Monday, January 21, 2008

Lost Arts

While I love every aspect of antiquarian books, I particularly enjoy the inscriptions that I often find on the inside covers. A little boy's list of Christmas gifts; endearments from a grandparent at Christmas time; a tender dedication from a close friend -- each of these are a glimpse into the lives of the people who once owned and loved the books that are now in my possession.

But personal attachment is not the only attraction. This inscription, in the cover of a volume of John Ruskin, has no sentimental value. But for me, the beauty of the penmanship is worthy of display. The delicate, sinuous curves of the pen are not perfect -- the inscription is little more than a hastily-written note -- but they show that the writer took great care in learning penmanship.

All inscriptions in antiquarian books take us back to years long passed away, when people took pride in their penmanship and used it an avenue of creativity. Of all of the arts that have been lost, penmanship is probably the least valued and the least mourned. Perhaps it is time for a revival of a fine art that beautifies every-day things, and turns the ordinary into the extraordinary.


  1. I know I've just about never commented on your blog, but I had to today. I recently discovered an inscription in my sister's paperback copy of Sense & Sensibility. As soon as I saw your post, I thought of it. I probably should take a photo of it and post it on my blog.

    It makes me want to inscribe all the books I give away. :-)

    Oh! And thank-you so much for the lovely scarf! It is perfect, goes so beautifully with my purple coat. And it has been keeping me nice and toasty in the 8 degree temps!

  2. I love to look at the beautiful writing in antique books too. It always amazed how thin the letters are! My mother has a bunch of calligraphy pens (the kind that you fill from the ink well) and so I try to them out now and then. I LOVE the ones with thin nibs. If I was learning them as a part of my education my copy book would be full of blots!!!

  3. I could read inscriptions all day in my antique books just for the pleasure of the penmanship! It is a shame that we do not put as much emphasis on it today.
    I actually am teaching my girls(and eventually my little man) to have good penmanship. I have them do copywork weekly and hope that it will encourage a love of fine writing.

    I still would love to learn caligraphy more thing...

    Lots of love,

  4. I love old writing (and old books) too! Once my kids master cursive I hope I can interest them in copperplate...We'll see.

  5. Krista,
    You're welcome! :) I'm so glad it actually keeps you warm. It's hard to tell, since we don't get very cold temperatures down in Florida! LOL!

    I think my copybook would be full of blots, too! :) I got a book on calligraphy with a gift certificate, and found one on copperplate as well, so we'll see how that goes.

    Sommer and Charity Grace,
    I'm so glad that you are teaching your children good penmanship! It's nice to know that the art of writing hasn't died out yet.

    Yours in Christ,


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