This section is from the book "Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: A Guide To Correct Writing", by Thos. E. Hill. Also available from Amazon: Hill's Manual Of Social And Business Forms: The How-To-Do-Everything Book Of Victorian America.
The first is that of curved lines. Those objects in Nature that we most admire possess a grace and fullness of curve which elicit our admiration. The edge of the flower curves. The trunk of the tree, the leaf, the bud, the dewdrop, the rainbow, - all that is beautiful in Nature, in fact, is made up of curved lines. The human countenance, rounded and flushed with the rosy hue of health, is beautiful. Wasted by disease and full of angles, it is less attractive. The winding pathway in the park, the graceful bending of the willow, the rounded form of every object that we admire, are among the many illustrations of this principle. This is finely shown in the engraving of birds and flowers at the head of this chapter.
As is exhibited in the above, those letters composed of curved lines present a grace and beauty not shown in those having straight lines and angles. As a rule, never make a straight line in a capital letter when it can be avoided.
Another important principle is that of proportion. Any object, to present a pleasing appearance to the eye, should have a base of sufficient size and breadth to support the same. Nature is full of examples. The mountain is broadest at the base; and the trunk of every tree and shrub that grows upon its sides, is largest near the earth, the roots spreading broader than the branches.
The good mechanic builds accordingly. The monument is broadest at the base. The house has a foundation large enough for its support, and the smallest article of household use or ornament, constructed to stand upright, is made with reference to this principle of proportion, with base broader than the top. This principle, applied in capital letters, is shown by contrast of various letters made in good and bad proportion, as follows:
Letters should be constructed self supporting in appearance, with a foundation sufficiently broad to support that which is above.
A very important principle, also, is that of contrast. Nature is again the teacher, and affords an endless variety of lessons. Scenery is beautiful that is most greatly diversified by contrast. That is more beautiful which is broken by mountain, hill, valley, stream, and woodland, than the level prairie, where nothing meets the eye but brown grass. The bouquet of flowers is beautiful in proportion to the many colors that adorn it, and the strong contrast of those colors. Oratory is pleasing when accompanied by changes in the tone of voice. Music is beautiful from the variety of tone. The city is attractive from contrast in the style of buildings; and the architecture of the edifice that is broken by striking projections, tall columns, bold cornice, etc., is beautiful from that contrast. Thus in penmanship. Made with graceful curves, and in good proportion, the letter is still more beautiful by the contrast of light and shaded lines, the heavy line giving life to the appearance of the penmanship. If desirous of observing this principle, care should be taken not to bring two shades together, as the principle of contrast is thus destroyed. The effect of shade is shown by the following letters in contrast.
In capitals, where one line comes inside another, it is important for beauty that the lines should run parallel to each other. The equi-distant lines of the rainbow, and the circles around the planets, are among Nature's illustrations. A uniformity of slope and height, in all letters should also carefully be observed.
Again, as the well-trimmed lawn and the cleanly kept park, with no unsightly weeds or piles of rubbish to meet the gaze, are objects of admiration, so the neatly-kept page of writing, marred by no blots or stains, is beautiful to the eye.
In executing broad sweeps with the pen, and assuming a position that will give greatest command of the hand in flourishing, the position of the pen in the hand should be reversed; the end of the penholder pointing from the left shoulder, the pen pointing towards the body, the holder being held between the thumb and two first fingers, as shown above.
The chief merit of business penmanship is legibility and rapidity of execution. Without sacrificing these qualities, the student may add as much beauty as possible. The business penman should beware, however, of giving much attention to flourishing, its practice, aside from giving freedom with the pen, being rather to distract the mind from the completion of a good style of business writing. Especially in plain penmanship should all flourishing be avoided. Nothing is in worse taste, in a business letter, than various attempts at extra ornamentation.
To the professional penman, however, in the preparation of different kinds of pen work, a knowledge of scientific flourishing is essential to the highest development of the art.
The principles of curves, shades and proportion that govern the making of capital letters apply as well also in flourishing.
THE desk at which the individual stands when writing, should slightly incline from the front upward. It should so project as to give ample room for the feet beneath, which should be so placed as to be at nearly right angles with each other, the right foot forward, the principal weight of the body resting upon the left. Incline the left side to the desk, resting the body upon the left elbow, as shown in the above engraving, thus leaving the right arm free to use the muscular or whole arm movement, as may be desired.
The desk should be so high as to cause the writer to stand erect, upon which the paper should be placed with the edge parallel with the desk.
Rest the body lightly on the forearm, and the hand upon the two lower fingers, the end of the penholder pointing towards the right shoulder. Practice in the position herewith shown, either with lead pencil or pen, upon waste paper, entirely regardless of the form of letters, unti4 the pen can be held easily and correctly, and writing can be executed rapidly. Strike offhand exercises, and the whole arm capitals, making each letter as perfectly as may be, the practice, however, being with special reference to acquiring the correct position, and freedom of movement.
Steady the paper firmly with the left hand, holding' it near the top of the sheet, as shown in the illustration. Beware of soiling the paper with perspiration from the left hand.
HEREWITH are shown, in contrast, the correct and incorrect positions for sitting while writing; the upright figure representing the youth who sits erect, graceful and easy, holding the paper at right angles with the arm, steadying the same with the left hand.
As will be perceived, the correct position, here represented is at once conducive to health and comfort, being free from labored effort and weariness.
On the opposite side of the table sits a youth whose legs are tired, whose hands are wearied, and whose head and back ache from his struggles at writing. This boy will be liable to become, ere long, near-sighted, from keeping his eyes so close to his work. He will be roundshouldered, will have weak lungs, and will probably early die of consumption, caused from sitting in a cramped, contracted and unhealthy posture.
The bad positions liable to be assumed in writing, are, first, the one here shown; second, lying down and sprawling both elbows on the table; third, rolling the body upon one side, turning the eyes, and swinging the head, at the same time protruding and twisting the tongue every time a letter is made.
An earnest, determined effort should be made, when writing, to bring the body into an easy, graceful attitude, until the habit becomes thoroughly established.
This illustration should be carefully studied by youth when learning to write; and all writers should give the matter attention.