What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades

(image credit: The Pen-Guin)

(image credit: The Pen-Guin)

The recent article on the New York Times entitled What’s Lost As Handwriting Fades is too good to wait until the end of the week for a Link Love so I decided to go ahead an post the link today. Once again, scientists are coming up with studies proving that there’s some tricky cognitive stuff that goes on when we write things by hand and there is even some data that different parts of the brain are triggered depending on whether its printing or script (cursive) writing.

But we all knew this already, right?

(via NYTimes)

Cursive: Is it really that important?

thick pencil lettering

NPR recently did a report about the value of cursive in child’s brain development. By their best calculations, all fine motor skill activities are valuable to brain development, be it printing, cursive or keyboarding. But the best option is for kids to be doing all sorts of fine motor activities.

This story, however,  does not address the issue of legibility, speed of writing or not writing like a 6-year-old when you’re forty.


(via NPR.org)

A Special Collection Pencil

SFPL Special Collection Pencil

One of my favorite tourist and travel mementos are pencils. They are small and fit easily into my suitcase. Sadly, they are not as common to find as they once were. So I was tickled to see that the Book Arts & Special Collections at the San Francisco Public Library had a stamped pencils on the front desk.

When I asked the librarians if they would mind if I took one of the pencils to commemorate my visit, they held up a jar so that I could pick a “nice one.”

SFPL Use Pencils Only

I visited the Book Arts & Special Collections to see calligraphy and original typography designs. Since a lot of the material is rare, original drawings or small run prints, there were signs everywhere, written in beautiful script, reminding visitors to use pencils only.

SFPL Special Collection Folder

Even the folders and folios were beautifully handwritten in pencil. This folder was filled with hand lettering created by the head of the font group at Hallmark, Rick Cusick. Sadly, I was asked not to photograph any of the original work so this is as close as I can show you.

If you’re interested in calligraphy or the history of type design, I recommend visiting the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering.

Handwriting Day Follow-Up

Handwriting Day Penmanship Samples

Handwritten samples for Handwriting Day from Instagram: (left to right, top to bottom) Inktronics, MyCoffePot, AdamiHasegawa, Paperblanks, Bakanekosan, JetPens and AdamiHasegawa again (with her new Kaweco Sport!).

Lots of people put pen (or pencil) to paper yesterday in celebration and support of National Handwriting Day. Did you? If not, that’s okay because in our little corner of the internet, everyday in Handwriting Day!

Keep on writing!

Happy Handwriting Day!

Happy Handwriting Day

I hope everyone is having a day full of happy handwriting.If not, try handwriting your grocery list, copying down a favorite quote or poem or just jotting out a a few pangrams. If you do, leave a link in the comments so we can marvel at your penmanship — for better or worse.

Happy Handwriting Day!

Vintage Penmanship Shirt

In honor of Handwriting Day, I picked out my vintage penmanship shirt to wear today. Yep, I am that nerdy.

White House Calligraphy Office


I stumbled upon this video from the inflammatory article published earlier this year about how much the presidential calligraphers earn each year. While they may make more money than most of us, the skills they have are unquestionable.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I think this classic hand lettering skill should be preserved especially when its done for the President for State Dinners and other official events.I can’t imagine getting an invitation to dinner at the White House whipped out on someone’s ink jet printer, can you?

I spoke with a friend who works as a professional calligrapher (not at the White House) who said that the team that the team that work at the White House work under intense pressure, often having to letter 200+ place cards in a day or two for an official event. They also work with very strict expectations for the style of calligraphy they do. the whole office is staffed by one chief calligrapher and two deputy calligraphers — a total staff of three.

I think its worth whatever these folks are being paid. That being said, Politifact did their homework and the calligraphers salary is not so disproportionate to other staffers with uniquely specialized skills (the Social Secretary makes $118K).


In the video, you can see one of the calligraphers (a left-hander!) working on a certificate. He is a third generation White House employee. Watch the video for details.

Do you think the White House should continue to employ calligraphers?

News: The Case For Cursive Continues

Case for Cursive

The new American educational curriculum called the Common Core State Standards Initiative is being discussed in the news in part because cursive writing is no longer going to be required instruction. Handwriting instruction has been waning and many states have already chosen not to require it. A national chance in teaching strategies in the US will pretty much guarantee that the few remaining states teaching it, will abandon it as well.

