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Blog > Book Review: Script & Scribble

The cover of Kitty Burn Florey's book on handwriting, showing an exercise book and a fountain pen

One of my Christmas presents this year was a book on handwriting: Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, by Kitty Burns Florey. It wasn’t a hint about my handwriting, though it’d probably be fair enough if it was: this book has been on my wishlist for a while to review here on Postcrossing’s blog! So that’s what I’ll be talking about this time.

One of the reasons I got curious about handwriting is that, when I look at the postcards I receive, I can sometimes tell what country it’s from just based on the handwriting. Which makes sense: some countries have strong traditions of teaching handwriting in schools, while others don’t, and being taught not just how to write but how to write a specific “hand” tends to produce similarities across those taught. We were taught some degree of handwriting in school, as part of recognising letters and reading handwriting, and I do remember being allowed to use ink for the first time… but I know my handwriting was vastly different to those of my peers (though near-identical with my sister’s as long as I’m using my right hand—my handwriting with my left hand is more like my father’s!).

Kitty Burns Florey’s book digs into some of this, mostly from the point of view of the US. It starts off back with styluses and Phoenician characters, discusses gothic script, etc, but quickly gets onto chapter two: “The Golden Age of Penmanship”. This features Platt Rogers Spencer (“the father of American handwriting”) in 1800, A.N. Palmer in 1904 or so, and a few related teachers. Not even really a peek of whether Spencer and Palmer’s methods were used outside the US as well, which was a bit disappointing—this part of the book could really have addressed the stuff I’m curious about, but the geographical limitation didn’t help here.

The next part of the book discusses graphology: whether personality peeks through your handwriting, and whether your character can be analysed by looking at what you write. This makes a certain amount of sense to me—people who write with flourishes and exuberance always seem more extroverted, while a rounded hand always looks almost cuddly to me… But obviously I don’t think anyone should be convicted as a criminal based on their handwriting (unless it matches a forged cheque or something), or denied housing because of it! (Apparently a thing in some countries!?) So this section was pretty interesting, though it feels to me like graphology goes too far.

The last two chapters try to deal with a big question: is handwriting still important in a digital age? Well, I think most of us here would say that handwriting isn’t exactly dead yet, given the number of handwritten postcards we receive! And probably I should improve my handwriting (especially for my left hand)… There are some lovely examples included which make me feel pretty jealous.

Overall, it was a quick read, and it was definitely interesting to learn a bit more about the ways handwriting has developed, even if it was pretty focused on the US. Not an absolute favourite for me, though!

My next book review will probably be of a new fantasy novel called A Letter to the Luminous Deep, by Sylvie Cathrall. It’s due out soon, and it sounds wonderful, and features a romance between penpals. After that, I’ll probably write up a review of Lynn M. Kolze’s Please Write, which she kindly sent me a copy of. But I’m always keen to hear ideas for my next reads, so feel free to drop by the forum thread for making book suggestions! You might need to spend some time browsing the forum before that section opens up, but after that we’d love to hear your suggestions there.

Happy reading!


28 comments so far

jjmedusa, United States of America

I love seeing the different handwriting on the various postcards that I receive. For example, I recently received a postcard from Australia with the most beautiful handwriting on it that looked like a computer font! So special! :)

sealed4ever, United States of America

I am always interested in and admire penmanship. Over the pandemic I slightly modified my own handwriting, which was not very traditional. The motivation was that I often handwrite with my Apple Pencil in an app called Notability on my iPad. Sometimes I want to convert it to text and I had a few letters that I made in such an unconventional way that the conversion was never success. I was determined to tame my handwriting just enough to be able to use that time saving & extremely versatile feature. And I did

Thanks for the review

panicz, United Kingdom

Hand dexterity is very important in many professions including surgeon or plumber. I write a lot.

TwasBrillig, United States of America

Thanks for the review! Love hearing about the book, even though I probably won't read it myself. Appreciate you doing the hard work and sharing it with all of us.

kkkkaiyi, China

Thank you for sharing. I am learning handwriting recently, this blog encourages me.

christelvonderpost, United States of America

after 10 years in postcrossing, I still hand write all my cards. actually it is more hand printed, hopefully easier for the recipient to read.

