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Any Information On French Cursive Handwriting?


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Hello all,


It is most edifying to study the various handwriting styles explained in this forum. They provide a model of disciplined and artistic writing -- an inspiration to self-improvement for many of us. :blush:


These styles are mostly of British or American origin and share some basic characteristics, as far as I can see:

(1) a noticeable slant

(2) sleek and narrow forms

(3) a typographical ideal, i.e. handwriting strives to conform to some print/computer font.


However, there are also other conceptions of beautiful handwriting.

I have often noticed that French people write more of an upright script with rounded forms. This interests me, because my 'natural' writing movements are rounded and vertical as opposed to slanting.


Does anyone know good sources of information on French handwriting styles?

Perhaps someone could even post a tutorial on this forum...? :drool:

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As mentioned earlier on the Vere Foster Civil Service topic, the 'p' in that hand is open, and I noted that it reminded me of the style taught in French schools. My sense of irony was momentarily absent: that hand is known as "écriture anglaise" (English writing) in French... As far as I can tell though, this term merely refers to a running hand, thus, cursive in general, but I may be mistaken.


Some examples:






Some extensive pictures of writing and writing material and manuals from times gone by:





I was also looking for more information on this some time ago, as I wanted to improve my handwriting and thought it would be best to return to what I was supposed to have learned in the first place: having first wielded a fountain pen in primary school in France, followed by a stint in secondary school (high school, for our American friends) where I noticed my writing was atrocious compared to my fellow classmates... But further research on the topic has convinced me of the necessity of first developping proper rhythm and consistent structure so I've been applying myself to the works of Tom Gourdie for the moment.


One thing that surprised me was the curious lack of books on handwriting in French: it simply isn't comparable to similar publications in English (and American). My theory is (et cela n'engage que moi) that since schools in France never 'abolished' or relegated penmanship to a lesser role, there simply was never a similar need for a movement like the Italic revivalists in Britain, or the works of Getty and Dubay, for example. Of course, times change, and no doubt there is a gap in the market for such a publication right now, given the proliferation of technology and the resulting detrimental effect on handwriting. I also see that our friends over on FPN's French counterpart, http://forum.styloplume.net , have also noticed this particular issue.


General works on calligraphy aside, the only books I could find on the subject were the 2 following slim copybooks by renowned French ink manufacturer, J. Herbin:






They are both reprints of turn-of-the-last-century copybooks. The first one has an added historical explanation of the hands, the second is a workbook. Both are very nicely presented and, most importantly, in my opinion, are of an eminently practical nature. They are both of a dozen pages, and are reasonably priced at €3.50 each.


Alas, Herbin does not sell to individuals, only retailers, (minimum order of ten I think) and I was only able to find 2 places online that stocked these 'cahiers' (copybooks). The first was an Amazon seller that sold a bundle of five copies for €25, the second was an online pen & paper retailer, Hieroglyphes:






(Both those pages contain sample pages so you can get a good idea of what they contain.)


The unfortunate thing is that the second online seller only used expedited shipping, and while this remains reasonable in France, it is rather expensive when shipping abroad, especially given that the notebooks themselves are quite cheap. I was able to have them sent to a family member in France who then kindly posted them over to me here. I found the easiest thing was to scan or photocopy the pages in order to use them indefinitely, but the paper I've got tends to absorb the ink so I may just end up ordering a whole bundle of ten next time! American enthusiasts could collectively 'lobby' Mr & Mrs Goulet into stocking them since they supply Herbin inks, as I recall!


Nos lecteurs français ont-ils d'autres idées?

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Looking through some of the older posts, I noticed that one of our Canadian members, Fernan, is quite adept at the hand called "Ronde" in French. He also used the Herbin guide, as can be seen in this photo:



Here is more information and examples of this hand from Julien Chazal, a renowned French calligrapher: http://julien.chazal.free.fr/pages/La-Calligraphie/Ronde.html


The 'Ronde' is also quite nice, and presents a number of variants, as can be seen from this picture of a Danish ronde from Benedikt Gröndal's book "Handwriting Models":



Edited by _R_
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FPN member Fernan is a practitioner of Ronde cursive. FYI.




Edit: Sorry, I only just now saw _R_ʻs post above. I should check the posts in a thread before replying -- you think?

Edited by HDoug
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Reasonable sized scans of the plates on writing from Diderots' Encylopedie are available here:




There is ronde, coulee and batarde there.


19th century ronde here:


Principes d'écriture 19


More here (click on Carattere rotondo):



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The plates on ronde from Prof. Giovanni Tonso's "Modelli Di Calligrafia", which was originally published in 1898:









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  • 9 years later...

I may come a decade too late but I thought I would give you my input nonetheless.


Although my penmanship is terrible, I have an interest in calligraphy and briefly studied modern (not contemporary) paleography at university. I am Swiss, not French, but we are still taught cursive in schools (or at least we were when I was in primary school twenty years ago). The funny thing in Switzerland is that the French speakers are taught a French hand and the German speakers a German hand. It is most obvious in Freiburg University where you can study in both languages.


A couple of years ago, when I decided to resurrect my cursive handwriting, I bought the copybooks I was given in school and lost a long time ago. You can find them in most Swiss bookshops for around 10 francs (or as many dollars). I could probably buy some and forward them to you if you insist but I would not recommend them.


You can find many digitalized French copybooks of the 19th century on Gallica. It is the digital solution of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. That’s what I would recommend if you’re really serious about learning French cursive. You can download everything for free.


My goal was to write with a fountain pen like people in the early 20th century. What I can tell you is that nobody wrote as neatly as the calligraphers who prepared the copybooks. However, the lower case letters remained virtually unchanged and only capital letters were greatly simplified. If you want to know what a practical hand looked like at the time, you can look for letters and manuscripts written by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (French novelist), Yves Klein (French artist), Hergé (Belgian cartoonist) or André Franquin (Belgian cartoonist) on Google.


Here are some links if you want to download the copybooks I was talking about:


Écriture moderne dite cursive anglaise by Clerget (https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k9225114.r=%C3%A9criture%20cursive%20dite%20cursive%20anglaise?rk=21459;2). It follows the same format as Platt Rogers Spencer’s Spencerian Penmanship.


Méthode d’écriture cursive by J. Dupuy (https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k939383v.r=cursive%20dupuy?rk=42918;4). It is a light Palmer Method.


L’A. B. C. de l’écriture by Auguste Rivet (https://gallica.bnf.fr/services/engine/search/sru?operation=searchRetrieve&version=1.2&collapsing=disabled&rk=21459;2&query=dc.relation%20all%20%22cb31222600d%22). It is a collection of copybooks teaching many different styles.


Bien cordialement.


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