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Penmanship Manuals

An exploration into writing instruction from the late 1800s to mid 1900s demonstrates the considerable shifts not only in the physical acts of writing, but it also conveys a wealth of subtext regarding traditional forms, gendered styles, and the need to evolve amidst the availability of typewriters and word processors. The Spencerian, Eclective System, The Normal Review of Writing, The Palmer Method, Merrill’s Modern Penmanship Standard Series Zane-Blosner, and the D’Nealian writing systems all create a dialogue of writing theory and pedagogy within a fairly concise time frame. In fact, this particular slice in time may prove to be one of the more interesting cross-sections for anyone curious about modern writing history because the documented directives within such manuals lay out a blueprint, a compass of sorts, that situates time and space like a frame in the still ongoing story of penmanship technique and instruction.