The Copybook and Individual Handwriting Styles

The Copybook and Individual Handwriting Styles

Not with the alphabet representing sounds, but with pictures representing objects, was the beginning of writing. Individual sketches that started this form of communication eventually evolved into agreed sketches, with each sketch representing one object, either by picturing the object itself (bird for a bird) or a characteristic and representative of the object (man with a stick for father). Some of these pictorial writings, such as the Chinese, progressed by depicting symbols for qualities (the sun for bright) or situations for categories (the moon for dark) (two women in one house for a quarrel). Aside from the Chinese, a number of other nations, particularly among primitive races, continue to use pictorial writing.

The Egyptians were the ones who, after inventing pictorial writing in hieroglyphics, went on to create something that resembled an alphabet. The Assyrians depicted a syllable rather than an object.

The great trading nation of early antiquity, the Phcenicians, were the first to invent a real alphabet in which the drawing of a code of letters represented sounds (consonants and semi-vowels). Egyptian writings were brought back by Phoenician traders from Egypt, and the Phcenicians devised a complete alphabet of twenty-two letters, each representing a different sound. The Phcenicians not only invented the alphabet, but also a numerical system in which all of the letters of the alphabet represented the same number at the same time. They also created money, the currency system that still serves as the foundation for our monetary system.

The Phoenician alphabet, in which the letters had no clear pictorial meaning but were a code and index of sounds, allowed the writer to join these sounds together to form words, which were now presented to the reader as a currency of communication rather than the previous system of depicting objects.

The Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet and expanded it to twenty-six letters, which the Romans then adopted. It became the currency of writing for nearly the entire world, based on the Greek alphabet (with the exception of a few remaining pictorial systems) with national variations, differences, and elaborations. It evolved from writing from the right to the left to a writing system from the left to the right during this process in Greece (long before classical times, of course). Later on, capital and small letter writing evolved.

With the invention of printing, the numerical system was separated from the alphabet, and handwriting and mechanical printing became distinct. Today, there are five distinct alphabets in Europe and the countries colonized by Europeans, all derived from the Greek and Latin alphabets: Cyrillic in Slavic states where the Orthodox Church was the main Church; Greek in Greece; Gothic in Germany; Gaelic in Ireland; and Latin in the rest of Central and Western Europe and the countries colonized by Europeans.

However, copybook writing in various European and American countries is not the same. It varies according to national characteristics and traditions in almost every country, and it varies according to the spirit of the times in the same country at different times (Zeitgeist).

In the United Kingdom, there is currently no unified type of copy-book writing, but rather two distinct styles: block-letter printing and cursive, the latter of which is taught in schools using copy-books edited by Mary Richardson in the early twentieth century. F. Victor published The Copy-book Forms of Fifteen Nations in Berlin in the 1930s, which is a good book for information about the different copy-book styles, though it is a little out-of-date.

The graphologist’s understanding of the exact copy-book system in which the writer learned to write is crucial. If he is unsure, he should ask, because graphology is based on observing deviations from the national style, and it is likely to fail if it is used without a thorough understanding of the standard patterns. Saudek, the first great graphologist from the Continent to work and die in the United Kingdom, felt strongly about it and dedicated his life to studying the characteristics of national writing. He claimed that graphology learned in one country can only be applied in another country if the principles are adjusted to the respective country’s national writing style and characteristics.

Not only do the national copy-book forms differ, but the writing of each individual differs to a greater or lesser degree. It differs not only from the copy-book style he has learned at school but also from all other handwritings. Why is this? The answer to the question is the very essence of graphological research. The answer is simple to give, but it is complicated to follow up in every detail. The simple answer is: individual handwriting differs from the standard type because the human standard type does not exist and is only a scientific hypothesis. The man who consumes a certain number of calories, reaches a certain age, and so on, is a hypothesis required in economics, statistics, and other fields. Even in the best of circumstances, a living person can only approach the standard type. No two people can ever behave exactly the same in every way. As a result, they never write in a completely consistent pattern or in exactly the same way. Even the most highly trained calligraphist’s work will differ slightly from the printed copybook from which he must copy.

What distinguishes humans from other animals? In their bodies, nerves, movements, senses, minds, brains, and imaginations, talents and backgrounds, education, ancestors, traditions, appearance, habits, environments and surroundings, climatic and visual impressions, health, images, tastes, objectives, technical means and skill, the degree of resistance they must overcome, and so on. Such a catalog could fill an entire book.

All of these aspects of a person’s personality will play a role in the writing process, that is, in shaping letters. The writers will only accept the agreed-upon letter formats to the extent that they allow for communication and understanding. And, in the case of children, lunatics, asocials, and men who want to hide their identities, they may either ignore and destroy the forms of letters to the point where they are unintelligible, or they may create their own “one-alphabet” man’s with meaning only to the writer. The conflict between an individual’s desire to remain in contact with others and his devotion to his separatist and individualist tendencies is at the heart of not only any civilization as a whole, but of everyone’s mind’s conflict of impulses.

As a result, the individual’s communication currencies, money, language, and writing always have at least two, if not multiple, meanings. Money, for example, will have a different meaning for different people apart from its agreed-upon use as a medium of exchange. For John, it’ll be the house he wants to buy; for Patricia, it’ll be frocks and luxury; for Jack, rest and vacations; for Charles, power; and for Isobel, it’ll be a complicated and taboo subject. It will mean something abstract—money itself, a frozen token of human relations, a barter instrument for the exchange of goods, savings, and services—for Ernest, it will be an argument in his public speeches; for Samuel, gambling on football pools and greyhound racing; for Percy, women; and only for Constance, the theorist, it will mean something abstract—money itself, a frozen token of human relations, a barter instrument for the exchange of goods, savings, and services.

Similarly, every word in the language will conjure up different images in the mind of the person who reads or hears it. Red the colour, B Flat the musical note, and i the vowel will, first of all, never be seen or heard in a completely identical way by different individuals because their senses of perception each function slightly differently. Exaggeratedly, red may mean bright red for Francis, scarlet for Arthur, wine red for Felix, and carmine for Paul; and the written or spoken word red will conjure up in Elizabeth’s mind the tapestry she wants for her reception room; in Guy, a picture of his most valuable specimen of Great Britain’s halfpenny stamp of Queen Victoria; in Anne, a vision of the roses in mother’s garden; and in Henry, a dream of Mary’s golden hair.

This process of our minds combining sensations and images into emphasized words of abstract meaning and then dissolving them into images of individual subjects is a constant repetition of the construction of the Tower of Babel, of the eternal struggle between the standard pattern of uniformity and the inborn human desire for variety. This process is visible every day as new words are added to the language, abstract words that still clearly show the concrete subject from which they came.

Take, for example, the word quisling, which was introduced into the English language during World War II. Today, it is commonly understood to mean “a traitor to his country motivated by a desire for power.” For our generation, this word still has a lot of life in it, and the link to the Norwegian dictator is still obvious. It will become only an accepted standard expression for “traitor” in centuries to come, and the real Quisling will be forgotten; later, human imagination will fill this abstract word with living content once more. This process of the individual’s deviation from the copy-book pattern allows us to trace the individual’s character that worked out the specific shape into which he altered the form that he learned at school in handwriting analysis. A systematic analysis will reveal his initiative and intelligence, his ambition and taste, his vitality, and so on.

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