Old penmanship and handwriting fonts
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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™, Bonsai™, Botanical Scribe™, Broadsheet™, Castine™, Douglass Pen™, Emily Austin™, Houston Pen™, Lamar Pen™, Military Scribe™, Old Man Eloquent™, Remsen Script™, Schooner Script™, Terra Ignota™ & Texas Hero™—are the intellectual property of Three Islands Press (copyright ©1994–2015). For site licensing contact:

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The Antique Penman
     H O M E  
  F A Q  
Posts Tagged ‘Revolutionary War’
The Pen of John Paul Jones
Monday, August 19th, 2019
Sample of John Paul Jones’s penmanship

A sample of the handwriting of John Paul Jones.

Not very long ago I announced that Austin Pen (released a year and a half ago) would be my last original font. Just kidding!

O.K., I wasn’t kidding at all at the time—but I’ve changed my mind.

What prompted my reconsideration was an out-of-the-blue query by a U.S. Navy Chief about the possibility of modeling a font after the handwriting of America’s first naval hero, John Paul Jones. He included a link to a three-page letter Jones wrote in 1779, now in the digital archives of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Not only did the letter’s author have a neat, legible, graceful hand, but somehow the idea of modeling a font after the script of an 18th-century ship’s captain—let alone the most famous naval commander of the Revolutionary War—truly piqued my fancy.

Chevalier John Paul Jones.

Commander John Paul Jones.

Just that last phrase should tell you something. Despite the hundreds of hours required, and all the tedium endured, designing these old pen fonts brings more than just a new addition to folks’ font menus—it sends me on an adventure back through time. I get to read the minds of people from the past as translated via ink onto paper. I get a glimpse of their personalities, not just from the words they chose but their writing style. And brush up on historical turns-of-phrase while I’m at it.

Of course I can’t help but imagine what those bygone days must’ve been like to the people wielding those pens. I put myself, however briefly, in their strange old shoes instead of these trusty sandals.

I’ve already begun the project by researching this famous Scots-born naval commander. His were vastly different times: He took to sea in his early teens, worked on merchant (even slave) ships, killed a mutinous crewman by sword, added “Jones” to his birth name to throw the authorities off his trail upon moving to Virginia, joined the Continental Navy, took command of the USS Bonhomme Richard, and emerged victorious from the legendary Battle of Flamborough Head (which spawned his apocryphal “I have not yet begun to fight!”). He befriended Benjamin Franklin, dined with John and Abigail Adams on multiple occasions, preferred the title Chevalier to Commander, ended his career as an Admiral in Imperial Russia, and died in Paris at age 45.

I found an elucidating mention of Jones in a letter from Abigail Adams to her sister Betsy, dated December 3rd, 1784. Here’s a snippet set in Abigail’s eponymous font:

A snippet of Abigail Adams’s impressions of John Paul Jones (set in  Abigail Adams).


“We do not often See the Warriour and the Abigail thus united.”
Ah, the delightful mental images handwritten letters to sisters leave you with.

It’ll take me a while to make this font, but stay tuned sometime in 2020—perhaps the 228th anniversary of the death of Chevalier Jones.


Miscellanea

» What if the handwriting on the wall is cursive? Anything to keep from having to point to pictures on the menu.

» How about this message in a bottle? Or this one? It might seem old-fashioned, but it’s way cooler than a smart phone.

» A 382-year-old family tree: Very old handwriting in China.

» Billy the Kid had great penmanship: The Wild West outlaw’s hand survives in more than one letter to New Mexico’s governor in 1871.

» A Tribute to the Fountain Pen: “No one writes like Abraham Lincoln anymore.”

» More recent famous people do, too: Like Meghan Markle.

» Now you, too, can learn to decipher old handwriting. (Hm, maybe I should consider teaching such a class.)

Handwritten History: Mustering the Tenth of Foot
Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015
Military Scribe, a vintage handwriting font.

Military Scribe.

