I haven’t shared any of my penmanship practice for such a long time, I thought I’d do so today. I’ve had my fill of the moral maxims that are usually recommended for practicing English Round-hand, so I was delighted to find a different sort of text in The Accomplished Tutor or Complete System of Liberal Education by Thomas Hodson (3rd ed, 1806). Most of the chapter on penmanship is nearly identical to other Young Man’s Companion books- plagiarism and piracy were apparently common in this sort of publication! The “Copies for Round Hand” provided for Round Hand practice stands out, however. Rather than a collection of wise sayings on vices and virtues, it’s a doggerel verse with advice about penmanship practice! Each verse starts with a different capital letter:
Changing from a large copy hand to a style suitable for letter-writing was a challenge, so I decided to use these verses to practice writing Round-hand at different sizes. Students who made school pieces for showing off their penmanship often demonstrated their versatility with several different sizes of writing. I followed their lead and wrote the first couplet on each page quite large, then made each successive couplet smaller.
It took me a little bit to understand what that bracket means connecting the three verses starting with I, J, and K. The rest of the poem is in couplets, but these three lines make a trio! I suspect that an earlier version of the poem left out a verse starting with J. That’s pretty common in the alphabetical exercises I’ve seen, perhaps a holdover from a time when J was just a variant form of I. Someone decided this poem needed a line about J, so they wrote a line that sort of rhymed with the I and K verses and just stuck it in there.
Without the J verse, the poem would have had an even number of lines because the original writer also left out a line about X. I can’t blame them, since there’s just no way to write about penmanship with words starting with X! Most other alphabetical exercises resort to names from Greek history: “Xenocrates was learned” or “Xenophon was a great captain as well as a philosopher.” George Bickham hit upon an odd solution. He used words that start with Ex- and put a capital X in front of the line: “X, Excess kills more than the sword” and “X Examples sway more than Precepts.”
When I compare these lines to the last time I shared my copy-book hand, I’m happy with my progress! I can see a lot of room for improvement, however. Somehow I see many more flaws in the photographs than I did when looking at the pages themselves!