Mother Jones

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HANDWRITING

Madison Pauly

3200 B.C.: With stylus and clay tablets, ancient Mesopotamians create abstract symbols to represent syllables of their spoken language.

600s: Quill pens and parchment paper take hold in Europe. Drippy ink discourages pen lifting, hence cursive.

1440s: Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press forces scribes to pivot to teaching penmanship.

c. 1712: A popular copybook by George Bickham teaches farmers and merchants to write in a “round” hand. Gentlemen of the era employ an italic script, while accomplished women practice “ladies’ roman.” (In general, only fairly well-off white males are taught to write.)

1740: South Carolina’s

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