Written as they should be

Here’s the best thing about this excerpt: when you click through to the Eco’s original article, right now you get this message: “This article has been removed due to web rights expiry.” Frail letters indeed! But let’s return to penmanship: I’m reminded of this recent New York Times Op-Art piece, a spirited call to supplant the old-style loopiness of the Palmer method of handwriting instruction with a more-legible italic script. Sounds tempting …

My parents’ handwriting was slightly slanted because they held the sheet at an angle, and their letters were, at least by today’s standards, minor works of art. At the time, some – probably those with poor hand- writing – said that fine writing was the art of fools. It’s obvious that fine handwriting does not necessarily mean fine intelligence. But it was pleasing to read notes or documents written as they should be. My generation was schooled in good handwriting, and we spent the first months of elementary school learning to make the strokes of letters. The exercise was later held to be obtuse and repressive but it taught us to keep our wrists steady as we used our pens to form letters rounded and plump on one side and finely drawn on the other. Well, not always – because the inkwells, with which we soiled our desks, notebooks, fingers and clothing, would often produce a foul sludge that stuck to the pen and took 10 minutes of mucky contortions to clean.

from “The lost art of handwriting,” by Umberto Eco, The Guardian, 21 September 2009 :: via 3quarksdaily

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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