This is such a great thread! I thought I might add some historical examples to counterbalance the utter perfection of caliken's varieties and current FPN mortals' hands.
What we call "italic" is based on examples from a rather broad chronological and geographical area. The beginning of the era was before the invention and proliferation of the printing press, and the earliest "italic" (sometimes "Humanistic cursive" in paleographic sources) predates the first italic handwriting manuals of Arrighi and the like by a century. The "model" or exemplar alphabets are missing and just the practical applications in manuscripts remain. Alfred Fairbank, one of the revivers of the hand, lamented the lack of examples of everyday writing -- the Renaissance grocery list and birthday card are rather rare.
We often credit Niccolo Niccoli for having "invented" the script, but we have a couple of variations of his actual handwriting. This is around 1410, I think, and not "typical" Nicolli in that it is very vertical and careful:
Niccoli's handwriting was meant to make clear transcriptions of unfamiliar texts so it had to be quick yet legible. This looks like a "practical" version of his handwriting:
Of course, before the invention of printing, sometimes a clear cursive hand would be used for the actual manuscript too. This may be Niccoli's hand -- in any case it's from a manuscript in his library. Interesting to me is the Carolingian "e" that is slightly taller than the surrounding letters. The cross stroke in e ligatures to the top of the next letter:
Here's an example from a 15th century manuscript. The whole page is sparingly ligatured diagonally like a "proper" italic, and it uses a single-storey "a" but it's not inclined and there are no "f" descenders. I love the three versions of the letter "r" in the third line. Is it an "italic"? Don't know, but it looks nice (IMHO):
Another cursive but suitable for book production...
I imagine the urgency to quickly produce a book. This pressure must have helped spark the proliferation of the printing press. This is less a formal cursive and what we would call handwriting?
"Our" own Arrighi seems to have had some time pressures too. This is his writing on a Papal bull which looks like it had to go out in the morning's mail. Not the calligraphic perfection we associate with his name, it's highly ligatured and with a more rounded nib perhaps to facilitate speed. I still like it as an example of handwriting rather than calligraphy:
Here's a screen shot from a documentary showing a travel journal. This is a really attractive italic handwriting from the period (IMHO):
I think the printing press in some ways freed handwriting to be something quicker, more personal and more intimate. Perhaps. This is from the 17th century after mechanically reproduced books had taken the task of writing books from the human hand:
Hope you enjoyed one or two of these historical examples.