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Rare Book School at the University of Virginia

M-80. Introduction to European Handwriting

Nicolas Barker

An introduction to European handwriting of the early modern and modern periods, covering both book and documentary hands. Topics include: the discovery of a new role by scribes relegated to a secondary position by the invention of printing; the invention of writing as an art form in the Renaissance; the spread of the Italian (italic) hand and Italian documentary modes throughout Europe; the advent of the printed writing manual, and its influence; the growth of commercial and other hands in Holland and Britain in the c17; the survival of Fraktur and other local hands in Germany; the revival of calligraphy under Louis XIV; the evolution of copperplate and its c19 successors.

The course will concentrate on the development of national and international hands used for writing in Europe, and their spread to the Western hemisphere, including the early teaching of writing in North America. The paleography of cursive hands will be touched on rather than treated in detail, but the course will include laboratory exercises in which students will gain experience in transcribing different hands from 1500-50 to 1800-50.

Course Resources

Course History


Nicolas Barker teaches this course for the first time.