Something italic for the weekend: the ‘scholar penman’

Handwriting is still taught in schools. But probably not to the extent that Alfred Fairbank would approve. A British civil servant in the Admiralty he is probably best remembered today for the classic King Penguin of 1949 A Book of Scripts. (The cover designed by Tschichold from ‘a design by Juan de Vicar, 1547’.)

He led the crusade for a revival in the italic hand during the 1920s and 1930s, claiming that handwriting had reached a peak of excellence in the Italian Renaissance, particularly through Arrighi in his manual of 1523.

Fairbank writes: ‘The person of graphic taste who finds little opportunity to create has an outlet, however modest, in his handwriting, and this is why so many adults take to the italic hand’. 

The illustration below, meanwhile,  is a wonderful example of how to design a title page. The roman font is Dante (designed by another scholar, Giovanni Mardersteig), while the italic is in what is often described as Bembo Condensed Italic, which was designed by Fairbank himself. The block was done by Reynolds Stone.



PS – article in Sydney Morning Herald on tattoo and handwriting here.