National Handwriting Day

According to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, National Handwriting Day was established to “recognise the reward of composing a handwritten note using a high quality writing instrument.” The day they chose is January 23rd, the anniversary of the birth of John Hancock - the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence, with his famous bold signature.

A large part of doing genealogy involves reading original documents. When we’re lucky, these include beautifully written letters in our ancestors’ own hand. The details of day-to-day life along with the personal touch of their handwriting helps bring the person to life. Was their writing bold like Hancock’s? Did they have a delicate hand or was it shaky from old age?

Or perhaps you had a grandparent, who like mine, received a certificate of achievement in the Palmer Method. We have the self-study book if you want to give it a try!

  • Palmer, A. N. Business and high school edition of the Palmer method of business writing. A series of self-teaching lessons in rapid, plain, unshaded, coarse-pen, muscular movement writing. New York, Chicago [etc.] : The A.N. Palmer Co., c1917. Call no. Z 201 .656

Penmanship is both an art and a science. The Newberry has an extensive collection of books on penmanship and calligraphy, with titles range from the practical to the obscure.

  • Kirkham, E. Kay. The Handwriting Of American Records For A Period Of 300 Years. Logan, Utah : Everton Publishers, 1973. Call no. Z 1 .469.
  • Teacher of penmanship, monthly, devoted to the development & advancement of the art of penmanship (volumes 1868 Feb-1869, Dec). Call no. Wing folio ZW 8831 .867.
  • The Science Of Practical Penmanship, Deduced From The Principles Of Physiology And The Anatomy Of The Hand And Arm …: To Which Is Added A Complete System Of Pen-making : The Whole Accompanied By A Chirographic Atlas Of Twenty-four Engraved Plates. New York : Collins, Keese & Co., 1837. Call no. Wing ZW 883 .D685.

To complement these holdings, the Newberry has assembled more than 600 original calligraphic manuscripts comprising a representative selection of scripts and formats covering the fifteenth century to the mid-twentieth century.

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