Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spencerian Penmanship in Albums

Signature with a flourish and perhaps a poem

My Ladies' Album reproduction fabric collection from
Moda takes its inspiration from 19th-century album quilts.

Woman about 1860 holding an important book.
An autograph album? 
Religious tract?

Before there were album quilt blocks there were
bound autograph albums.

Some are filled with graceful flourishes and drawings.

Detail from the Hoyt Quilt,
Stamford [CT] Historical Society

Birds were popular in both quilts and bound books.

The inspiration was Spencerian penmanship or copperplate penmanship,
where "flourishing" was an artform.

One could buy books with instructions
and sample flourishes.

A bird flourish sample from H.S. Blanchard, a prominent designer.

One could take classes in schools
or from private teachers, such as Harry R. Kelly whose
card is below.

Professional calligraphers, then and now, will
draw something special for you.

But most Spencerian signatures in autograph books (and quilts)
have the naive charm of the amateur about them.

For more about calligraphy see Jane Farr's blog and shop

And see a fine drawing of Penn's Treaty at the Quaker Quilt History Blog:


  1. I Love using Specerians for stitcheries. Do you mind if I use the one with the bird next in it? I think that would be fun to redesign into a small stitchery piece.


  2. Beautiful! This type of penmanship is a lost art.

  3. Your wonderful blog about Spencerian Penmanship prompted me to take a closer look at the two autograph albums that are kept in my Great Grandmothers camel back trunk (along with a lot of her other keepsakes). It had been a long time since I had looked at these. I incorrectly thought autograph albums were exclusive to females. One belonged to my G-Grandmother, Ida Ashby with dates from 1882-1884. The other belonged to the man she later married, William Henry Hull. Both lived in Mound City, Mo.

    It's interesting that all the pages of her book are filled with sweet sentiments from young ladies and gents, not only William Henry Hull, but also Perry Hart, whose love letters to her are still in her trunk.

    Henry's autograph book (same time period) contains far fewer signatures and his future bride did not sign it.

  4. I recommend Kitty Burns Florey's Script and Scribble for a history of penmanship. And the University of Scranton has the Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection -- with a lot of it digitized.