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The Philosophy Of Spencerian Script?


thesmellofdustafterrain
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When I was choosing a script to learn, I was interested in Spencerian because of the philosophy behind it. Articles talk about how the shapes were based on nature and mention that learning the philosophy was an important element to learning the script.

 

However, there isn't much mention of this in the six-book set from Mott Media. Just the theory book and the five copy books - which are lovely and I'm learning a lot from these books. However, I want to also learn about the philosophy that inspired this style of writing.

 

Are there any resources out there that cover this?

petrichor

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You keep bringing up such great topics! I sit beside you, passing the popcorn, eager to hear what the more knowledgable have to say 🍿

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  • 3 weeks later...

I also found a PDF of the copybooks online, and started printing out pages this year to improve my penmanship. I am looking at DB's links now. Thanks!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Get your hands on any book by Michael Sull who in my estimation is primarily responsible for keeping the art of Spencerian handwriting alive, preserving the history and many of the old exemplars, many of which are kept in the archives and salt caves where IAMPETH stores the originals. Most have been scanned for online viewing, so you will enjoy exploring that site. He used to run a week long course in Ohio where Spencerian writing had it's roots. He would take you to pick up oval shaped stones at Lake Erie, similar to those Spencer used to inspire his graceful script. ( I still have the stones I picked up to remind me to be mindful of my oval shapes) He took his students to visit Spencer's gravesite and would share everything he could with his students in that short week. He also raised funds to have a Spencerian Monument built in Geneva, Ohio, Spencer's hometown. It was truly a week to delve in to the history of Spencerian writing and learn the nuances. Now the same seminar is still running, but Harvest Crittenden has taken over and she is carrying on where he left off. Anyone is welcome to attend. They used to have a beginners week and then a more advanced week and it was certainly worth every penny. Michael also loves hand written correspondence and if you send him a letter, he will definitely write back with answers to any historical questions you might have. He's on the road a lot teaching and I know he often attends pen shows where he sells his most recent book on handwriting.

 

Also from Spencer's own words.....

 

Origin of Spencerian Penmanship

 

 

Evolved 'mid nature's unpruned scenes,
On Erie's wild and woody shore,
The rolling wave, the dancing stream,
The wild-rose haunts in days of yore.

The opal, quartz and ammonite,
Gleaming beneath the wavelet's flow,
Each gave its lesson - how to write -
In the loved years of long ago.

I seized the forms I loved so well -
Compounded them as meaning signs,
And to the music of the swell
Blent them with undulating vines.

Thanks, Nature, for the impress pure,
Those tracings in the sand are gone;
But while love shall for thee endure,
Their grace and ease will still live on.

-Platt Rogers Spencer

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  • 1 year later...

Get your hands on any book by Michael Sull who in my estimation is primarily responsible for keeping the art of Spencerian handwriting alive, preserving the history and many of the old exemplars, many of which are kept in the archives and salt caves where IAMPETH stores the originals. Most have been scanned for online viewing, so you will enjoy exploring that site. He used to run a week long course in Ohio where Spencerian writing had it's roots. He would take you to pick up oval shaped stones at Lake Erie, similar to those Spencer used to inspire his graceful script. ( I still have the stones I picked up to remind me to be mindful of my oval shapes) He took his students to visit Spencer's gravesite and would share everything he could with his students in that short week. He also raised funds to have a Spencerian Monument built in Geneva, Ohio, Spencer's hometown. It was truly a week to delve in to the history of Spencerian writing and learn the nuances. Now the same seminar is still running, but Harvest Crittenden has taken over and she is carrying on where he left off. Anyone is welcome to attend. They used to have a beginners week and then a more advanced week and it was certainly worth every penny. Michael also loves hand written correspondence and if you send him a letter, he will definitely write back with answers to any historical questions you might have. He's on the road a lot teaching and I know he often attends pen shows where he sells his most recent book on handwriting.

 

Also from Spencer's own words.....

 

Origin of Spencerian Penmanship

 

 

Evolved 'mid nature's unpruned scenes,

On Erie's wild and woody shore,

The rolling wave, the dancing stream,

The wild-rose haunts in days of yore.

The opal, quartz and ammonite,

Gleaming beneath the wavelet's flow,

Each gave its lesson - how to write -

In the loved years of long ago.

I seized the forms I loved so well -

Compounded them as meaning signs,

And to the music of the swell

Blent them with undulating vines.

Thanks, Nature, for the impress pure,

Those tracings in the sand are gone;

But while love shall for thee endure,

Their grace and ease will still live on.

-Platt Rogers Spencer

How wonderful this history you shared. Thank you from an ex-Ohioan.

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  • 3 months later...

Get your hands on any book by Michael Sull who in my estimation is primarily responsible for keeping the art of Spencerian handwriting alive, preserving the history and many of the old exemplars, many of which are kept in the archives and salt caves where IAMPETH stores the originals. Most have been scanned for online viewing, so you will enjoy exploring that site. He used to run a week long course in Ohio where Spencerian writing had it's roots. He would take you to pick up oval shaped stones at Lake Erie, similar to those Spencer used to inspire his graceful script. ( I still have the stones I picked up to remind me to be mindful of my oval shapes) He took his students to visit Spencer's gravesite and would share everything he could with his students in that short week. He also raised funds to have a Spencerian Monument built in Geneva, Ohio, Spencer's hometown. It was truly a week to delve in to the history of Spencerian writing and learn the nuances. Now the same seminar is still running, but Harvest Crittenden has taken over and she is carrying on where he left off. Anyone is welcome to attend. They used to have a beginners week and then a more advanced week and it was certainly worth every penny. Michael also loves hand written correspondence and if you send him a letter, he will definitely write back with answers to any historical questions you might have. He's on the road a lot teaching and I know he often attends pen shows where he sells his most recent book on handwriting.

