copy books note

A Note on Copy Books

Copy books of handwriting came into being as the printing press made scribes turned their activities to serving as writing masters. Instead of being defeated by the new techology, the printing press was used a a way to distribute their works. The first such book was Ludovico degli Arrighi's La Operina (1522). The advent of copperplate engraving meant that copybooks could take an elaborate form. In the eighteenth century England's mercantile economy meant that the English mercantile hand or English round hand, developed by George Shelley from the Italian hand, became popular throughout Europe. The largest and most elaborate copy book was Bickham's Universal Penman (1743). Although round hand was a product of trade, a simpler form was developed for women, as the example demonstrates. William Brooks (1696-1749) taught writing in several locations in London. He contributed plate 32 to the Universal Penman, but his only know individual work is A Delightful Recreation for the Industrious (1717). In this plate from the volume his example of Italian hand is used to advertise his services as an instructor to women. Italian hand was recommended to ladies as it is the simplest calligraphic hand to master. As Martin Billingsley suggested at the beginning of the seventeenth century about ladies' writing, "they (having not the patience to take any great paines, besided fantastical and humorsome) must be taught that which they may easily learne . . . because their minds are (upon light occasion) easily drawn from the first resolution!"

Joyce Irene Whalley, The Student's Guide to Western Calligraphy (Boulder & London: Shambhala, 1984) and Ambrose Heal, The English Writing Masters: 1570-1800 (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1962).