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Lettres, Arts and Kraft

Posted by Dirck on 19 December, 2013

I’m very slowly making my way through Hensher’s The Missing Ink, last spoken of here, and I’ve a couple of thoughts I want to share.  They probably haven’t incubated long enough, so you’ll forgive the only partial formation they exhibit.

First, an interesting repetition of something that seems blazingly obvious once it’s pointed out–  the teaching of writing that doesn’t have “creative” stuck in front of it is something that shouldn’t be strictly thought of as a language skill.  While the things one builds out of letters on a page are words, and thus language, the act of writing has a foot in physical education and another foot in arts ed (this makes it something with at least three feet, of course, which probably explains why some people approach handwriting as if it were a vicious creature).  This has come up in my reading today of the chapter on Marion Richardson, whose name never came up once during the formation of my teaching degree, probably because I was specializing in secondary education; she’s sort of an English counterpart of Montessori.  It appeared earlier in a brief examination of “foreign” writing, where Hensher reveals that French schools’ early instruction in the motions of writing comes through instruction in dance.  This latter point tempts the boor in me to make some kind of joke at the expense of France, but my internal boor is sufficiently house-broken to shut up when useful concepts are in sight– I now wish I had more time to give my son’s education at home, and more access materials concerning Richardson’s notions and the exercises of graphisme.

German writing also floats past in Hensher’s book, wherein he mentions a couple of times the now-defunct Sütterlin script that was until the start of the 19th century the Teutonic standard hand.  He mentions it for two reasons– its remarkable illegibility and its remarkable ease in use.  I found a site, as one will, that reveals Sütterlin in its squiggly glory, and he’s quite right on both counts.  Any script that one has difficulty telling the difference between u, n, and nn is going to be a bit of a bear for the reader, but the paucity of push-strokes in the formation of those dubious letters makes it a joy to write in.  I’m half-way tempted to try to absorb Sütterlin for my own use, as it would make my journals quicker to complete at day’s end and rather private (none but scholars specializing in Germany of the 1800s could read it, and they’d be expecting German), but there is the fear that one day one might want to go back as see what was written on a given day.

Do, though, if a free moment offers, have a look for yourself and even give it a try.  Perhaps we might form a small circle of correspondents, sending around mutually incomprehensible notes and reveling in the knowledge that it took the writer very little effort.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Targa
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis


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