My husband and I found this old piece of an accounting ledger in an antique mall. The page is dated 1872, and it appears to be a ledger used to track payments and credits. Being a calligrapher I was drawn to the nature of the handwriting and the way this clerk made something boring beautiful. To this employee, most likely a man, this was probably his normal, everyday handwriting. He was taught at an early age how to write in this manner and practiced daily as part of his education. It was done with an ink well and a nib, and the page was added to over time as the payments were received.
In our current school system in the US we no longer teach our children how to write in cursive. As most of what they do is done via a computer keyboard there seems to be no ‘need’ to teach them handwriting. I’m not sure when we stopped teaching handwriting, yet there is an unintended consequence…as the next generations go to sign contracts, they no longer know how to write a signature. They ring their names or sign electronically…but no signature.
Can you imagine how foreign this decision would seem to the man who wrote this page? Can you imagine trying to explain the “why” behind this one to a man who spent days, months, years hand writing documents? We could use worlds like efficiency, lack of hard copy documents, going green, moving to a paperless environment, a skill that is no longer needed…blah, blah, blah…and like me he would hear a society that no longer values things in written form enough to teach the basics. We’ve let technology override our value in the craft of letter writing. I would call this progress with a question mark.
I spent $5 to buy this page and it hangs in my studio. I look at it every time I work to remind me that handwriting adds a great deal to our world. We document all sorts of things and our ability to make boring beautiful only adds life to what would be an average ledger. I am grateful to the clerk who spent hours so many decades ago calculating these figures…they inspire me to bring beauty to everything I touch.