Umberto Eco: The lost art of handwriting


Insights from author Umberto Eco on the perceived demise of handwriting in a recent edition of the Guardian.

"My generation was schooled in good handwriting, and we spent the first months of elementary school learning to make the strokes of letters. The exercise was later held to be obtuse and repressive but it taught us to keep our wrists steady as we used our pens to form letters rounded and plump on one side and finely drawn on the other. Well, not always – because the inkwells, with which we soiled our desks, notebooks, fingers and clothing, would often produce a foul sludge that stuck to the pen and took 10 minutes of mucky contortions to clean.

The crisis began with the advent of the ballpoint pen. Early ballpoints were also very messy and if, immediately after writing, you ran your finger over the last few words, a smudge inevitably appeared. And people no longer felt much interest in writing well, since handwriting, when produced with a ballpoint, even a clean one, no longer had soul, style or personality."


5 thoughts on “Umberto Eco: The lost art of handwriting

  1. The loss of penmanship is one thing. Simple grammar and the inability craft an intelligible sentence are similar tragedies.

    There are couple of books on my shelves about the history of handwriting and how to improve one’s hand.

    david boise ID

  2. David,
    I’d be interested in those titles about improving ones handwriting and the history itself. I find myself being drawn back to writing in journals and cringe when I view my own handwriting. I just came across this website today and are amazed at the beauty that is shown here.

  3. Does anyone have the full article please? It’s been removed from the page!!!
    Thanks in advance.
    And I must say I love handwriting… and even more if it’s on my moleskine diary or some nice notebook.
    Cheers 😉

  4. Our educational institutions here in South Australia are in complete denial about the disatrous state of handwriting amongst students. “We have a policy’ they cry but students revert to a messy form of printing. It is ironic that in the letters exchanged between 1880’s renegade “Billy the kid’ and Governor Lew Wallace the handwriting of both men was a work of art and ajoy to look upon. Now 130 year later our educated kids can barley scratch a poorly punctutaded sentence. Its a scandal.

  5. On one hand I completely agree with Umberto Eco: the traditional handwriting, with a pen and a paper, is a lost art.
    On the other, there are some signs out there of handwriting coming back to life in a very modern and original manner. Here’s an example:

    Maybe new technologies will bring us closer to handwriting than we first thought…

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