Review – Script & Scribble

Posted January 28, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Review – Script & Scribble

Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting

by Kitty Burns Florey

Genres: History, Non-fiction
Pages: 190
Rating: three-stars

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.

Rating: 3/5

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4 responses to “Review – Script & Scribble

  1. I am fascinated by the fact that I spend hours trawling Amazon for new nonfiction reads (I’m a librarian, so I can count that as ‘work’ ;-)) and still I haven’t seen most of the books you’ve covered in your NF series!

    • Ha, I can’t remember how I came across this one… I think maybe a book club read for a postal museum, if I remember rightly? I write blog posts about books related to post/the mail/postcards in some way for, so I keep an eye out for that kind of thing.

  2. My mother had beautiful handwriting that she learned in school. I was certainly taught handwriting in the late 1960s, but there wasn’t much of an emphasis on it being beautiful and I was not naturally talented in that arena. These days, I mostly print when I handwrite, because it’s more readable, even to me. I handwrite lists, but not much else.

    • I write to my grandmother every week, and I write postcards for Postcrossing, so I keep trying to get a bit neater! (I also do “morning pages”, but at least they don’t have to be neat, heh.)

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