How I Came to Italic

By Graham Last
Date Added: 17/07/2009


I first became aware of Italic when I saw the art master of my new school write. Even an eleven-year-old boy couldn't fail to be impressed by his distinctive hand. It stood out because of its clarity, flow and the regular shapes based on an oval. It stood in direct contrast to the ungainly, rounded shapes with a backward slope I made as a left-hander taught the Marion Richardson style. I didn't forget his Italic although my feeble attempts to copy it soon ceased as other interests took hold.

It was not until I became a teacher myself that I really made the effort to reform my hand. Note-taking in countless lectures and the rush to get everything down in exams had taken their toll. My hand was worse than ever. I knew that, if my pupils were to stand a chance of developing a decent, legible hand, I would have to provide them with a much better exemplar.

That was nearly 30 years ago. I think that my hand is certainly better than it was but old habits die hard: I still tend to press too hard and, particularly under pressure to get something down quickly, I allow my "thumb and forefinger to do the work rather than my wrist. Of course, both these faults are common with left-handers. I also have trouble with doing a decent f with a tail. If I'm not careful, the f looks more like an s. For this reason, I tend to end the letter in a straight line just below the writing line. This looks much better.

Like many of you, I suspect, I have always been after the writer's Holy Grail: the perfect pen! For several years I have been using a Parker Duofold. I would be hard pressed to afford one now but its ink flow is second to none. When I first got it, I wrote my name several times on a piece of very fine sandpaper. The result was that the straight-edge nib became a gentle oblique. Wear over the years has reinforced the obliqueness and it is perfect (well, almost!) for me although just a touch too broad. I also like my two Swan Calligraphs which I have managed to acquire. These have thinner nibs and are particularly useful for such things as diary entries.

My writing will never be as stunning as my old art master's but I don’t regret taking up Italic. Even my version of Italic attracts the odd compliment!