Tuesday, January 19, 2021

American Calligraphy #4: Put your John Hancock here

ABCs of the USA: The stories behind America's most distinctive calligraphy styles.  

Every American schoolchild learns the story of John Hancock, the fearless revolutionary who signed the Declaration of Independence with its biggest signature. Tradition has him quipping that “King George will be able to read that without his glasses!” A “John Hancock” quickly became a slang term for any signature. 

A paraph is a swash ↑ that emphasizes a
signature but also helps make it hard to forge. 

This post anticipates John Hancock’s birthday, on Saturday, January 23, which has been named National Handwriting Day. It's a good time to remember the virtues of this country in addition to what we can do to improve it.   

Even back in 1776, literate people had a wide range of handwriting styles. Today, that range has stretched. For comparison, here is the signature of Jacob J Lew, US Secretary of the Treasury. (By 2013, humorous criticism had persuaded him to upgrade it from loopy to legible.)  

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