Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Importance of Good Handwriting

When I was at school in England, a long, long time ago, they taught us to write a modified form of Copperplate script. I didn’t know it was Copperplate at the time; it was simply ‘handwriting’ to me. The following image of a Copperplate script is not exactly what we wrote but not far from it neither.

This went on till I was about nine or ten. Then one day I noticed the handwriting of the boy next to me. He was, I remember, some fugitive latecomer from another school or town. He certainly did not learn how to write at my school. What was this writing? My eyes could hardly believe. No loops, no curls, no flourishes at all: capitals simplified to the extreme, as found in the newspaper, every letter reduced to its simplest expression. Here was the future! Here was progress! It was modern, efficient, avant-garde and a few other adjectives I did not know yet. It was simply ‘cool’. I adopted this knew way of handwriting in an instant. There was nothing to practice: just eliminate all this useless decoration. To give credit to my teachers, not a one made any comment to me that my handwriting had ‘changed’. Individuality was respected.

Fast forward a life time. A new respect for the old ways is quietly born of countless hours reading philosophy and history and realizing how shitty are the new ways. Comments about messages written in ‘a fine Copperplate hand’ keep cropping up in my beloved Patrick O’Brian historical novels. I begin to look at my own handwriting again. Sadly, it has not evolved since that day when I was 9 years old. What seemed to me then to be an excellent handwriting script, now appears to be lazy, superficial, without character. Strange how perceptions change so quickly, innit?

So I am here to tell you that I am absolutely relearning how to write in Copperplate script, just like they taught me at school a long, long time ago. Perhaps not entirely like. But not far from it neither.

Image 1 from scribblers

Image 2 from Wikipedia:  Detail of the log of HMS Victory kept by William Farquhar, 1854-55

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond