Saturday, January 7, 2012

What I Don't Love About Computers

As promised, I've been working on a post about my forays into Spencerian Business Script, a simplified version of the gorgeous, ornate Spencerian penmanship of the second half of the 19th century.  After several false starts, I was satisfied late last night that I finally had my post the way I wanted it but decided to save it for one final read-through when I'd be more awake.

When I got home from a Girl Scout cookie booth this afternoon with my 14-year-old (still in GS at 14 - so cool!), I found that my laptop had frozen up.  One re-start later I discovered that none of the revisions to had saved, despite my having  hit "save" each time I walked away from my draft.  So, instead of trying to reconstruct my would-have-been post, I bring you the following version...

Early last month, for probably the last time, I managed to coerce my daughters into taking a photo with Santa.  This happened at a 19th century historic site where they volunteer during the summer and fall and was accomplished partly by my insisting it would be a good surprise for their dad.  Towards the end of our visit, we stopped in the gift shop, where the girls spotted a bottle of sepia ink and I got the idea of learning enough 19th century penmanship to write a message on the picture frame with a dip pen.  I figured this would make a nice gift for Dwayne, as it combines two of his great loves:  family and vintage technology.

Since I reverted from cursive to printing in seventh grade, I knew this would take some effort on my part, and that was part of the gift as well. My cursive is okay as long as I'm writing slowly and concentrating on forming letters instead of ideas - not really a practical means of note-taking or journal-writing for me.  An online search for "19 century handwriting" led me to, where I found an extremely helpful instructional manual for Spencerian Business Script.  I skipped the information about how to sit, hold a pen, and move my arm and dove straight into copying upper-case Ms and Cs.

This was my first experience with a dip pen, and I can't say I enjoyed it.  It seemed I'd either run out of ink in the middle of a stroke or overload the nib, with an unsightly result!
After my first practice session, my wrist and forearm were burning and I was sure I'd aggravated my carpal tunnel beyond repair.  After a couple of days' rest, I was back at it, this time giving a little more thought to how I was sitting and moving my arm, if not holding the pen - I tend to use a "death grip," which unfortunately wasn't discovered until I was in sixth grade and pretty set in my ways.  A few days later, I had some results I thought were suitable for gluing onto the frame:

I tried writing a longer note to Dwayne but my patience with the dip pen had reached its limit.  I was thrilled when, two days after Christmas, he surprised me with a Parker Urban fountain pen (on sale at Office Max - that's how we roll!).  This is my first fountain pen, and I have to say it's much easier trying to write in Spencerian Business Script when I'm not having to worry about overloading the nib or having it run dry mid-stroke.

"This is my attempt at Spencerian [Business] script, which was used in the second half of the 19th century and the very beginning of the 20th, until the advent of the Palmer method.  As you can see, the capital letters, while still quite recognizable, are different from those of the dreaded Zaner-Bloser method, under which I toiled as a child.  There are minor differences in the lower-case letters (Spencerian vs. Z-B) but they are generally so minor that I have ignored them so as to concentrate on the sweeping capitals.  Were I truly committed to the cause of great penmanship, I would practice each day, but how can I with all these Girl Scout cookies yet to sell?  It is one thing to attempt to copy the letters; quite another to practice the principals behind each letter.  Dec. 27, 2011"

It's too early to tell whether I'll do much pencasting in the future, but I've had fun playing around with 19th century handwriting and will probably continue to experiment, especially now that I have a pen I really enjoy.  Besides flowing nicely and being easy to grasp correctly (instead of in the dreaded "death grip"), my Parker includes a nice bonus feature:  unlike my computer, it "saves" automatically.


  1. As the household IT administrator, I enthusiastically support all auto save retrograde technologies. It figures the first time the ToughBook would glitch is when you really needed it.

    Keep writing. I will keep typing since my handwriting has been beyond repair for at least 20 years.

  2. Amazing!

    Was Spencerian script some sort of "standardised" handwriting style everyone used back then?

  3. Oh those wonderful PC failures. At least the hard drive did not quit on you. Your handwriting is very neat and very beautiful. I wish mine were half as nice. Your first attempt is extremely beautiful. One of my goals since I first spotted a Calligraphy pen set eons ago is to learn to use a dip pen and write all the different lettering styles (still has not happened). I too stopped cursive about the 7th grade. When I went to college I had to use cursive to even come close to keeping up with the prof when I wanted to keep notes. Well, what was neat turned into chicken scratch. Now like a primary school student I practice and practice more since finding a fountain pen.

    I look forward to seeing more of your hand written posts.