Old penmanship and handwriting fonts
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Emily Austin font
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The text face used here (as well as elsewhere) is Broadsheet™. The home page letters are set in Emily Austin™ & Lamar Pen™. All typefaces referenced on this website—Abigail Adams™, American Scribe™, Antiquarian™, Antiquarian Scribe™, Attic Antique™, Austin Pen™, Bonhomme Richard™, Bonsai™, Botanical Scribe™, Broadsheet™, Castine™, Douglass Pen™, Emily Austin™, Geographica™, Geographica Hand™, Geographica Script™, Houston Pen™, Lamar Pen™, Military Scribe™, Old Man Eloquent™, Remsen Script™, Schooner Script™, Terra Ignota™ & Texas Hero™ (as well as all other fonts in the Handwritten History™ Bundle)—are the intellectual property of Three Islands Press (copyright ©1994–2015). For site licensing contact:

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   P.O. Box 1092
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   (207) 596-6768


The Antique Penman
     H O M E  
  F A Q  
Archive for June, 2015
Letters Home
Sunday, June 21st, 2015
Envelope from Camp Maxey.

Envelope from Camp Maxey.

My father spent a lot of time writing, starting at a delicate age. Early on he aspired to be an author, kept a diary for many years, wrote poems and stories and at least one novel. And he had handsome penmanship, too: a standard, legible cursive with only a few peculiarities—including a “p” with a tallish upstroke and a formal “r.”

But my dad could also type like a maestro. I remember as a boy hearing the sound of his old manual typewriter clattering away in his study. I remember asking him to show me how he made that magical thing work. And I remember later thinking it impossible to type so fast (120 words a minute, as I recall). Then in high school I took a typing class, and before too long I could type nearly as fast as Dad.

Dad’s first letter home.

Dad’s first letter home.

Still, at least early on, my father tended to write all his personal letters by hand. Like the daily letters home he wrote from basic training in 1943.

After he died I discovered that at some point Dad had typed up all those 1943 letters—keyboarded them into his Mac, saved them to floppy disks, printed out all the pages, collected them into loose-leaf binder. The letters span a period from May 9th to July 31st and take up 212 typewritten pages. A cover page is titled “Letters Home.”

Some time later I found a box containing the original handwritten letters he’d sent home to Amarillo. Each page of U. S. Army stationery is completely covered with my father’s airy, twenty-year-old hand. Written mostly in pencil, his letters tell of every mundane event, list the books and magazines he’s reading, relate the things he’s thinking about. Some of his youthful observations are stirring, almost poetic. He writes, for instance, during a time of waiting:

When a day is with me, it stays so long. But when it is away from me, it seems to have lasted so short a time.

The circus comes to town.

The circus comes to town.

I also have here a journal for the year 1947, a year of uncertainty for my father—a summer home after college, a time of girl troubles—that includes a remarkable page devoted entirely to a visit to the circus. You can almost feel from the angle of the penmanship his delight with the event before even reading the words:

The show itself was furiously thrilling. From the opening act of wild animal trainers to the closing parade of wrinkled, dust-covered elephants, one could not catch the many thrills with the eyes and ears.

(Dad was a man of wonder.)

But perhaps the most touching thing I found earlier today while going through a box old family keepsakes: his handwritten description—in white ink on the black page of a photo album—of a picture he’d taken of his beloved dog Bill:

Snow and a beautiful day enabled me to get this splendid shot of Bill. I got Bill in 1930 when he could hardly walk. I snapped this the winter before he was 10. This is the once-in-a-lifetime picture that turned out exactly like you wanted it to. Bill could sit up, clap his paws, play hide and seek and do other things once, but now he can still sit up. He is a swell dog.

Photo of my dad’s dog, Bill.

Photo of my dad’s dog, Bill.

(At one point the angle of his writing changes, as does its vividness, where he’s paused to replenish his ink.)

