National Handwriting Day
National Handwriting Day is an unofficial holiday that celebrates and commemorates the practice of handwriting with a pen or pencil. This holiday falls on January 23rd each year – on John Hancock’s birthday. While this holiday was invented during the 1970s, it is considered to be a holiday that is increasing in importance with the passing of each year. That’s because the art of handwriting is gradually being lost as more and more people use computers, tablets and phones to email, instant message and text their thoughts. Which is quite the shame because handwriting is believed to be as unique to a person as his or her fingerprint.
History of Handwriting
The ancient Romans were the first to develop a written script for correspondence based on aspects they borrowed from the Etruscan alphabet. In its early form, it was a simple method of recording transactions and communicating with other people but by the fifth century, it had started to evolve into a form that flowed quite a bit like modern cursive writing does. However, the development and discipline of handwriting would eventually come to rest with various monasteries after the Roman Empire fell. This was especially true in Christian monasteries, who continued to crank out classical texts all over Europe.
However, even as handwriting continued to develop, there still wasn’t much consistency to it. Styles varied immensely from region to region up until the 8th century. This is when Charlemagne decided to put an English monk in charge of standardizing a handwriting script. This script, Carolingian minuscule, was one that featured lowercase letters and punctuation and was designed to be easily read by candlelight. And it was a script that was highly used up until the 15th century.
During the 15th century, a denser style of writing script began to emerge for use on printed parchments and in books. This Gothic script was used extensively by Johannes Gutenberg on his printing press. However, not everyone was a fan of the Gothic script style. Italian humanists decided to go back to a Carolingian script and they even invented a cursive form of it that would eventually become known as italic. From this period on, penmanship would be seen as a symbol of status and schools began education young scholars in its use during the 18th century.
During the mid-19th century in the United States, Platt Rogers Spencer developed a cursive writing system that would become known as the Spencerian Method. It was widely taught and many schools quickly adopted its use. However, this system didn’t last long and was eventually replaced by the Palmer Method, invented by Austin Norman Palmer, during the turn of the century. The Palmer Method would eventually be replaced by the D’Nealian script, invented by Donald Thurber, and it was introduced into American schools during the late 1970s.
Unfortunately, handwriting took a major hit during the 1980s when the wide availability of typewriters and word processors were used for writing instead of a pen and paper. Schools began to eliminate handwriting courses, replacing them with typewriting and eventually computer classes. Since then, the art of handwriting has continued to decline and is now in serious danger of disappearing altogether.
The History of National Handwriting Day
In 1977, as educators began to feel that the art of handwriting was beginning to disappear as a requisite skill, the Writing Instrument Manufacturer’s Association (WIMA) decided to do something about it. They decided that a National Handwriting Day was needed so they invented it. They chose January 23rd because that is the date when John Hancock was born in 1737. While John Hancock was a prominent merchant, a patriot of the American Revolution, statesman and even the third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he is best known for being the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence.
According to WIMA’s website, writing allows all of us to be individuals and artists during a time when electronic devices such as tablets, phones, and computers are the devices used as the primary form of communication. After all, handwritten letters have sparked love affairs, declared revolutions, started wars, ended wars and created whole movements. It’s also an art form that is deeply embedded in our history.
Celebrating National Handwriting Day
If you’re looking for a way to celebrate National Handwriting Day, then you’re in luck because there are several options available to you. You can check out copies of famous handwritten historical documents such as The Book of Kells, The Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. Or you can learn more about Graphology – the science of analyzing people’s handwriting. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, then you can teach someone to write, refine your cursive skills or maybe write a love letter to your significant other. And while you’re at it, use the hashtag #NationalHandwritingDay on all your tweets and social media postings.