After I wrote about my ancestor, Platt Spencer, who developed Spencerian Script, which was used in the United States until 1925, when the Palmer Method took over as the main penmanship, I became interested in learning how to write the Spencerian Script. As I was looking for practice sheets online, I stumbled upon another family ancestor, Enoch Noyes, who also developed a penmanship style that was used in the United States prior to the Spencerian Script. An Analytical Guide to the Art of Penmanship by Enoch Noyes, was published in 1839, and while I can’t find evidence of this style being widely used in schools, I can understand why it wouldn’t have been. Enoch Noyes focused on the elegant and ornate style of writing. He believed that penmanship really could be art. I would expect that the wealthier people might have used his style of penmanship as a way of emphasizing their stature.
The different penmanship styles of the past remind me of the vast array of font styles that are available on the computers now. The biggest difference between the two ways of writing, are that with penmanship, students are often taught one style. Each student can elaborate on the style to make it their own, and most people have done that at one point or another. With the computer fonts, it’s easy to change your font style at will, then back again. That allows the imagination to run wild to create a personalized look, and there is no need to learn how to write out the font.
As I was researching the different penmanship styles, and there are more than just the ones I have mentioned here, I was a bit surprised that there seemed to be a battle, of sorts, to have each persons own style be the accepted style of penmanship in the schools…much like trying to pick a font out of the hundreds of styles available. It made me think of a battle, or duel to be the accepted font. I suppose that sounds like a silly idea, but I can envision that very thing…complete with elegant script styles, with hands, legs, and eyes, walking the paces before turning and aiming their guns…like dueling fonts.
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