I have always been fascinated with the art and aesthetics of handwriting. Simple printed text or gracefully sloping cursive manuscripts, the style and manor of a person’s handwriting conveys almost as much about the idea presented as the words. Below are two drastically differing examples of this concept.
The first is the dense and almost manic lecture notes of a pious California woman named Edith M. Glayes. I stumbled upon her writings amongst a pile of old photographs and scrap books at the flea market.
While on first glance of the cover, her almost 15+ composition books don’t seem out of sorts for a devoted church-goer diligently taking notes on the Lord’s divine word in her Bible study class.
However, once the reader opens to the first page, her tightly condensed and frantic scribbles inundate you with a overwhelming feeling of sensory overload. From the first page to the very last, Edith wastes no space, filling the thousands of college-ruled sheets with a onslaught of densely packed comments and observations. Unfortunately for Edith, neither myself or anyone I’ve showed them to can make out much of the content other than the various section titles. So much for spreading the gospel. God had better be able to read hearts, as I doubt even he could decipher her words.
However, hidden within these illegible scribblings lies an interesting aesthetic. If taken as an abstract work, her odd choice of word size and emphasis blends together creating an arresting collage of textured lines.
On the entirely other side of the spectrum is the stunning and elegant cursive from a legal letter penned in 1809. In a time when nuns would rapt the hands of students for sloppy handwriting, almost every learned person had perfected their penmanship. Victorians associated good handwriting with a person’s character and integrity. As can be witnessed in every sort of correspondence or contract from love letters to deeds, the ornamental style and art of penmanship was an important personal skill to possess.
Unfortunately for us, with the advent of the typewriter and more recently the personal computer, society has placed much less importance on this personal skill of decorative handwriting. As with all advancements, convenience and efficiency comes at a cost.