THE MISSING INK
Philip Hensher Pan, £8.99
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.