Old penmanship and handwriting fonts
Antiquarian font
Antiquarian Scribe
Bonnycastle font
Geographica typeface
Geographica Hand
Geographica Script
Terra Ignota
Abigail Adams font
American Scribe
Austin Pen
Bonhomme Richard
Botanical Scribe
Douglass Pen
Emily Austin font
Geographica Script
Houston Pen
Lamar Pen
Military Scribe
Lamar Pen
Remsen Script
Schooner Script
Texas Hero font
Attic Antique font
Bonsai font
Broadsheet font
Castine 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
   Rockport ME 04856 USA
   (207) 596-6768


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Posts Tagged ‘personality’
Our Flimsy Digital Words
Sunday, February 11th, 2018
From a letter from my mother as I was designing Texas Hero.

Page of a letter from my ma.

For decades I’ve ranked typing as the most useful class I took back in high school. I hated showing up for this particular summer school elective, my story goes, but by the end of the class I could type 40 words a minute. It was like magic. And now I can type 100.

Well, lately I’ve begun to regret my supreme keyboarding skills.

It took a good while to sink in. But just the other day, during my morning hike with Jack, my dog, the true ramifications hit me. Having somehow reached Retirement Age, I’d been ruminating on the written materials I’ve produced over the past 40 or 50 years, both personal and professional. And it occurred to me that—for the past 30 of those years, anyway—nearly all endure as but flimsy digital words. Many thousands of email messages, hundreds of letters in Microsoft Word, text files cram-packed with thoughts and notes and reflections. Intangible, ethereal. All stored, like thoughts, in memory.

A page from my dad’s diary.

A page from my dad’s Army diary.

Even the drafts and revisions of books I’ve authored abide only in digital form.

These things I’ve written exist on various hard drives, in cloud storage—even a few old Zip drives. Remember floppies? SyQuest disks? I’ve got a few of those squirreled away in boxes somewhere.

Projecting time forward a generation or two, I realized that the chances any of my stuff will stick around long enough to find its way into a historical museum somewhere (not that it should) are paper thin. Because none of it’s on paper. And the only way to get it there is to find a way to translate all those 1s and 0s into computer text and print it out. In any old font you want.


But project time backward a couple generations and, and you’ll find journals and notebooks and postcards and stationery filled with handwritten words. Whether cursive or printing, neat or sloppy, slanted this way or that—each style reflects the unique hand of its author. And none of it was put down at 100 words a minute.

From my grandparents to my great-grandparents, 10/22/1943.

Card from my grandparents to my great-grandparents.

I have handwritten letters from my mother, diaries written by my father, postcards from my grandparents. I recognize their familiar cursive styles on envelopes, on the backs of old photos—photos developed in a darkroom, I mean. There’s probably even an old handwritten recipe collection somewhere.

Yet where does my penmanship appear? On a few old love letters and poems perhaps, in a couple or three decades-old notebooks.

On that hike the other day I decided to pick up a pen more often, to write lists and notes, cards and letters, maybe even fill a notebook. My hand might not be practiced, or cursive, or neat. It might take me a while to get over the hand-cramp. But I expect it’ll mean more to the future reader than a bunch of digital words set in, say, Comic Sans.


» See? “[A]ll that will be remembered of them is what they typed on a piece of paper from a computer.”

» Turns out this gang of fourth graders are diggin’ cursive these days.

» Some might even (like me!) become experts on deciphering old penmanship.

» The uniqueness of individual handwriting makes the news again (Roy Moore).

» Random aside: There’s actually a bull named “Penmanship.”

» And, hey, with Valentine’s Day coming, maybe it’s time to write a love letter—by hand.

Power of the Pen: The Handwriting Connection
Monday, August 24th, 2015
Bonnycastle font under development.

In progress: Bonnycastle

Lately I’ve been tackling a type design project that marks something of a change of pace for me. As usual, this font is inspired by hand lettering, but it’s a more formal, titling sort of face. Bonnycastle is inspired by the legends on the maps and drawings of Sir Richard Henry Bonnycastle (1791–1847), an English officer who served in the War of 1812 and ended up settling in Canada. A military engineer, Sir Bonnycastle left behind some interesting historical materials—and even wrote a couple books (such as Canada and the Canadians).

Love letter from Johnny Cash

Love letter from Johnny Cash.

So, technically, yes, the source material is handwritten, but it’s not handwriting—something these days I seem always to have on the brain.

Because lately I’ve also been thinking about the power of the pen. And I don’t mean in the traditional sense of the phrase—not written content, not literature, not “the pen is mightier than the sword”—but the kind of extra gut-punch you get when reading someone’s words as put down by their very own hands and fingers.

My go-to example of this: “Victory or Death,” a powerful enough message when printed, reaches a whole nother level when you notice that young Colonel Buck Travis, writing a fortnight before he died at the Alamo, has underscored those words three times. But less dramatic, more recent, more intimate examples will likewise move the reader.

