The Universal Penman (Lettering, Calligraphy, Typography)

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The Universal Penman Revisited: An Illustrated Tale

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George Bickham was a master penman who flourished in the first half of the 18th century. Today, penmanship is considered the trifle of homebound scrap-bookers, a craft for people who read Martha Stewart Living. But in Bickham’s day, penmanship was an essential business tool — as essential then as knowing how to make a spreadsheet is in today’s office. You knew a good accountant based on the elegance of the ledger.

Bickham’s handwriting manual, Universal Penman, went through many editions and was still in use by the beginning of the 20th century. The keyboard requires different muscles. In putting together this excerpt of an “updated” Universal Penman, I wrote the text with my left hand to simulate a lifetime of keyboard abuse.

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