Historians solve puzzles by reading multiple clues. Their job is to interpret information gleaned from manifold sources—archaeological discoveries, ancient books, newspaper archives, boring old handwritten records—and come up with as accurate a narrative as they can of a particular time, place, event.

Sounds like a rather dry, academic pursuit—but is it really?

Heck, my devoted ma spent time as a historical librarian—and even I have only yet begun to appreciate the allure. Turns out those old handwritten records aren’t as boring as they might first appear.

Take my latest historical typeface, just released—a font I call Military Scribe. The inspiration came from a group of digitized military records from the 1770s sent to me by a friend and correspondent: muster rolls of the Tenth Regiment of Foot, a unit of British soldiers who fought on American soil in the early days of the Revolutionary War.

Compact, legible 18th century script.

Compact, legible script.

Muster rolls. Lists of names of Englishmen, surrounded by dates and contractual boilerplate. Routine records written at a desk in an office somewhere by obscure military clerks who knew how to wield a pen.

I had about fifty pages to work with, spanning 1774 to 1779 and drafted by at least three or four different scribes. Right away I decided to concentrate on the work of one penman in particular—a clerk from the earlier part of the period with a particularly legible, compact hand—with some help from the script of another who wrote with a little more flair. The former seemed to take his job seriously, wrote legibly while cramming a lot in; the latter I took for a bit of a dandy, someone who might’ve stopped to admire what he’d written.

Fancier 18th century script.

Fancier script.

What I do involves looking very closely at strokes and curves and shapes while also contemplating things at arm’s length. Mired in this kind of study, I can’t help but get a feel for the personalities of these people. And then the mind plays a sort of trick, and the years sort of slough away, and “history” starts to seem like a year or two ago.

First are the names of the men of the Tenth of Foot. A few sound old and peculiar, like Bartholomew Haycock or a soldier named William Frapwell, but I think I met Frank Cooper and John Marshall at a party. Then come the verbs that appear next to the names—“transferred,” “discharged,” “sick,” “deserted,” “died.” You start to get a feel for the time and place and people.

18th century dittos

18th century dittos.

Invariably you learn things. From the rosters of the Tenth of Foot I found out that the British spelling of sergeant was “serjeant” until about a half-century ago. I also learned that, in handwritten history, the term “ditto” was as serviceable 240 years ago as it is today—and that “do” was an acceptable abbreviation. In fact, I learned so many new abbreviations for names that I included a few in the font.

But one name in particular caught my eye, a captain named Mundy Pole. I’d never heard the name before and had to make sure I was reading it right and googled the fellow—and come to find out he played a role in the famous events of April 1775 in and around Concord, Massachusetts.

Mention of Capt. Mundy Pole on a muster roll.

Mention of Capt. Mundy Pole.

“Captain Mundy Pole of the Tenth Regiment with one hundred men had been detailed by Lieut.-Col. Smith for guard duty at the South Bridge. He was also instructed to destroy any public stores that he might find in that vinicity.” —The Battle of April 19 1775, by Frank Warren Coburn (1912)

[My listing of Capt. Pole is from later that year.]

And this discovery got me researching other old accounts of the Battles of Lexington and Concord—one of the most interesting coming in the latter pages of the Massachusetts Historical Society’s copy of General Gage’s Instructions of 22d February 1775. Captain Pole is mentioned there, too. Check it out.

Historical re-enactors still faithfully recreate this expedition of the Tenth of Foot—the grenadiers and light infantry units who were among the first to come face to face with the “rebel” militias and Minutemen of inland Massachusetts, scene of Emerson’s “shot heard round the world.”

But no one writes muster rolls by hand anymore, I’m pretty sure.


Miscellanea

» Beautiful old love letters in a box.

» Century-old chalkboards found preserved in Oklahoma.

» The power of a handwritten letter from Dad.

» “Computers have downgraded the second of the three basic Rs.”

» A calligraphy artist credits early handwriting practice.

» Fountain pens are still a thing

» …and so are new pen designs.

Military Scribe font

Military Scribe font


Abigail Adams American Scribe 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 Terra Ignota

Attic Antique Bonsai Broadsheet Castine

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