The 1879 Spencerian Compendium of Penmanship in PDF Format
I usually try to avoid the eye candy, gallery type of posts, but this one is just too good to pass up. A retweet by I Love Typography sent me via via to the blog of Luke Williams, a graphic designer and photographer currently living and working in Chicago. As he explains on his About Me page his design work has taken a strong turn towards lettering and type, so he is constantly on the lookout for old books on lettering and proper techniques lately. He likes to read about what is traditionally considered fine practice, and recently stumbled upon the website of IAMPETH, the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting. This international, non-profit association is “dedicated to practising and preserving the beautiful arts of calligraphy, engrossing and fine penmanship.” They have posted the index of The New Spencerian Compendium of Penmanship, from 1879, and made the whole book available as a downloadable PDF.
In the early 1800s, Platt Rogers Spencer (1800-1864) created what would become the most widely accepted and prized cursive writing method used in business. Before the American Civil War, Spencer was the undisputed king of handwriting. He was also an outspoken supporter of American business education. By the late 1800s business education included some focus on penmanship, and there were many colleges that specialized in it. One of the most influential penmanship schools was founded by Charles Paxton Zaner and his partner E.W. Bloser. Later on, in the early 1900s Austin Palmer introduced the Palmer Method of business penmanship, and it soon became the most popular handwriting system in the United States.
In the past, with only PostScript fonts available, this level of intricate penmanship could only be achieved by skilled penmen. However thanks to the revolutionary developments in OpenType in recent years it can now be approximated with digital type. Several talented type designers have taken it upon themselves to design and build OpenType fonts that faithfully reproduce gorgeous vintage handwriting. Paul D. Hunt is one of them. He has produced a beautiful rendition of this type of handwriting. P22 Zaner is based on ornamental penmanship as taught by the aforementioned Charles Paxton Zaner at his art college at the turn of the 20th century. The “super” pro set contains over 3,000 characters.
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