Old style handwriting alphabet

The Latin alphabet has no letter for "th," so Medieval scholars used the thorn instead, which looks very much like a "y" when written in caligraphy.

19th century handwriting alphabet

Not your original work? Traditional calligraphy is very time-consuming to write because the pen has to be repeatedly lifted off the paper.


Vote or submit your own photos below--otherwise, if you're looking for more perfect symmetry, check out this perfectionists' list. Calligraphy was fine for monks in the Middle Ages, but in the furious Age of Commerce, an alternative was needed.

The following table is taken from 19th century North Carolina census records, and shows some of the variations in copperplate handwriting.

Cursive letters

Different copybooks were published for particular occupations, genders, and social classes. Eventually, many styles of copperplate script were developed, some quite simple, some highly ornate with generous loops and flourishes. Calligraphy was fine for monks in the Middle Ages, but in the furious Age of Commerce, an alternative was needed. Decorative loops and flourishes can mimic other letters such as small "e". Cursive handwriting can tell about your personality, state of mind, traumatic events, hand-eye coordination and even bone structure that affects the way you hold the pen. For example, "Anne Smith ye wife of John died April ye 1st If the name still seems very strange, check a Bible dictionary. The result was a great deal of variation in handwriting styles based on individual history and preference.

Copperplate Script Common problems with reading copperplate handwriting: Capital "L" and "S" are hard to tell apart, especially in unfamiliar names. Although most people had ordinary names like John and Mary, you may occasionally come across an obscure Biblical name like Keturah, Vashti, or even Pharoah spelled Faro in one case I've seen.

Prior to the 20th century, most people used a style of handwriting called "copperplate," which was invented in England in the 16th century as an alternative to calligraphy for business records and official documents.

It can be determined by analyzing the way we dot our I's and cross our T's, how you write the lowercase and uppercase letters and many other factors.

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