The art of penmanship is alive and well! Here’s how I used the Spencerian Penmanship system to improved my cursive for handwritten letters and my journal.
|How I Improve My Handwriting: Spencerian Penmanship|
The journaling community understands the importance of good handwriting. The sheer popularity of the #RockYourHandwriting Instagram challenge shows how many people still value the handwritten word.
Why Handwriting Still Matters
Fine handwriting makes our personal journals more pleasing to revisit. When we send a letter to a friend, it is the penmanship that conveys the message, giving richness and tone to each word on the page. It’s true that our day-to-day lives are ruled largely by computers, but there’s still something distinctly authentic and intentional about putting pen to paper.
As I became more aware of my handwriting through journaling, I saw small improvements. Still, I wanted to find a handwriting guide that would give my letters that little something extra. Enter, The Spencerian Penmanship Program!
What is “Spencerian Penmanship”?
In short, Spencer was a man obsessed with penmanship (lucky for us). His “Spencerian Script” became the standard for teaching students handwriting in the mid-1800s. It remained popular until the early 1900s, when the more basic Palmer method gained favor (if you grew up in the U.S., you likely learned a version of Palmer’s cursive in third grade).
Spencerian script is known for combining beauty and practicality, and I couldn’t resist a peek into the Victorian years with these books!
I ordered a complete set of the books on Amazon. It comes with 1 Theory book and 5 Copy books. **NOTE: There are sets on Amazon that don’t include everything! It is vey important that the theory book and all 5 copy books be used together. One is useless without the others. My links take you to the complete set.
- The Theory Book: Covers everything from the proper way to sit, to the ideal slant for your script (precisely 52 degrees to the right, thank you very much).
This set is a reprint of the original Spencerian texts, so the culture of the time period comes through loud & clear! I’ve enjoyed the lessons enormously, but I can’t help chuckling at phrases like, “those who do not wish to become hollow-chested or round-shouldered, should learn to sit easily upright, and keep the shoulders square.”
I can just imagine the ruler-wielding teacher telling everyone to sit up straight!
A note for my left-handed friends: This book is straight from the days when left-handedness was considered undesirable. Be prepared to do some creative adjustments, as the instructions are only written for the right hand. I wish the publishers would have corrected the oversight when they republished, but alas, they didn’t.
*UPDATE: My very kind reader, Maria, send me a link to some left-handed calligraphy resources. They are a good place to start if the Spencerian books don’t address your concerns.
- Five Copy Books: The copy books are lined practice books. The first book has short drills on line and curve formation, finding the correct angle, spacing, and so forth. Each copy book fulfills specific lesson sets, so they’re all a little different.
The photo above shows how Copy Book #1 is ruled.
The Theory book provides details on how to form each letter, and the copy books gives examples and drills to practice each pen movement.
Each copy book is ruled differently, since you’ll need less guidance as your script improves. The photo below shows copy book #5, which provides ruled pages and practice phrases for the final exercises.
Before You Begin…
You’ll need a few things to transform your handwriting with the Spencerian system. Luckily, the list is short:
- A copy of Spencerian Penmanship System, Theory book & all 5 copy books (goes without saying)
- Your printable practice sheets (scroll down for the link)
- A practice notepad (optional). Some of my favorites:
- Plain yellow legal pads – They’re cheap and they work. Win, win!
- Rhodia graph paper notepads – while you’re learning to form your letters, you might like the extra reference lines of graph paper.
- Rhodia lined notepad– Rhodia is great for fountain pen users, so you’ll get crisp lines as you practice.
- A comfortable pen.
- Pilot Metropolitan (Medium)– This is the one I used in the photos below because I wanted a nice dark line for you to see.
- Lamy Safari (Extra-Fine)– For my own practice, I prefer a finer pen. The Lamy Safari is an affordable option for a high-quality pen.
- Speedball Calligraphy set– If you want the full experience of Spencerian penmanship, a dip pen is the way to go. I have the Speedball set, which I supplemented with some higher-end nibs. For a beginner like me, it’s a great option.
Printable Practice Sheets
I read through most of the theory book before I began the practice drills. But when I opened my copy books, I couldn’t bring myself to write in them! I was afraid I would run out of pages before I mastered the pen strokes.
So…I created a PRINTABLE with a page for each book!
The printable has 5 different pages: one to supplement each copy book. You can print as many as you need to master the skills in each copy book!
** Download your free Spencerian practice sheets HERE **
I’ve enjoyed these books so much, and I can’t wait to get some beautiful letters in the mail! I hope you enjoy them. Have a great week!
I want to hear from you! What are your favorite techniques for improving your handwriting?
Brainstorm with me!