Left-handed Calligraphy Book Review
By Vance Studley
Given that Vance Studley’s Left-Handed Calligraphy was originally published in 1979, at the exact time I was in third grade and supposed to be learning cursive writing, I was immediately intrigued. I say supposed to be learning cursive because I went to three different schools that year and never had good instruction from beginning to end. Mrs. Tarbell at St. Therese Academy, the third of my third grade schools, worked with me and I received a “Most Improved Handwriting” award for the effort. Pretty proud of that one at the time and I still have the certificate in a scrapbook. But that doesn’t mean that my penmanship has ever been particularly good: legible, but not good.
The first thing I noticed just flipping through and looking at the pictures is that, like all other calligraphy books, the strokes in the sample pictures are numbered. Finally! I can be certain the images are numbered properly for a Leftie. This book has lots of pictures all from the Leftie point of view. He talks a little about Underwriters vs. Overwriters. I particularly like what Studley has to say on page 8:
“…I attempt to convince the person that his disadvantage [being a Leftie] can be overcome once he accepts three factors:
1) Calligraphy is a skill. This skill involves touch, pressure, hand movement, unity, and that elusive quality we term ‘beauty.’ The ability to use these elements in a harmonious way gives rise to legibility which constitutes a major objective of lettering activity.
2) Acquired habits for commercial script writing must be reformed by developing new ones. In time the older style of writing is to be abandoned.
3) The feeling that learning to write beautifully is doubly difficult because you are left-handed compounds the already existing uncertainty that all of us have when embarking on a new discipling.”
Basically, get over your left-handed self, forget what you already think you know, and put in the practice time.
In the Tools and Materials section Studley talks about specific brands of pens. Something to keep in mind is that he is talking about calligraphy pens. You aren’t going to find calligraphy pens on our web site. We have fountain pens. The biggest difference is going to be the tipping sizes. Calligraphy pens are broad. Some of the fonts described use a 4mm tipping size. The broadest tipping you find for most fountain pens is about 1mm. (Nib Tipping Sizes) Can a fountain pen be retipped to these widths? Sometimes. Some are better suited for this than others. (Calligraphy) We’re not talking about apples and oranges. More like oranges and tangerines. What’s important is to find a pen you like and is comfortable in your hand. Then you can figure out the nib and tipping size that’s appropriate for how you intend to use your pen: true calligraphy or just jazzing up your regular penmanship. My daily writer and the pen I’ve been practicing calligraphy with is a Pelikan M400 with an Oblique Double Broad that John has customized to an almost Formal Oblique, very sharp corners and very position sensitive. I have a natural rotation that makes the Oblique cut very comfortable for daily writing. It makes my current, generally acceptable, handwriting a little more interesting.
I’ve been practicing, rather unfaithfully, for a few weeks. I’m nowhere ready to address envelopes or even put up what I’ve been doing here. All the books and pens in the world aren’t going to do the work for me. It’s just something fun in my spare time, whatever that is.
There are some reviews online written by right-handed calligraphy teachers who say this book is a good tool for them and their left-handed students. I know Ward and Linnea of Atelier Gargoyle (ateliergargoyle.com) provide it to their leftie students. They all say that there is no replacement for proper instruction. Well, no kidding! But if you’re just looking for something to give you the basics and a push in the right direction, for $6 this could be the book for you.
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