CStar9, United States of America

A fun and thought-provoking review. Thanks so much!!!

Kewl, Philippines

Palmer's way of teaching handwriting is taught in the Philippines since the colonization of our country in early 1900's.

Also, there is a book, The Science of Handwriting Analysis: A guide to Character and Personality by Billie Rosen (1965). My father gave this to me when he realized that I am into journal/ letter/ postcard writing!

JocelynneB, United States of America

I think handwriting analysis is fascinating!

rococoabean, Australia

When I see someone's handwriting, even if I don't know or haven't met them yet, it's always immediately obvious to me if they're American. Spencer and Palmer's methods are obviously deeply ingrained!

Likewise, it's always interesting to me to see the handwriting styles of Postcrossers from various Asian countries who write to me in English but who first learned to write in non-Latin, often character-based scripts...

dictaudrey, Indonesia

I can already differentiate if they're American, German, Russian, Japanese or Chinese from their handwriting! Those five countries have a typical shape in their handwriting, especially the first three ones!


As a Middle high school student,we need to have a good handwriting so that can get a high score.,but love handwriting,which is a important part of my life!

mspatjp, United States of America

I love to read the letters written by my Grandmother to my my mother when she was in college in the 1940's. I am the historical keeper in my family of stories and ephemera. I even have a cardboard box of love letters written by my father to my when he was in World War II in the Philippines . His scrawl was not as beautiful as my mother's.

Pangolee, United States of America

I am going to read “Please Write.” thanks for mentioning it.

Zulhma, Argentina

Hello. Interesting review of the book. It's true, there are countries recognizable by the handwriting of those who send each postcard. Some have very beautiful calligraphy. In my case it is quite irregular. Thank you very much for such a good post. Greetings

kaila123, United States of America

We were taught the Palmer method when I was learning writing, I always thought it was so pretty but I'm left-handed and my hand naturally bends differently so I have my own style!! I love noticing different handwriting on the postcards too, I'm glad that others do and that you reviewed this book. Thank you!!

JaneLiu, China

Chinese students are required to write Hengshui style in order to get high marks in the exam. As a result, my personal handwriting has now disappeared. I think it is great to be able to write in a unique font!

Ksenia2908, Belarus

Any handwriting is interesting, but it is better to write legibly.

Mirfi, Australia

Handwriting is important for our brains, we use a different part as opposed to when we type.
I can mostly pick where the card is from based on the hand writing.

Blessington, United States of America

I was literally thinking the same thing just now, that I can tell where the card is likely from simply from the handwriting. Somehow I stumbled upon your post by accident. So serendipitous!

Allatt, United States of America

I love getting cards from China or Japan, it seems that they try their best to make sure the handwriting is readable. Also I think that Postcrossing makes me improve my cursive so that it's understandable for those getting my cards. I'd even say my handwriting has definitely improved since I started seding handwritten cards.

fisaak, United States of America

I will have to take a look at this book. Sometimes I write my postcards using a 1955 portable royal typewriter I write in a combination of printing as well as cursive. I love the different cursive styles from the different postcards and countries that I receive happy St. Patrick’s Day from us in the Midwest state of Iowa

Sincerely fed

Flippie, Canada

Please, keep writing! It is so much more fun to do than type.

Sinichka, Ukraine

Oh, that's true. I noticed a long time ago that people from different countries have the same handwriting among themselves and differ from other countries. It was interesting to notice. It is good that it is systematized in a book. I love signing cards, and I love it when signed cards come in beautiful handwriting.

durtlskdi, United States of America

Gonna buy this book!

kathilo, United States of America

Some of the most perfect, precise, clear printing I've ever seen has been from Japanese Postcrossers. I don't know how they do it - I'm envious!

thepaperglobetrotter, Canada

Very interesting! I don't think I can recognize where a card comes from based on handwriting alone, but in my experience so far if a card is barely legible to me it tends to come from Germany (sorry German postcrossers), and if it is very neat from Japan or Taiwan.

Verenai, Germany

I'ver bought the book on ebay and started to read it. It seems to be interesting and written nicely, so even for a person who speeks english as second language it is very easy to understand.
Thanks for the recommendation.

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