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Out of Print: Pamper your love of books in this online literary-themed shop



While today we can get machines to write for us, writing has been a manual task for most of human history. And there are people who are passionate about keeping it that way. Some schools incorporate handwriting requirements into their curricula, although even the positive research on the benefits of handwriting versus writing is not large enough to be conclusive, and in some studies cursive is most likely no better at using other methods to make words into paper bring to. But the manuscript has a long and moving tradition in human history, and that's why it does not go away so quickly. In honor of the National Handwriting Day, here are some facts about handwriting through the centuries. Courtesy of Anne Trubek's recently published book The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting

1
. The first writing system in the world was tiny.

The Sumerian writing system Cuneiform, which originated from Mesopotamia 5000 years ago, was usually etched in clay tablets, which were often only a few centimeters wide. Trubek describes that most of the Cuneiform tablets she used at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York were only half the size of her iPhone. "Find the second portrait of Lincoln on the penny," said a curator at the Morgan Library. "Do you know that of his statue in the Lincoln Memorial on the front? So small can the script be."

. 2 The medieval writing was regional.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, various writings developed regionally as writers embellished existing systems and adapted them to their own style. However, this made books a bit hard to read for those who were not trained in this exact script. All books were written in Latin, but the letters were so different that many writers could not read documents from other regions.

. 3 There is a complete document dedicated to the manuscript.

Do not be bad if you can not easily decipher the writing of other people. "The truth is that most of us can not read 99 percent of the historical data," writes Trubek. Paleographers have been studying for years to specialize in certain scriptures used in a particular time and context, such as medieval manuscripts or 18th-century legal documents. "In other words," says Trubek, "even someone whose life's work is devoted to reading italics can not read most italics."

. 4 Charlemagne was a hero of the manuscript.

The emperor, himself largely illiterate, decreed in the ninth century that the same script should be used throughout the Holy Roman Empire, an area that covered most of Western Europe. Called Carolingian minuscule, uniform writing dominated until the 11th century in France, Germany, northern Italy and England. The Gothic script, which we associate with the Middle Ages today, is a derivation of Carolingian minuscule that emerged in the 12th century. It was revived later in the 15th century and became the basis of Western typography.

. 5 Monks were not fans of printing presses.

The 15th century monk John Trithemius defended the need for handwriting in his essay "In Praise of Scribes". He claimed that although the scripture could last a thousand years, the printed book was "a matter for the paper and would completely disintegrate in a short time". The print would make books unattractive and cause spelling mistakes, and he predicted that the story would "judge the manuscript book as superior to the printed book." It had nothing to do with the fact that he lost his former job on a machine, no. In fact, Martin Luther complained about books, much as people today complain about the quality of online writing, and said, "The multitude of books is a great evil, and this form of writing is not to scale or limited."

. 6 The first font was very script-like.

The first printed books were designed to look very similar to the manuscripts of the day, not to shock people with a new design. Johannes Gutenberg and his hired craftsmen carved a complex Gothic typeface into 290 unique characters for the press, allowing the printer to recreate every letter in uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as punctuation, so that the type would look like a scribe. The first few letters of each section were even red, exactly as given in manuscript style.

. 7 In the past, manuscript professionals were quite mobile.

While printing, scribes were exempted from work, instead becoming teachers, tutoring, and writing books on the art of writing. These typists became wealthy professionals in a way they were never before as simple scribes. As companies and governments began employing secretaries for the first time, who took dictation and knew various scripts, this was an unusually effective way to improve the grades in medieval Europe. The papal secretary was the highest position a citizen could take in society.

. 8 In the 17th century, the manuscript was personally enlightening.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, various writings became more than just an indication of where you learned. Specific scripts were created for classes and professions and even for gender. Wealthy Europeans would use a script for their personal correspondence and another for their legal and business correspondence. A whole range of scripts in England have been developed for judicial purposes only, making many documents illegible to anyone not trained in that particular writing style.

. 9 The punctuation was rare until the 18th century.

Before the literacy was widespread, the spelling varied from person to person and nothing was unified. Over time, it became uniform, and the first dictionaries were published only in the 17th century. Even then, standardized orthography did not change in another century. The punctuation was even worse and, according to Trubek, "largely non-existent or not standardized" until the eighteenth century.

This story originally started in 2016.


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