Letter Perfect

above and below, two dramatically different Journal covers by the (Brooklyn!) master penman William E. Dennis (1860-1924).
Volumetric, constructed lettering with elaborate shadowing had its heyday in the 1890s to early 1900s.
Beautiful examples were found on stock certificates and maps (see BibliOdyssey for a collection of Sanborn map details)

No Bezier curves here!
Charles Paxton Zaner
A Journal cover created by a lesser hand (in my opinion) employing the ubiquitous
calligraphic bird flourish, a common practice device.
The penmen all too often literally "put a bird on it."
Much of what penman were hired for were business documents like these checks and vouchers.
This has hand written directions for the engraver and electrotyper.
Rules for drawing drop shadows
Commemorative cartouche for Ulysses S Grant, and "President" detail by Daniel T. Ames, 1868.
I believe Ames created the large ornament-choked plaque that still exists in the lobby of
the original Cooper Union building. Mid-nineteenth century lettering is usually fussier than later examples,
and typically employed more flourishes and scrollwork.
The Zaner-Bloser Collection at the University of Scranton is one of the largest collections of American ornamental penmanship of the later 19th and early 20th centuries.

The company was founded in 1888 by Charles Paxton Zaner as the Zanerian School of Penmanship. Elmer W. Bloser purchased a share of the company in 1891 and in 1895 the school changed its name to the Zaner-Bloser Company. They began publishing their own penmanship manuals. The school prepared students for careers as penmen. Penmen were essential to business, preparing legal vouchers, monetary notes, ledgers, writing correspondence and creating documents before the invention of the typewriter. They also created most advertising display lettering. Zaner-Bloser also taught students to become illustrators, engravers, and engrossers. Engrossing is the type of ornamental lettering used on diplomas, commemorative documents, and certificates. To my astonishment, Zaner-Bloser is still in business and--swimming against the proverbial tide--continues penmanship instruction today.

The Scranton collection is incredible and includes professional journals, hand writing manuals, instructional material for children, photographs of children learning to write, scrapbooks containing examples of ornamental penmanship done by master penmen and more. A good portion of this is digitized and downloadable in large sizes!

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