I’m at a loss what to say. So much more is gained in learning penmanship beyond merely the skill to read and write the characters: motor skills, brain pathways, patience and so much more…

I won’t rant here, but there’s plenty of other people who have said it:

Some links from the graphics (couldn’t find the Washington Post article):

(graphic via Montessorium)

Why Handwriting Matters

Variation on my handwriting

Variation on my handwriting

This week I watched a well-dressed, articulate co-worker scratch out some notes in her on-trend, black Moleskine with a G2. For all intents and purposes, her set-up rivals any of the pen and paper bloggers out there though she is not a pen geek. When I looked at the writing, I was shocked at how awkward and unrefined her writing was. I didn’t expect her to have text book-perfect handwriting but she is fashionable, intelligent lady  and I had always assumed her penmanship would matched her outward appearance. Instead, her writing made me wonder if she was a serial killer.

My handwriting is not as neat as it could be and seeing her writing makes me think I should continue to focus on improving my writing. In this day and age where emails and text messages are the most common means of communication, handwriting can still color your perception. Or worse, could color someone else’s perception about you. I don’t think its a good career move to have handwriting that makes you look dangerous or unbalanced. Unless that’s the look you are going for.

There are some excellent books to help adults improve their writing.  Check out my previous post on handwriting recommendations.


Hot News:

Nock Co. Reviews and Previews:

Postal Enthusiasm:




Paper and Notebooks:

Handwriting Makes You Smarter

MS Handwriting Extinct 1

In the September 2013 issue of Martha Stewart Living, there was an article title “Is Handwriting Becoming Extinct?” written by Joanne Chen. The article dives more deeply into the psychological, brain development and creative benefits of writing than I would normally expect from a newsstand magazine usually focused on home decor and recipes. It discusses several scientific studies that researched the advantages of writing on cognitive development, memory and comprehension.

What we here all know, that writing helps us think, organize and remember (“I’m writing it down to remember it now”), is clearly a scientifically proven fact, one that we should help to nurture in ourselves and in others. Digital doesn’t solve everything and might be making up even more forgetful.

I would love to share a link to the article but I could not find it on the Martha Stewart web site. Maybe when the October issue is published, they will post the article on their site. In the meantime, the September issue is on newsstands (the article is on page 158) as well as being available from the iTunes newsstand for $3.99. The issue is the How-To edition with lots of organizational tips which might appeal to you as well.

MS Handwriting Extinct 1

Link Love: Handwriting, Pencils and Rollerball Refills





Paper and Notebooks:


Handwriting Death Knell (again)

lettering homework

About every few months, someone publishes a story about the death of handwriting or some variation on this theme. Today’s grim reaper is the BBC with a video article about North Carolina Congresswoman Pat Hurley, who is drafting a bill to mandate handwriting be taught in primary school. A professor of linguistics provides counterpoint describing handwriting as “nostalgic”.

The whole video raised my hackles especially because neither camp mentioned the hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills that are developed as a result of writing. Not to mention that handwriting in the joined-up version helps to speed up writing so that students (and later adults) can more quickly capture thoughts and ideas on paper.

On the whole, I think the story was a bit of sensationalist, shoddy journalism and I’m going to be all grr-argh! for the rest of the day as a result.

Argue, agree or debate at will.

Happy National Handwriting Day!


Today is National Handwriting Day, at least here in the US, though I don’t think too many people celebrate it with as much fanfare and enthusiasm as I do.

The date of January 23 was selected because it is also the birthday of John Hancock, best known for his legible-but-large signature on the US Declaration of Independence. So, in spite of continued cutbacks in funding for teaching handwriting in schools in the US, I still want to recognize the day with much fanfare and ballyhoo.

I went in search of handwritten examples of Handwriting Day enthusiasm and found some fun examples from friends old and new. I also enlisted the help of some of my more talented co-workers.

Actual handwriting from Hallmark lettering artist Sarah Cole

Actual handwriting from Hallmark lettering artist Sarah Cole

Handdrawn lettering by Hallmark designer/illustrator Lauren Schimming

Hand drawn lettering by Hallmark designer/illustrator Lauren Schimming

Hand written by Madeline Tompkins of TagTeam Tompkins

Hand written by Madeline Tompkins of TagTeam Tompkins

From Thee Blog from 2012

From Thee Blog from 2012

photo by Ivan Romero

photo by Ivan Romero

photo by Kyle Steed

photo by Kyle Steed

According to WTVY in Dothan, AL it is also Pie Day (according to the Pie Council — who knew we even had one) and Measure Your Feet Day. Now you know.

