Thursday, 15 January 2015

Handwriting and its history - a post about a book, and me

Every once in a while I find a book in a shop that catches my eye and I just have to read it. There is no rhyme or reason for it, in fact it wasn't even the cover that got my attention. If you have browsed around on my blog you would have noticed the series I wrote on the history of the Kama Sutra, based on a book I found on that topic.
Well this time around it was a topic more intriguing, only because of the fact that we don't think about it, or maybe you have, but I certainly have not. The history of handwriting may not feature in the school curriculum (at least not in this country) but it got my attention.
Amazon ebook
When I thought about this post, I originally intended to write it by hand, on good paper with a fountain pen (yes, I have a few of those) with the intention to scan the result and post the resulting graphic as the post to this blog.
Make no mistake, I won't win any handwriting competitions, but it is not bad either, especially when writing with a heavy fountain pen. I prefer a heavy pen and Francois bought me a Waterman stainless steel pen a few years ago for my birthday. Being a lovely gift aside, it is still my heaviest and favourite pen.
So why didn't I write the post by hand? The answer is simple: size of the file. I would have had to scan the file at a high resolution to ensure legibility of the text, because the graphic would invariably have to be resized (made smaller) to fit the blog's usable space. Not using a high resolution graphic would have made the text fuzzy and more difficult to read.
So instead of straining your eyes, and your patience with a post that takes forever to load, I will limit my forays into handwritten blog posts to a greeting.
It took me a while to read this book, because it is a mix of fact, historical and modern, interviews and personal commentaries by the author. Sometimes it took me a reread of a paragraph or two, to keep up with the narrative. (That's just me, not the author's fault)
When I started reading it, I had a look at my own handwriting. Not a difficult thing, since I keep a handwritten journal and still have the last four years' journals at my disposal. (Why only four is a story for another day.)
My handwriting changed and yet it did not. I write differently with a ballpoint pen than a fountain pen. The same applies to italic nibbed pens, or gel pens or whatever different writing instrument technologies I have in my arsenal. (Confession: I am a pen collector, and I estimate at least one of every type of pen under the sun feature in my collection)
I prefer a fine or needle tipped pen, but the feel of the shaft in my hand is just as important.
I don't know if graphologists (people who study your personality from your handwriting) would be able to find all my flaws in the different ways that I pen a word, then again cute, fluffy and served with a pink bow, is not me either.
Will handwritten words disappear, as the keyboard takes more and more of our words into the world?
I don't know, but if the scientists are right, learning to write by hand and keeping up the practice, has more benefits that just being able to read and write. As immersed as we have become in our modern smart and small devices, studies have shown that our data retention from reading from a screen, is much less than reading from paper.

If this is true for the general population, myself included, how much do we stand to loose if we stop writing by hand?