A Comparison of the Differences Styles of Pointed Pen Script

Spencerian Script, developed in the first half of the 19th century by PR Spencer, Sr. was a lightly shaded form of handwriting executed with either a quill or steel nib in a straight penholder. Pens like the Gillott 303 and Spencerian No.1 were in production in and around the 1850's with the 303 being produced even earlier. The students of PR Spencer, Sr. and their students together with the oblique penholder, snappy steel nibs (Gillott 303 and the Principality), smoother papers and good inks led to an embellishment of the basic Spencerian script into what we now call Ornamental Script. It is more ornate and can have more dramatic shades. This form began to leave the realm of handwriting and enter the realm of art.

Business script developed as a means to simplify handwriting for teaching purposes and daily use. It came after Spencerian and is executed with a straight pen holder. Less flexible pens such as the Esterbrook 556 and 761 were used though masters could use the sharper flexible pens like the Gillott 604EF.

Engrosser's script is a heavily shaded style of script that is NOT handwriting; it is the drawing of letters. Master penman Bill Lilly has said, 'It is the equivalent of engraving on paper!" To understand this script we must trace its origin. The progenitor script was English Roundhand script that flourished in and about England from ~1580-1800. It is best seen in George Bickham's monumental work, The Universal Penman. What is important to note is that English Roundhand WAS a form of handwriting done with a narrow cut broad edge quill. The script was then 'engraved' onto a copper plate by a master engraver using a burin. George Bickham, Sr. was both a writing master and master engraver.

Somewhere over the years the term Copperplate was given to English Roundhand script. Since the penned script was engraved as mentioned above, the origin of the term Copperplate is not hard to fathom. The earliest usage of the term 'Copperplate' that I have come across is from Sir Ambrose Heal's monumental 1931 volume entitled English Writing-Masters. Today the term is ubiquitously but incorrectly applied to almost ALL forms of shaded script. In the US, the availability of the flexible steel pen and oblique penholder allowed penmen to imitate the English Roundhand of the engraver's burin and developed as a slow methodical style of drawing letters. Hence it was known as Engraver's script. Since it was used to engross documents it was also called Engrosser's script. Interestingly, though based on English roundhand script, Engrosserís script was NOT a system of handwriting. The Zanerian Manual also calls it roundhand as a nod to its English origins. Using the term Copperplate to describe the work of Bickham and his contemporaries along with the style that evolved in the US is inaccurate and obscures the REAL differences between them.

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