Friday, April 17, 2020

Italian Hand

Yesterday I had the honour of doing an Instagram Live Chat hosted by the European Pointed Pen Collective.  You can find them on Instagram through @learnpointedpen. We wanted to discuss Italian Hand as I hope to visit Europe again in September to teach this hand in person.Throughout the past few weeks Kate and Cecilia have been hosting some inspiring live chats. I have loved them all. When I started studying Italian Hand about 10 years ago I went into an avenue of research that was entirely new to me. I looked through my history books, researched online and consulted my friend and historian Don Marsh who has an incredible knowledge of the hand. However, this hand is shrouded in lots of mystery that still intrigues me and causes me to investigate further. I could not dive into all the details during the live chat but hopefully I stirred up some interest.  You can find a treasure trove of copybooks online now at the pennavolans website. Some of my favourite resources can be found there. I want this blog post to be a bit of a starting point for you if you want to dive a little deeper. I do offer private tutorials in this hand ideally taught over a period of six weeks. You can email me at for details. The first book I started with was George Bickham's Penmanship Made Easy
which is a Dover reprint and readily available. You won't find any instructions on how to do the hand but you will find it contrasted with English Roundhand so you can clearly see the differences in weights of shade, spacing and the compression of the script. If you only had this one resource, you could easily start to navigate the script. Page 32 pictured here was one of my guiding pages as I started to put the script together.
When I study this page, I look for the clues it gives me. I look at the placement of shades, the delicacy of the terminal lobes on the capital letters, the compression of the letterforms and the simplicity of the script. The exercise in observation helps acquaint my mind with the letters. It is really only through the process of the mind being able to see the letters that your hand can eventually catch up and start to do what is clearly envisioned in your mind. I can't stress enough the power of observation. In the beginning, I enlarged the page from the book so I could really see the details clearly.Practice in pencil and draw the weighted shades if that helps you to understand the hand. Observe the simplicity of these capitals. The real beauty of Italian Hand lies in the gentleness and simplicity of the lower case. 
Page 29 also provides wonderful study material. 
The exemplar clearly shows the spacing differences between (Round Text) and (Italian Text.) See how delicately the shades are applied on the Italian Hand. I often do this through a retouch movement that becomes part of the rhythm of my writing. Throughout the years, Italian Hand has become fluid in my thinking process. I can now write this hand more rapidly than my Spencerian Script and English Roundhand. 
Right now, we are navigating some uncertain times. I recognize that a private tutor in calligraphy may not be in the budget.  I wanted this blog post to put some details about the beauty of Italian Hand in front of you so you could start to do some practice on your own. I will gladly add more details about the hand if you find this to be of help to you. I am also working on updated exemplar in my own hand that I will post soon. If you have any questions, by all means email me. I hope you spend some time looking and practicing. I realize I haven't posted every single detail about how to practice this hand. but I hope I generated some interest and intrigue. When I practice, I use a straight holder. This hand does not require an oblique holder.  A good nib to start out with is Hunt 101. Walnut ink is a wonderful ink for practice work. My favourite guide sheets for practicing this hand can be found on the IAMPETH website. I use the 55 degree guide sheets that can be found in this pdf file.My new favourite practice paper is Daler Rowney A4 Layout Paper. As always, feel free to email me at Let me know how you are doing with Italian Hand. It is a delight to practice and it will dramatically lighten your touch with the pen. Enjoy!

No comments: