Friday, March 21, 2014

Repeat After Me

Rauner Library has an impressive calligraphy collection, the core of which was originally built up by Professor Ray Nash. An expert on calligraphy and the history of printing, Nash ran the Graphic Arts Workshop at Dartmouth for more than thirty years. Over time, we have added more than fifty titles to his original gift of several hundred items.

Among the many interesting additions to the collection is a small collection of copybooks. These writing books were tools for the practicing of perfect penmanship that, for centuries, were the bane of small schoolchildren across the nation. Copybooks, for those who never experienced them, were empty other than a single sentence that ran across the top of each page. The student was expected to re-write that same sentence on every single line of the page below, with the goal of improving their handwriting, spelling, punctuation, and reading comprehension.

Understandably, this sort of schoolwork could grow a bit monotonous, and even the best student inevitably lost focus. One of the copybooks in our collection is a small green volume entitled "Ide's Superior Writing Book" that was made in Claremont New Hampshire and dutifully filled in by a young boy named Luke Dewey from Hanover in 1854. Although Luke begins well enough, as shown by his mastery of his own name, hometown, and the date, his attention soon begins to flag. Fifteen pages in, he succumbs to boredom and scribbles all over the bottom of the page. However, his attentive schoolmaster soon corrects the waywardness of his pupil: on the very next page, we find evidence that Luke had been caught doodling and assigned an appropriate punishment.

To see Luke's copybook, ask at Rauner for Calligraphy Copybook Box 1, Folder "I".

No comments :

Post a Comment