The Lost Art of Handwriting

Umberto Eco, author of the well known novel The Name of the Rose, has an article at the Guardian on the topic of handwriting that you can read here. He notes that the art of handwriting was lost with the advent of the ballpoint pen: “People no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality.” He then argues that we should recover the art of handwriting for several reasons:

  • Handwriting forces us to slow down and compose the phrase mentally before writing it down (as opposed to composition on a computer which encourages rapid thought).
  • Handwriting also helps us think about the spelling of hard words and does not allow us to become dependent upon the spell-checker.
  • The art of handwriting teaches us to control our hands and encourages hand-eye coordination.
  • The whole process of handwriting causes us to slow down and think, which results in greater calm.

Those reasons should be enough to go buy a moleskin, a fountain pen, and start writing again. I hope to take Eco’s advice and find a calligraphy school.

[HT: Alan Jacobs]

6 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Handwriting”

  1. Gotta be honest James: I think this one’s a miss. It feels like one of those good ol’ things we used to do that it’s just such a shame we don’t do anymore.

    Really? Handwriting? It’s really that bad of a thing to lose?

    But I’m really not sure good handwriting has enough value, even with the points mentioned, for it to be worth pursuing. I like that I can type quickly, and I’d suggest that as far as good writing goes, the real trick is not so much in going slow the first time as it is in the re-writing process.

    Still, moleskins are awesome, you’re right!

    Andrew Faris

  2. Thanks for this post Pastor James. I try several times a year. I write letters to my wife using a calligraphy set (it’s not pretty, but it is very special). It usually takes several hours for a two page note. I use a real calligraphy pen with various tips and an inkwell (i’ve even been known to make my own paper). I wish I was artistic enough to be able to include illumination.

    From your brief description, the point of discipline is missed. It takes great discipline to create a thing of beauty. I would say it takes more for someone to get to a point where they can create beauty.

    I would also add that most folks are blown away by hand written notes (even using a ballpoint pen). Handwritten notes bring a seriousness that can be overlooked in anything less. Handwritten notes scream pay attention, because this is important.

  3. My preferred mobile device is the “older” Palms that depend upon handwriting recognition. I have always felt that is a more efficient (and probably safer) method of input for mobile devices, albeit without the one-handed operation convenience of the keyboard.

    Does that count?


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