Guide to the Research Collections



Some 1,700 entries in the Public Catalog refer to handwriting. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century works form the larger part of the collection, but there is an extensive representation of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century titles as well. There are notable groups of general works, textbooks on special systems, and a rich collection of handwriting specimens. The Spencer Collection holds a number of early writing books including Sigismondo Fanti's Theorica et Pratica de Modo Scribendi (Venice, 1514) and Juan de Icíar's Arte Subtilissima (1550). The Rare Book Division has a collection of early American writing books.1

But handwriting as a subject has many aspects besides copy-book styles, most of which are well represented. The most impressive in number, perhaps, is an interesting group of both historical and current works on character in handwriting. Important gifts in this subject area have related principally to penmanship. In 1911 George H. Shattuck gave 428 works--school copy-books, handbooks, and specimen books--published from 1659 to 1911, and covering very fully the period after 1850. This date approximately marks the change from manuscript copy-books prepared by the individual teacher to engraved books issued by the publisher.

Other resources of interest in this area include a substantially complete group of facsimiles of existing Aztec and Mayan codices in the American History Division. Epigraphy is significantly represented; a strong collection on Egyptology in the Oriental Division contains much of interest relating to Egyptian hieroglyphics.2 The Manuscripts and Archives Division has 624 Sumerian and Babylonian clay and stone tablets.3 Materials on Chinese characters and other Oriental writings are held by the Oriental Division, with actual examples in the Manuscripts and Archives Division and the Spencer Collection. Works on procedures requiring special techniques, such as illumination, show-card writing, library hand, and many others are classed with the appropriate subject materials.