Philip Hen­sher Pan, £8.99

The Herald - Arts - - FRONT PAGE -

Even those of us who write for a liv­ing can be shocked when we re­alise how much our hand­writ­ing has de­te­ri­o­rated, and how lit­tle of it we’ve done since com­put­ers took over the world. Philip Hen­sher’s re­al­i­sa­tion that he didn’t know what a close friend’s hand­writ­ing looked like was the cat­a­lyst for this book, which cel­e­brates the dy­ing art of us­ing a hand-held pen to form joined-up let­ters. There’s no short­age of in­ter­est­ing in­for­ma­tion here about the evo­lu­tion of hand­writ­ing, the cop­per­plate style that was de­vel­oped for a na­tion of in­ter­change­able clerks, and the ten­sion be­tween ex­press­ing one’s per­son­al­ity and com­mu­ni­cat­ing in a uni­ver­sally leg­i­ble way. But it does help to share the au­thor’s sense of hu­mour. This is quite a sub­jec­tive his­tory, in which an opin­ion­ated Hen­sher al­lows him­self the odd ex­as­per­ated ex­ple­tive and per­mits him­self to de­scribe mem­bers of the Italic So­ci­ety as “ar­ses”. A timely re­minder that love let­ters, post­cards and diaries are all still spe­cial.

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