Do you feel like your handwriting is sloppy? Uneven? Erratic? You’re not alone. With a little practice, and a bit of guidance right here, right now, it will get better.
Library Hand is a style of handwriting that was once taught in library schools and now, I’m teaching it you via the internet. Library Hand will teach you to write letterforms that are even and open, and it will teach you to slow down when writing. Have you ever seen a card from a library catalogue that was handwritten? Take a look by clicking here. These are all written in Library Hand and we’re going to adapt this style into our own handwriting.
All Library Hand styles feature rounded letters and uniformity between the letterforms. The most popular was probably the style by Melvil Dewey (of the Dewey Decimal System). However, once the typewriter came on the scene, Library Hand started to fade away. And today, with computers and texting, handwriting just really isn’t a priority unless you put it at the top of your list.
Before We Start
As with any style of writing, whether it is Spencerian or Gothic, you will have a much higher success rate if you understand the foundation of the letters. Trying to produce a thick Gothic letter really won’t work with a ballpoint pen, for example. Every style of writing has its own rules and sometimes its own tools.
The Foundation of Library Hand:
- There is no shading. That means the thickness of the line should be the same at all times. Use a simple ballpoint pen to guarantee this effect.
- Dot your i’s and cross your t’s with care. Make all your dots on all your i’s the same and all the crosses on all your t’s the same.
- Keep your letters and numbers at the same angle. Straight up and down is best.
- No flourishes! No fancy stuff!
- Write slower at first, and with purpose. Pay attention to each letter as you write it.
Tools of Library Hand:
Ruled paper (a.k.a. paper with lines)
A ballpoint pen, pencil or fine-nibbed fountain pen with no flex
Library Hand: Beginning to Write
I’ve included two printable pages for you. One features the ‘cursive’ Library Hand alphabet and one features the ‘print’ Library Hand alphabet. (Click on the links to open the PDF’s.)
The first step is to print the included documents and simply trace over the letters and the sample sentence. Now, trace over it again.
The second step is to grab some lined paper. Use whatever lined paper you are used to writing on. When learning a new style of writing, don’t start by choosing a paper with a width of line you are not accustomed to. Now write the sample sentence without tracing the original document.
To the left is a page from my Moleskine focusing on the Letter ‘O’ back when I was beginning with Library Hand. With the ‘O,’ most of the guidebooks tell you to write the capital ‘O’ right to left. Alternately, the Capital ‘Q’ would be written left to right.
No matter how close you get to the letterforms shown in the alphabet diagram, you will end up with your own style of Library Hand. That is totally normal, and encouraged. If that ‘O’ is just not working for you and you want to make a complete circle, then by all means, go for it.
The image to the right shows me writing ‘Personal Style’ with a ballpoint pen on a piece of cardstock. I held the pen at a different angle each time I wrote the words and you can probably spot a few tiny embellishments I added or took away. Pay attention to the differences in the Capital ‘S’ in style, the ‘yle’ in style and the Capital ‘P’ in Personal. Do you see slight adjustments in each one?
When it comes to Library Hand, the goal is to apply a simple structure to letterforms. A simple structure anyone can apply to their own handwriting.
Library Hand: Where and When to Use it
Library Hand was developed for use in places where information needed to be presented legibly to all who read it. Today, you can use this style of writing whenever you like. It’s wonderful for taking school or meeting notes for reference later, leaving sweet messages to your significant other, or labeling anything and everything. In a world where handwriting just kind of happens, Library Hand is a style you can use that will instantly make what you write a little more special (and readable).
>>> Call for Reader Submissions!
If you are giving Library Hand a shot, please email in a snapshot or scan of a writing sample by 12/22/11 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name and a link to your blog or website if you like. We’ll post up your entries in the last installment of this series. <<<
Editor’s Note: This is Article #4 in a series of 6 on the topic of penmanship & calligraphy by Cole Imperi. Read the others so far here:
Article #1 “Where to Start”
Article #2″Where it all Started & Where it is Today”
Article #3 “A Look at Several Calligraphic Styles”