Note from Paul McCartney

Note from Paul McCartney.

I’m thinking in particular of a letter from Johnny Cash to his wife, June Carter Cash, that appears in House of Cash (by son John Carter Cash) and has been circulated widely online. Who knew John Cash had such stylish hand-printing, with its consistent tilt and distinctively double-looped “I”? I notice that Cash, like me, had taken to using a two-story “a,” and that the tails on his “y” and “g” tend to curve to the right. It seems easy to match his hand with his on-stage persona, his flair. As cute as his endearing “Princess,” to me, is his little cross-out of the extraneous “y” at the end of “ever.” Typewritten or sent via email, such a love note wouldn’t carry anywhere near the soul.

Decided to hunt around and see what the handwriting of other musicians looked like, and I happened on a Christie’s auction lot, a letter by Paul McCartney to surrealist Desmond Morris, written in 1987 after McCartney’s wife Linda had purchased Morris’s painting “The Survivors.” It’s a brief letter, written on Blossom Wood Farm stationery in a dashed-off upright hand. The former Beatle’s style is a connected cursive, nothing fancy (although the double-stacked “c”s in his surname are interesting)—really, the kind of casual, modern handwriting you might see every day. What stands apart about McCartney’s note is how he closes with a couple of doodled portraits, apparently representing himself and Linda. They’re good. They attest to his creativity, suggest that it comes pretty easy for him, and hint at a personality people have seen since the ’60s—McCartney’s playful air. To doodle, of course, you need a pen or pencil.

Emily Dickinson’s hand

Emily Dickinson’s hand.

Googled around a bit more and found samples of the penmanship of a couple of well-known American writers, Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) and Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961).

The handwriting of the 19th-century poet and the 20th-century author could hardly be less similar. Dickinson, a famous introvert and recluse, wrote in a large semi-scrawl that seems almost impossibly loose and airy (a fact that’s prompted a number of handwriting analyses). Her words are not only widely spaced but often separated further by small, peculiar dashes. Her “C,” “A,” and “W” are open and round, but the crosses on her “t”s are like sword slashes, angling viciously down. Although mostly unpublished in her lifetime, Dickinson’s poetry was for the period experimental and expressive and free—in keeping with her hand. But it could also seem intense, probing, and open-ended. Looking at her striking script, I can imagine why one of her correspondents, literary critic Thomas Wentworth Higginson, might’ve written, upon finally meeting Dickinson, that he’d never been “with any one who drained my nerve power so much. Without touching her, she drew from me. I am glad not to live near her.”

Ernest Hemingway’s handwriting

Hemingway’s handwriting.

Hemingway’s handwriting is peculiar in a different way: compact, loopy, legible—and composed along a precipitous slant. In this letter on Cuban stationery dated 20 February 1948, Papa’s loopiness is so profuse that you get the idea that his pen is simply making lines of tight, close circles, from his curvy “f”s to his rounded double “t”s—check out the words “getting” and “little”—to the curls of his “g”s and “y”s. And those “t”s are crossed just barely, very high on the circular stems. By contest, note Hemingway’s straight, vertical parentheses, or parenthetical dividers, separating his aside about Uncle Wolfie, the dead gray cat. What’s that about? (And did he really spell “gray” two ways?) Finally, those sloping lines! I thought perhaps they were an aberration, perhaps due to having to write on a cramped surface, but I found plenty of other examples of Hemingway’s slant. Everything travels downhill—until the very bottom of the page, where he has to sneak a few words above the edge of the paper.

Letter from Isaac Newton

Letter from Isaac Newton.

But even going back centuries you can feel an intimate connection to handwritten words that’s impossible via typeset text. Composed along a gentler (and opposite) slant than Hemingway’s is a letter by Sir Isaac Newton to Dr. William Briggs, written on 20 June 1682 and beginning, “I have perused [your] very ingenious Theory of Vision.” Despite its obvious age and the spread of the ink from the quill, the lines are so straight and the words dashed off with such seeming confidence that at once you get a mental picture of this 17th-century thinker as if he’d sat at his writing desk no more than a decade ago—not 333 years. There’s a clear personality here.

Try this out. Below is a note written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, written to longtime friend and correspondent Charlotte von Stein a hundred years after Newton’s letter. Even if you can’t interpret the words, isn’t this collection of strokes and curves (ending with a great “G”) more evocative of their polymath author than if you were staring at a text-only representation of the original German?

Collectors of such bits of history understand. Heck, autograph seekers abound. But how ironic it is that there’s something so intangibly powerful about reading words actually written by hand.

Note from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Note from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


» Finnish schools to phase out handwriting.

» Then again, calls to bring it back are growing louder.

» And then there’s handwriting’s reflection of character.

» Surely handwritten thank-you notes are powerful, like Taylor Swift’s

» …or even this old hand-printed one from golfing phenom Jordan Spieth.

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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