A practical approach to the Italic Hand

HANDWRITING, A practical approach to the Italic Hand, by Wilfrid Blunt. James Barrie. London, 1955. 2s.0d.

By W.J.Strachan
Date Added: 17/07/2009


HANDWRITING, A practical approach to the Italic Hand, by Wilfrid Blunt. James Barrie. London, 1955. 2s.0d.

In these enlightened days when every publisher feels it incumbent on him to have a writing manual on his list and everyone with any pretensions to an italic hand hastens to provide it, it is agreeable to find a new one that is practical, unpretentious and sober by a genuine pioneer. In other words, Mr Blunt has resisted the temptation to pander to the "mystique" with which some self-appointed high priests surround what is, after all, not the quest for the Holy Grail but rather - if one may borrow an image from Mrs Beatrice Warde - for a crystal goblet, a thing of beauty but primarily of use. Mr Blunt re-states to teachers the case for the italic hand, explains how to acquire it, points out in some detail some dangers (with illustrations) and makes some useful suggestions. Fortified with this booklet, Mr Fairbank's revised "Manual" (still THE indispensable) with a few Flight Commander nibs (those proven warriors), the teacher can now, discarding all false shame in front of his pupils and the blackboard, set about his own conversion and that of his eager class. Furthermore he will soon be able to save his face (the most he can hope) before the unconvertible who turn purple at the mention of the italic hand. Oddly enough these people frequent exhibitions of the revived hand, and may be divided into three categories, (i) the most enraged, those whose copperplate is skilled but over-flourished, like the hat of the Quangle-Wangle

Quee whose hat was so covered with loops and lace that no-one could ever see his face, (ii) the moderately furious, whose writing is merely illegible, and (iii) the bad-tempered, whose writing has no recognisable basis. All three categories stoutly maintain that every italic hand is identical. You may, therefore, at your peril, confront them with page 18 of this booklet, which illustrates uniformity in diversity in the dozen examples shown.

On the point of speed - a perennial criticism that boys' hands can be good even when they are writing quickly in examinations has been proved to me by unsolicited commendations on their scripts by outside examiners. Nevertheless I am in favour of sensible abbreviations, and certainly for informal occasions should like to see the general adoption of those (and others) to which Mr Fairbank long ago drew attention in the S.P.E. Tract No. XXVIII: wd, cd, yr, wh, etc. Are they any worse than "ult" and "inst"?

The italic hand, especially in the formative years, needs periodic attention. Mr Blunt mentions several faults that creep in. I would emphasize these: the curtailing of the h ascender until it virtually becomes an n, general spikiness in n and m. My only tentative criticism of Mr Blunt's most useful page of letter-forms is concerning the letter f - the portion above the crossing, which I would have perfectly horizontal, seems too reduced. Finally, I cannot, though partisan, refrain from expressing surprise at his omission of Bishop's Stortford among the public schools (he names nine) where the 'italic hand is now widely practised and encouraged' - the more so as, encouraged by Mrs Dorothy Mahoney and Sir Sydney Cockerell, we were pioneers, and it was Mr Blunt himself who selected five examples of the hands from this school for his Exhibition 'In praise of Italic' at the N.B.L.