oral interviews and reference to official correspondence.

Then there was a long period in which America was involved pretty much consistently in one conflict or another and historians here didn't have much to say about WWII, or time to say it. Most of the really influential books on the war came from British pens. In 1973 a very influential American historian wrote a history of America's "way of war" that was part history, part theory, and deeply flawed - but it dominated historians' thinking for over 20 years (and still influences many American military historians). It wasn't until the early 1990s that Americans started to write histories of WWII that didn't just repeat the same flawed myths and that started to expose some of the history of the war that historians from other parts of the world didn't seem to find room for in their books.

So, sorry for the lengthy discussion of a topic many of you might not care about, but all that to say I find this parallel between the British refusal to acknowledge the uniquely American Spencerian form of writing, and their dominance over interpretations of WWII for the latter half of the 20th century quite interesting...
Deckard_47

Offline Brush My Fennec

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #25 on: September 09, 2014, 10:31:07 AM »
the British refusal to acknowledge the uniquely American Spencerian form of writing, and their dominance over interpretations of WWII for the latter half of the 20th century quite interesting...

I don't think it's a case of a British refusal per se. I think it was a refusal of Edward Johnston, his students and followers (who could and cannot speak for all British people) to adequately acknowledge and/or understand calligraphy and handwriting past the medieval period including British (e.g secretary hand, roundhand), European (e.g coulee, French roundhand) and American (Spencerian) calligraphy.

In addition, Johnston's students/followers were/are not united in how they present the history of calligraphy and the claims they make. Some of them acknowledged that calligraphy continued existing between medieval manuscripts and Johnston, some of them actually claimed that it stopped existing(!).

The society of scribes and illuminators was set up in the 1920s by students of Johnston and still exists today. If you go to their website and look at their about page you can see that the societies conception of calligraphy jumps straight from medieval manuscripts being the most perfect example of calligraphy to Edward Johnston in the 20th century, and it is claimed that Edward Johnston is the father of all calligraphy today.

I think it ultimately comes down to one group of people (who may not be that united or coherent a group anyway) putting their own spin on the past in order to serve their agenda (medieval manuscripts and Edward Johnston). Once false or biased claims enter the written record, it can be very difficult to debunk them and stamp them out. It takes moments to make a claim such as "Engravers invented Spencerian script. It is not true calligraphy", but a lot more effort to debunk it (at least before the internet made so many resources available).

Another thing that occurs to me are that 18th and 19th century calligraphy was often driven by commercial and mercantile concerns e.g business colleges, clerkship, show-card writing etc, whereas Johnston's followers probably thought of themselves as fulfilling a fantasy of a medieval craftsman (thus the title 'scribe' as opposed to 'penman' or 'engrosser') so they would probably react against and scorn things with commercial and mercantile connections  such as roundhand or Spencerian.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2014, 10:33:44 AM by Brush My Fennec »

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #26 on: September 09, 2014, 12:13:51 PM »
That's a masterly summary, Mr Fennec.  That medieval fantasy element is an important factor, I think.

Incidentally, did you know that Edward Johnston invented Chinese ink sticks?  ;)

Offline Ken Fraser

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #27 on: September 09, 2014, 06:37:18 PM »
Isn't it odd that you don't hear copperplaters and Spencerian enthusiasts running down those broad pen people with their inflexible ways?


You're absolutely correct, they don't run down broad pen people.....but there is another side to the argument.

You'll be hard pushed to find any acknowledgement of the influence of earlier, historic scripts on IAMPETH. It's as if it all began with Spencerian. Even their historic Roundhand writing methods read as though they had invented them, although they are largely a direct copy of what had gone before, centuries ago. Other than a Gothic derivative which they call 'Text' writing,  broad pen scripts are very rare in the writings of the modern IAMPETH Master Penmen. Where is the Uncial, Italic, Carolingian, Rustic etc.? Where other scripts do appear, they are drawn and not written. It's as if it all began with the pointed pen. This narrow outlook is just as bad in its own way, as the inflexibility of the broad pen enthusiasts, IMHO.

Ken

Offline AndyT

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #28 on: September 09, 2014, 07:33:10 PM »
That's a good point well made, Ken.  It strikes me as very understandable that American penmen would want to celebrate their distinctive indigenous style, but the declaration of Independence is largely a roundhand document with a sprinkling of Germanic text, after all.

I don't get the impression that the European heritage was forgotten or ignored during the Golden Age - the journals have plenty of broad pen exemplars - but it seems that the "say - you ain't one of them calligraphers, are you?" attitude set in as a reaction to the developments in Britain.  IAMPETH is unashamedly focused on the American flexible steel pen tradition, but it claims to embrace "the full range of lettering arts - from historic illumination and gilding, to text lettering, engrossing, broad-edge and pointed pen scripts", so at least there's no talk of debasement.  Really, I'd like to think that anyone who has taken the trouble to look into the history of artistic writing knows that it's all good stuff, whether they admit it or not.

Offline HarvestC

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Re: Why Spencerian?
« Reply #29 on: September 10, 2014, 11:38:56 PM »
Well, gee Ken, I am a Master Penman with Iampeth and I used a lot of Uncial on my Master Penman certificate as well as broad pen styles. Quite a bit broad pen styles have been taught at the Iampeth conferences by numerous calligraphers and much more is planned. Its very easy to ask a question rather than make assumptions. Your assumptions are incorrect.
Harvest Crittenden
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