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P.R. Spencer, "Spencerian System of Practical Penmanship"

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Platt Rogers Spencer, "Spencerian System of Practical Penmanship" (theory book and set of 5 copybooks)

For those wishing to learn a classic American penmanship style, the choices would seem to be Copperplate or Spencerian (perhaps also Palmer Method depending upon how one uses the word "classic"). The Spencerian system of the late 19th century was the invention of Platt Rogers Spencer and is based upon his thorough and logical analysis of letterform and style. It is ideally suited to dip pens with flexible nibs such as the Nikko G or the Gillott 303.

If Spencerian is your choice, the two main textual approaches to learning this elegant and attractive script are, first, the modern material from Michael Sull and, second, the theory book and set of 5 copybooks originally published by Platt Rogers Spencer himself. The latter were widely used in late 19th century public school settings, and have since been reprinted by Mott Media.

Each of the 5 copybooks in the P.R. Spencer set consists of 24 lessons, apparently designed to be gone through at the rate of one each day in a school setting. Each lesson consists of an exemplar line at the top of the page which is to be copied several times on the blank lines immediately below on the same page.

The lessons start with simple strokes, then proceed to lower case letters, words, upper case letters, and finish up with short didactic phrases in the final volume.

In spite of its appalling pedantry, the accompanying theory book, with explanations presented in question and answer form, is well worth studying along with doing the practice lessons as such a study will reveal the logical and organized structure of the entire system. The actual letterforms are analyzed into a small number of "principals" which are then combined to form the letters and this is explained quite well in the theory book.

Another reason to study the theory book is that the descriptions of the capital letters differ in some instances from the forms presented in the copybooks. One would do well to study these different forms, as well as those in Michael Sull's Spencerian instruction book, in order to determine one's own preference. There is indeed much room for individuality in this, or any, penmanship style.

One additional point should be noted: the paper in the Mott Media reprint is poor quality. Do not plan on using the actual copybooks for your practice. Instead, either photocopy the pages onto paper of your choice or print out the lined paper from Linugraphy (http://www.allunderone.org/calligraphy2/calligraphy.php). Or order some of Michael Sull's practice sheets..

The copy-book approach is not suitable for everyone. Some would go further as one can see from the following passage taken from the introduction to "The Palmer Method of Business Writing" (http://www.iampeth.com/books/palmer_...1935_index.php) wherein the copy-book approach is disparged in the most unambiguous fashion:

"As will be seen at a glance, the Palmer Method of Business Writing has nothing in common with copy-books which have been so largely used in public schools for more than half a century. If they are right, this book is wrong. The two methods of teaching writing are absolutely antagonistic.

". . . no one ever learned to write a good, free, rapid, easy, and legible hand from any copy-book that was ever made.

"The copy-book has but one purpose - to secure absolute mechanical accuracy. . . . It has been proved, through at least two generations, that the copy-book kills individuality and makes freedom of movement impossible."

So who would benefit from the copybook approach rather than the more modern instructional approach of Michael Sull?.

Clearly, those individuals who exhibit OCD traits might find this to their liking. Also, those working under the direction / tutelage of an individual (teacher, tutor) who can provide the external motivation to keep one to a regular pace of work.

Another class of individuals who might try (though how successfully is open to question) the copybook approach are those particularly interested in things related to the 19th century, especially things related to the history and techniques of education in that era. This would describe my own situation though, even then, I used a rather eclectic approach both in terms of day-to-day study and practice as well as drawing on material from other sources (Michael Sull).

If you still desire to learn via the copybook approach and the above either do not apply, or have not worked in your case, then you might try purchasing one of those Japanese Actroid robots (available in female or male versions) which can presumably be programmed to provide the proper incentives, both negative and positive, to help you on your way.

One final note: it isn't really possible to integrate the new letterforms into your own current writing style until you have learned at least the lower case forms in their entirety (this is covered in the first half of the course). Then one could use the Spencerian forms in an all lower case format until one develops the capitals.

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