 

Also from Spencer's own words.....

 

Origin of Spencerian Penmanship

 

 

Evolved 'mid nature's unpruned scenes,

On Erie's wild and woody shore,

The rolling wave, the dancing stream,

The wild-rose haunts in days of yore.

The opal, quartz and ammonite,

Gleaming beneath the wavelet's flow,

Each gave its lesson - how to write -

In the loved years of long ago.

I seized the forms I loved so well -

Compounded them as meaning signs,

And to the music of the swell

Blent them with undulating vines.

Thanks, Nature, for the impress pure,

Those tracings in the sand are gone;

But while love shall for thee endure,

Their grace and ease will still live on.

-Platt Rogers Spencer

Absolutely. I would love to write to him in hopes of receiving a letter. I suspect that man is muy busy.

 

Thank you for this response. Newbies like me appreciate it.

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I also found a PDF of the copybooks online, and started printing out pages this year to improve my penmanship. I am looking at DB's links now. Thanks!

Is this still available?

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Just finding this thread now. The story about the Michael Sull classes is fascinating. I have one of his books, which I picked up the first year I went to the Ohio Pen Show, but never really cracked open -- I didn't really have a place to do calligraphy at the time. (I keep hoping to see him at another show at some point, because I also bought a coffee mug with the Spencerian alphabet for a design, but it got broken. :()

I didn't know that the hand had an Ohio start. I LOVE this site -- I learn new stuff all the time. Thanks to everyone for posting.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Spencerian was not an original style of penmanship, so I tend to think that much of the background and philosophy is little more than romantic marketing (that has, nonetheless, endured and endeared people to the script). It is part of a larger trend called semi-angular penmanship. Spencer's script was remarkably similar to Alvin R Dunton's (particularly the miniscules). Dunton published a book of penmanship at least 5 years before Spencer, and Dunton brought Spencer and his sons to court for plagiarism. They continued to litigate after Spencer's death. Spencer's practical instruction on writing from the arm borrowed from publications of the prior 2 decades. Much like Palmer, Spencer and his sons successfully commodified a style of penmanship and are largely responsible for its popularity and for inspiring many penman from the era of ornamental penmanship.

Edited by Sykil
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  • 1 month later...

This may not be related to this post; please pardon me for a basic question.

Why is it that right-slanting is emphasized for English in most handwriting systems (including spencerian)? Is it because right slanted letters look better with flex or calligraphic nibs?

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This may not be related to this post; please pardon me for a basic question.

Why is it that right-slanting is emphasized for English in most handwriting systems (including spencerian)? Is it because right slanted letters look better with flex or calligraphic nibs?

 

Don't know if you can blame "English" for it... Even Carolingian Minuscule shows a slight /-slant. Italic is /-slanted and started during the Renaissance in (wait for it) ITALY.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chancery_hand#Cursive_chancery_hand

 

In a right-hander, a broad/flat-edged pen will be held in a \ direction (with the flat edge of the nib being perpendicular to the top end). The more /-slanted the letters, the thinner the long "upright" strokes will become.

 

Flex nibs actually work better in a left-handed underwriter, as they hold the pen in an orientation in which the descending long strokes are linear pulls, making it easy to apply pressure to widen the stroke. There are dip-pens in which the nib holder is to the left of the pen, and rotated / (while the rest of the pen is \). These allow right-handers to align those pull strokes with the nib -- otherwise, one is really trying to apply pressure while also dragging the nib sideways (to the left and down).

 

Spencerian and other flex styles attempt to emulate the results of copperplate. The thing is, in copperplate engraving, the engraver is 1) creating a mirror-image on the plate (which then is correct when printed on paper) 2) carving the lines into the plate, using a hard metal point/chisel 3) the most force is applied when pushing the point from bottom right to top left (right handed engraver), digging deeper into the copper and producing a wider channel -- the curves near the top/bottom and the "ascending" [done during a downward pull] strokes don't have as much force, and just scratch the surface of the copper.

 

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I, as a left handed person, can answer this question from experience. Simply put, the vast majority of people are right handed. Pens, particularly dip or fountain pens, write with the nib effectively dragging the ink onto the page (paper or other medium). This being as it is, the most natural result is that the letters are formed with a right slant in a dragging motion. Lefties, such as myself, who grew up using fountain pens at school know this because, for us writing left to right causes us to have to push the pen across the page wiith the nib wanting to 'dig in' to the page. Hence, lefties tilt the page, write with a left slant in an effort to not push holes in the page, and too frequently become over writers to avoid moving our pen hand through fresh ink.

 

More vertical writing came along with the introduction of the Byro since ball points require a more vertical pen position to work correctly.

 

I believe Rosemary Sassoon offers some insight in her book Handwriting of the Twentieth Century. (available from Amazon, I believe).

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