Maybe that's not the best analogy, but you get what you paid for today. And this is what came to me. Part of it was in response to the charming blog by a writer called Alex, whose work you can see here.
The State Department of Education sent these nibs to schools by the thousand, so they weren't the expensive sort you see on sale now. The best fun was snapping off the point of the nib and using the pen as a dart. If you didn't snap off the point and just used them as darts as they were, they wouldn't stick in the ceiling when you threw them, but our modified versions did.
The ink came powdered in large sachets, and a couple of the most responsible of the boys were despatched to add the right amount of water, stir it well, put it in the ink-jug and fill the china inkwells in the desk. When I got this coveted job on one occasion, I remember the headmaster saying,
'Now you chaps, be careful making that ink. Don't get your hands dirty. Just... use your heads!'
Everyone burst out laughing, including the Headmaster.
But back to our copybooks. The script was completely different from that of printing. It was designed to flow, and it did. Generally we didn't lift the pen from the paper from beginning to end of the word. Dotting the i and crossing the t were done last, of course!
|Cursive, but not quite OUR cursive!|
Now this was hard enough for right handers to learn, but I was left handed, and right-handers have no idea of the extra problems we encountered. Ink is wet and runny stuff, and left-handers would smudge ink from the newly written characters if we held the pen in a 'normal' way. I don't remember anyone getting caned for that, but some came close. Mostly we put our left hand right around the top of the page and wrote as if we had a crab-claw instead of a hand. It was ugly and the writing was usually awful, but at least smudging what you had laboured over was avoided. Sometimes.
Worse was that these letter forms were all designed for right-handers, with their nibs angled the way they do. Left-handers tended to accidentally spear their nibs into the paper, and the steel tip would release with a flick, and you'd have a series of spots appear on your copybook that Jackson Pollock would have been proud of.
Maybe that's how he did Blue Poles. I wonder if he was left-handed?
What surprises me is how much better at writing our grandparents were than we slovenly critters. I suspect they did a lot more of it and got a lot worse punishment than we did for penmanship deemed sloppy. Postcards sent back home from the Front in France in WW1 from my grandfather and uncles were written in elegant script that put most of ours to shame. (Yes, we had uncles, my father's older brothers, who fought in Europe in that war!)
We use computers now, to compose what we write. If we don't like it, we can make adjustments. This means that the thought processes that go into writing by hand are quite different. When you write it down with pen and ink, you try to do it just once, so it has to express the thought as clearly as possible. Even the lovely prattle that my old aunts engaged in when they wrote letters to each other was like a river of thought, often inexpertly punctuated but beautifully penned. They must have enjoyed the experience of writing, and maybe the lack of punctuation was appropriately Hemingway. Very stream of consciousness.
Yes, this art will go, except amongst the diarists with pens in their hands, the antiquarians and the calligraphers. Artists like Watto and Alex, Joan and Carl. A computer cannot create a personal touch like the hand and eye of a calligrapher, no matter what typeface is used. It will never have quite that connection.