Fashions in handwriting

This post is a change from a book review. I have not been spending as much time reading recently, because I have embarked on a voyage of discovery. From the comfort of my home I can explore the past. Have you guessed? I am researching the family history of various branches, particularly my mother’s maternal line and both lines of my mother-in-law. I have made more progress with the latter as people had more varied and less usual names.

I like to look at the original transcriptions of census records. Enumerators copied the information from the forms filled in by heads of households. Some of the writing is almost indecipherable. Typed transcriptions are available. Often some of the details have been omitted or incorrectly transcribed.

A contents page fom a school project on the history of books
An example of my earlier handwriting. Notice how upper case T and I were written.

At school I was taught cursive writing. I didn’t find it easy to write neatly using this style. I held my pen too tightly and tried to write too quickly. In my teens I changed to italic script. However, many of the records are written in the style I was taught. Some capital letters are quite different from most of the fonts we are familiar with today.

An older style of writing was copperplate. It is a very even form of joined-up writing. Many historical documents were written in copperplate.

I have managed to deduce what some of the indecipherable words were by looking at census records for the same families at different times. What I jotted down as ‘Renul Maker’ turned out to be Pencil Maker. Pencil-making was an important industry in the Lake District. There is a pencil museum in Keswick, where the history of he local industry is presented.

But back to fashions in handwriting. By the time my children were learning to write, the style chosen was much rounder than earlier generations had been taught.

Styles of handwriting are also different from one country to another. In the past I used to correspond with pen-friends in France and Germany. Their style of writing was different from that taught in English schools. Where our n and m had arches theirs had gullies like our u.

How were you taught to write? Do you still use the same style of writing?

2

What I read in August 2020 (Part 1)

I bought The widow’s secret by Katharine Swartz from a local bookshop, which is currently opening in the mornings only.

I have read and reviewed the previous three books in the series, The Tales of Goswell. Two characters from earlier in the series appear in this book, which may be read as a stand-alone novel. The widow’s secret continues with the same structure – two linked stories set in different centuries but similar locations told in alternate chapters. The stories are gripping. I finished reading this book the day after I began. The subject matter is not for those of a squeamish disposition, but tackles important matters of human relationships, exploitation and more.

Living in the area in which the stories are set (and having known the author when she also lived here) added to the interest of the book for me. I hope other readers will be encouraged to visit some of the places mentioned once travel becomes easier after the pandemic. The Beacon Museum and The Rum Story are worth visiting, but are currently closed.

My reviews of Katharine Swartz’s earlier books may be found here.

Book reviews A-M has the rest of the book reviews I have written.

 

1

Perceptions

View from the tram stop

When you are out and about among strangers, do you ever wonder who they are, what they do and how they see their surroundings?

On a journey this week I was amazed by the friendliness and helpfulness of people, who were perhaps on their way to work. I caught a tram, having been helped by another passenger, when the ticket machine suddenly decided to display the menu in Spanish. As I boarded I asked someone whether all the trams went to Manchester Piccadilly. I thought he said, “This one does.” However the doors were closing noisily and he probably said, “This one doesn’t.”

I recognised most of the stops on the route from a train journey a couple of days before. Places I had known decades before had really changed. When I used to take a train it entered a tunnel at the station. Now the Metro goes above street level in many places. I felt like a time-traveller!

Suddenly a young lady came to me and said, “If you’re going to Manchester Piccadilly, you need to change here.” I thanked her and stood up. Two other people made sure I caught the correct tram, one of them sitting with me on it and chatting. He was a young man, who asked if it was my first visit to Manchester. I told him I had known the city a long time ago, before there were trams.

His reply surprised me, “I thought there had always been trams!”

That brings me to perceptions. Do you see below the surface? Would it surprise you to know that the beautiful stone or brick of many of the older buildings in Manchester used to be blackened with soot from factory chimneys? I can recall seeing the cleaning work in progress using dilute acid (as far as I remember) to remove the soot and grime, exposing light coloured stone.

You may not know Manchester (UK), but what about the places you do know? Have they changed much? Can you trace how they have developed from the changes in architectural style of the buildings?

And what about the people? How many of them have always lived there as Mr Popper had in Stillwater in the excellent production of Mr Popper’s Penguins, which I saw in the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale? (It is on until 31 December 2019 and is great fun.) The young man I was speaking to had only been in Manchester a few weeks. I was just passing through the city centre on a beautiful, sunny morning. Being too lazy to walk to the other side of a post supporting the overhead wires in the hope of better photo, I snapped the Central Library from the tram stop. The tram arrived in less than 5 minutes. I was almost sorry not to be spending more time in the city.