Dad’s handwriting was so legible that in 1997 I modeled a font after it. I called it Professor, after his eventual distinguished career—a career that, sure enough, involved a lot of writing (and literary translation). Right away he installed the font on his Mac and took to using it to personalize his correspondences while still typing at breakneck speed. The relative popularity of Professor tickled him no end.

Until the end.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

* * *


Work continues on Military Scribe font, meantime, due for release on the Fourth of July. Since it simulates the troop rosters of the His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot (circa late 1770s), I thought I’d give you a sneak peek at its current state by list some actual regimental names.

A draft specimen of Military Scribe (coming July 4th).

A draft specimen of Military Scribe (coming July 4th).

My Devoted Ma
Thursday, June 4th, 2015
A wild bird list I made in 2009.

Wild bird species list.

It recurs to me—as I take up my keyboard, sheepishly, to compose my first missive here in far too long—that I hardly write anything by hand anymore. For all my “Woe are we who no longer put pen to paper” laments, I don’t exactly practice what I preach. My handwriting lately appears mostly just on things I sign (few, in this increasingly paperless world) or the blank three-by-five-inch index cards I fill obsessively with lists and doodles (mostly doodles). And it ain’t exactly what you’d describe as “cursive.”

These days, in fact, I write so little that hand-cramp comes after I’ve penned not much more than a paragraph.

But if the honeybee population crashes, and big agriculture fails, and civilization is thrown into turmoil, and the electrical grid goes down, I’d still know how to write, at least— although I would have to brush up on my horsemanship.

In 1993, Mom provided the source materials for my first historical penmanship font, Texas Hero.

Mom provided the source materials for my first old script font, Texas Hero.

A few of us do still communicate via old-style letters instead of email. Neuroscientists even believe it worthwhile to resist the modern convenience of the keyboard. Yes, digital technology has in the past generation or so swallowed up and superseded our old pen-and-paper ways—whither film photography? magnetic audiotape?—but it turns out that commanding my fingers to manipulate a tool into coaxing tiny curves and loops and circles and stars onto a three-by-five-inch index card is better exercise for my brain than simply commanding my fingertips tap out a series of keys.

Back in the early days of personal computers, my fast-typing father (a technophile) was quick to embrace—and introduce me to—the Apple Macintosh. My mother (a technophobe) never had any use for such things. But Mom could sure write a mean letter. What I have now from my dad is a large digital archive of epistolary files; what I have from my mom are scores of her handwritten letters.

I could always tell from Mom’s familiarly small, looping cursive when she was pensive and when she was in a hurry. I can easily see when her letter was interrupted by one of the many pressing chores that filled her busy days. And I can certainly see, in her later correspondence, the jittery, up-and-down effects Parkinson’s Disease had on her penmanship. Still, her words were always measured and expressive, her hand ever allusive and refined.

And still her letters have a sound. A smell. A feel.

After Parkinson’s had set in. (Ma always closed this way.)

After Parkinson’s had set in. (Ma always closed this way.)

* * *
Military Scribe™

Coming 07/04/2015.

I’m currently at work on a vintage handwriting face that seeks to replicate the dense, compact, disconnected cursive script on troop rosters of His Majesty’s Tenth Regiment of Foot, circa 1776–1778. The Tenth of Foot is famous for having fought against American colonial revolutionaries at the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill.

I’m pretty excited about this one. It should be legible, distinctive, and authentic for the period. I expect to release it by July 4th, 2015. (If you’d like me to let you know when it’s finished, feel free to sign up for our email newsletter.)

* * *

Honestly, though, I just can’t live without a stack of blank three-by-five-inch index cards.


A doodle.

Abigail Adams American Scribe Austin Pen Bonhomme Richard Botanical Scribe Douglass Pen

Emily Austin Houston Pen Lamar Pen Military Scribe Old Man Eloquent

Remsen Script Schooner Script Texas Hero Antiquarian Antiquarian Scribe Bonnycastle Geographica

Geographica Hand Terra Ignota Attic Antique Bonsai Broadsheet Castine

Historical Pens Old Map Fonts Texas Heroes Set Geographica Set Antique Texts Modern Hands

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