Video: Lloyd Reynolds Calligraphy Lessons

Lloyd Reynold’s recorded twenty 30-minute instructional videos in 1968 and again eight years later in color to demonstrate and instruct on italic calligraphy and handwriting. At the 5-minute mark of the first episode, the demonstrations begin. Its a little slow but its over 8.5 hours of free calligraphy lessons, if its something you are interested in learning.

(via Reed College)

Link Love: Write it down now

This is what happens when I don’t do a Link Love for over two weeks: it becomes epic! Sorry its so long but I didn’t want anything to get overlooked or skipped.

Artwork by Donovan Beeson

Artwork by Donovan Beeson

Handwriting Month:

Pilot Petball (AKA B2P or BeGreen) pensin various colors coming out soon. Photo by Patrick Ng.

Pilot Petball (AKA B2P or BeGreen) pensin various colors coming out soon. Photo by Patrick Ng.


photo by Lamy 2000

photo by Lamy 2000

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times





When is a Signature not a Signature?


When is a signature not a signature? According to the Smithsonian, when the President of the United States needs to sign things, he employs an Autopen, a device that reproduces his signature with an actual pen. So, its his signature… but not.

The device is a descendant of a creation used as far back as the Jefferson White House, though Jefferson’s device served quite a different purpose.

Read more at the Smithsonian.

Link Love: Good-Bye 2012

(via Stillman & Birn)

Two Color Wheels by Moses Harris (via Stillman & Birn)

Wearables and Accessories:

Pens and Ink:


Doane news for 2013

Doane news for 2013



Link Love: Snow Day Edition

Pencil Lead Sculpture by Peter Trevelyan (via Present & Correct)

Pencil Lead Sculpture by Peter Trevelyan (via Present & Correct)

Pens and Pencils

Paper and Notebooks

Cartolina MailRoom

Screenshot from the Mailroom App from Cartolina

Digital: Apps for iOS

Other News:

The Palmer Method of Business Writing

Palmer Method booklet for Business

My dear friend Wayne pulled this from his collection of ephemera to tickle my fancy. It is a  very old edition of The Palmer Method of Business Writing, a technique taught well into the twentieth century, not just to would-be office workers but also to children in school.

Palmer Method Booklet for business

“You cannot fail, if you study the instructions and follow them.” Words to live by, in writing and in life as well.

Link Love: Lots of Pens with Video Bookends

(video of hand-lettered cards with the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues from Leandro Senna.  It looks like it was lettered with an assortment of Pigma Micron and Faber-Castell PITT artist pens)

Fountain Pens



Everything Else

(Evan Hecox paints with ink and dip pens for InCase. From The Arkitip Chronicles on Vimeo)

Updated: Fixed the Wired and Rhodia links. Sorry for the snafu! (10/10/12)

Capital Examination of the Declaration of Independence

I realize this particular article might have been more timely last week, I hadn’t realized until I had time to read it fully that it dealt specifically with the liberal use of capital letters in the Declaration of Independence, specifically the flourished “original” document with the signatures at the bottom including John Hancock’s enormous flourish.

In the end, the author’s case is that we should not lose cursive handwriting and the ability to write it and read it in this era moving ever more forcefully into the digital age.

(via The New Yorker)

Link Love: Miscellany of Love





And now for something completely different…

Tachikawa nib holder

This is a nib holder from Tachikawa Model 40 via Jet Pens. It is listed as a tool for comic and manga artists but if you’ve ever wanted to experiment with flexible nibs for calligraphy or more decorative writing and line weights, this nib holder is a great option.

The Tachikawa is designed with two grip rings for nibs that accommodate just about every style of nib on the market — some nibs have a wider arc at the base that normally fit into one size holder and other nibs have a smaller arc that require having another nib holder to hold it — which makes it universally handy. Then there is the soft padded grip area… ah! Most nib holders are just wooden or plastic and can be uncomfortable after using them for awhile, so this soft grippy area is a welcome option.

Tachikawa Brand Nib Holder

And finally, the nib holder comes with a plastic cap to protect your nib from damage when traveling or even when it just sits in a cup on your desk. Can I tell you how many times I’ve impaled my hand on a nib accidentally when reaching for a pen?

$6.75 (worth every red cent)