Preferred Style:

Mobile: No images
Low Quality (Default): Small Images
High Quality: Large images, shadows, colors. Do not attempt on dial-up.

If you have a recommendation for a new color scheme, please tell us about it via the Contact Us page.

An Elegant Hand
The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy

by William E. Henning and edited by Paul Melzer

Reviewed by Martha Robinson

Purchase details: An Elegant Hand, The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy, by William E. Henning and edited by Paul Melzer. Coffee table style hardcover, $59.95. Published by Oak Knoll Press. Please support by buying this program from our Amazon affiliate link.

An Elegant Hand offers a fascinating glimpse into the nineteenth and early twentieth century business world when fine penmanship was a valued skill. This book helps the reader take a step back into a time before typewriters and computers when all business records and correspondence were handwritten, certificates and awards were in fine calligraphy, and beautiful handwriting conveyed the quality of the business and its principals.

Written by the son of a master penman who was born in 1871, this book is a tribute to seven of the very best writers of the "Golden Age:" Platt Rogers Spencer, George A. Gaskell, Louis Madarasz, William E. Dennis, Austin Norman Palmer, Francis B. Courtney, and William C. Henning, the authors father. Profiles of each of the penman are given, and their relationships to one another and their impact upon handwriting are discussed. Many of these individuals worked in business schools where they taught their trade to aspiring young men, and their methods and style are shown.

The most amazing thing about this book is the incredible collection of illustrations. As editor of the American Penman magazine, William C. Henning had the opportunity to correspond with many of the masters throughout the country, and each time an interesting specimen of handwriting came to him, he saved it. The pieces illustrate the techniques of the masters biographied as well as giving an overview of the many "styles of penmanship and calligraphy: Spencerian Script; Ornamental Penmanship: flourished designs of birds; Copperplate; business writing (many variations); broad-pen calligraphy, especially German Text and Old English; and many other styles."

Recommendation: An Elegant Hand combines an interesting story with terrific illustrations to appeal to both those interested in history and those who love the beauty of skilled penmanship. The author connects the biographies well to give the story continuity and keep the reader wanting more. Homeschooling families are sure to enjoy this unique adventure into history, business, and art. resources related to this review:

Review of Spencerian Script Penmanship Kit
Interview with Michael Sull, master penman

Find more helpful reviews on's Review Page Index!

Reviews represent the opinions of the authors rather than the views of