A History of Cursed Cursive
Learning to Write Right
Last week on Twitter I shared a story from NPR about the State of Alabama joining California and Louisiana in mandating cursive proficiency. Students are being required to write!
Apparently, in Alabama, students were taught how to form cursive letters but were never required to link them together. The kids could print their names but not produce what we have traditionally called a signature.
To critics, this is just “traditional values” folks wasting time that could be spent on math. But lest you think learning to sign your name is no big deal, I cite the example of an acquaintance’s eighteen-year-old. He voted for the first time in the last primary election, and his ballot was rejected because of his signature.
The perfect b and h displayed here would have warmed the heart of my second grade teacher, Sister Mary Margaret, and earned me an E for Excellent on penmanship. Yes, we were graded on pretty penmanship.
You can see a full page of the alphabet in cursive at Wikimedia Commons. And really, students shouldn’t complain so much about it. Earlier versions of penmanship were much harder to learn as well as to decipher.
Court Hand was a style of penmanship developed for medieval English law courts.
It reminds me a bit of Chappe’s Semaphore Code that I blogged about last week. Due to illegibility it was banned in 1733.
This is not the tilted lettering that we use in typing the titles of books, but a handwriting that developed from a printed script known as Humanist Miniscule.
Italic Hand, or Italic script joins letters together, like the primary students in Alabama will soon learn to do.
If you write historical fiction or do genealogical research and have had occasion to review old documents, Secretary Hand might be the type of cursive you encountered. William Shakespeare’s will was written in Secretary Hand.
When my Regency heroines sit down to write out thank you notes and ball invitations, they use the lovely and elegant Round Hand learned from their mothers or governesses.
Or something close!
What about you, Scriveners? Do you know how to write in cursive? Is your penmanship still legible?
Images: Wikimedia Commons
I also want to credit my genealogist sister for bringing this subject to my attention in her notes from a lecture on “Reading Old Documents” by Michael J. Leclerc. And for another view on the importance of learning cursive, see Mr. Leclerc’s Huffington Post article on the subject.