Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of HandwritingHistory, Non-fiction
Steeped in the Palmer Method of Handwriting she learned in Catholic school, Kitty Burns Florey is a self-confessed “penmanship nut” who loves the act of taking pen to paper. So when she discovered that schools today forego handwriting drills in favor of teaching something called keyboarding, it gave her pause: “There is a widespread belief that, in a digital world, forming letters on paper with a pen is pointless and obsolete,” she says, “and anyone who thinks otherwise is right up there with folks who still have fallout shelters in their backyards.”
Florey tackles the importance of writing by hand and its place in our increasingly electronic society in this fascinating exploration of the history of handwriting. Weaving together the evolution of writing implements and scripts, pen-collecting societies, the golden age of American penmanship, the growth in popularity of handwriting analysis, and the many aficionados who still prefer scribbling on paper to tapping on keys, she asks the question: Is writing by hand really no longer necessary in today’s busy world?
Kitty Burns Florey’s Script & Scribble is a short history of handwriting, far from comprehensive, and larded heavily with the author’s own opinions and experiences (which I know would drive some readers wild, since some prefer a more objective, less personal account). It comes with a lot of different illustrations of different types of handwriting, along with some explanations about how exactly they’re formed.
The author is an unabashed fan of handwriting, though not a Luddite (accepting the need for typing skills, enjoying the use of her own computer, etc). I can’t help but feel if she’s not a Postcrossing member, she ought to be — most postcards I receive via Postcrossing are handwritten, and all of the ones I send are.
(Full disclosure: I work for Postcrossing! But I’m also a fan of it and frequently send and receive postcards on my own dime.)
Her elegy for written items seems a little premature to me, though perhaps that’s a peculiarity of my family; we send written letters a fair amount, and corresponded often via letters while I was at university around the time this book came out. That said, our handwriting isn’t brilliant, and I’m sure the handwriting experts she consults would have plenty to say about my rounded, mostly-cursive hand.
It’s an interesting read and quite quick, but doesn’t feel very in-depth. By the time it’s reaching the modern period, it’s focused solely on the North American picture, even specifically the US. I’d have loved something a little more general.