I reached a benchmark of sorts in my English Roundhand practice the other day- I used up a whole pad of paper! I’ve been using a Rhodia graph paper pad, pulling out each perforated sheet to dry as I fill it up with wet, inky writing. That’s 80 sheets of principal strokes, letters, minums, words, and model sentences. I’ve done a good deal of practice on other papers too, but still there was something especially satisfying about pulling off that last sheet of paper and adding it to the stack of completed pages.
I used the last 20 pages or so of this pad faster and faster as I worked on minums in earnest and then moved on to real actual words in sentences! In the Young Clerk’s Assistant, George Bickham helpfully includes moral maxims starting with each letter of the alphabet for the learner to practice. There’s also a page of sentences which manage to include every letter of the alphabet and a moral message- “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” just isn’t high-minded enough for Bickham!
After I wrote out enough aphorisms to cover the whole alphabet, I felt very much like Mary Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. “Beauty’s a fair but fading flower,” I announced to my husband, “Indolence is an inlet to every vice.” He answered in the best way possible: “You have delighted us long enough.”
If I get bored of the moral maxims in Bickham’s book, there are many alternatives. Other instructional books print alphabetical lists of “copies” for handwriting practice, even if they don’t have Bickham’s engraved plates to model how the writing should look. John Jenkins’ 1813 Art of Writing has four pages full of “Exercises for Writing in Single Lines,” so students have a choice of sentiments for each letter of the alphabet. The Young Man’s Best Companion or Self Instructor provides two lofty sentiments for each letter, but also conveniently adds a selection of “Short lines for Text Hand,” similarly righteous. The first of these, “Abandon whatsoever is ill,” sounds like a first draft of the phrase Michael Hayes copied over and over in his borrowed book: Abandon every sin. Perhaps Michael’s writing master had a book like one of these, full of alphabetical mottos.
I have a fresh new pad to fill with all these practice texts, and a sheaf of freshly cut quill pens. Someday soon I’ll be ready to write my school piece!