The modern version of Valentine greetings is rapidly becoming e-cards and Facebook posts. While almost any form of saying “I Love You” is a fine thing, there is still something to be said for Valentine cards that include a beautifully handwritten sentiment.
While contemplating this I began to wonder about handwriting itself, and how it has evolved over the centuries.
For example, the most recent penmanship instruction books used primarily within the last two or three decades yield a more basic handwriting style than the scripts and flourishes of a couple of centuries ago.
The history of handwriting apparently goes back to 3000 BC when evidence of Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphs and the precursor to Kanji Chinese have been found.
As cultures grew and the need for recording history, laws, scientific theories, etc., became priorities, the primitive forms of written communication evolved into more standard types.
Interestingly, cursive handwriting similar to what we know today began as far back as the 700s AD when Charlemagne ordered a standardization of writing that included such innovations as capital letters at the beginning of sentences.
Lettering styles continued to develop. There was a common script style in use for practical purposes, and a more precise, artistic hand-lettering was used for important books, with great care taken to write each letter.
By the mid-1700s, there were special schools established to teach handwriting techniques, or penmanship. Master “penmen” were employed to copy official documents such as land deeds and birth and marriage certificates.
In the late 1800s, Chalres Zaner founded the Zanerian College of Penmanship, and later partnered with Elmer Bloser. Together they founded the Zaner-Bloser Company, and created materials to be used in teaching good penmanship as part of a general education.
The Zaner-Bloser style is one of the main styles of handwriting taught to children in the U.S. to this day.
In fact, the Zaner-Bloser company sponsors an annual handwriting contest for school children across the country. (Read about their most recent national handwriting contest.)
The lovely flourishes of the handwriting form popular in the 18th and 19th centuries lend themselves to our notion of romance and heartfelt Valentine love verses.
However, my feeling is that even the simpler handwriting of the 21st century can certainly be a bit more romantic than the electronically-produced type-written words via computer and text.
Give it a try – your Valentine may find it a sweet thing.