Handwriting Fonts: Most Popular Typefaces, Best for Webfonts
Handwriting, penmanship, or calligraphy: they all have different meanings, and they all pertain to specific aspects of writing. Nevertheless, it was an artistic, personal and quintessential method to translate ideas to a semi-permanent format such as paper or parchment, and be used for different ways, but more importantly, to serve as a communication tool, or historical document. Handwriting fonts such as that of several cursive and script fonts have become very popular in the 19th century onwards to the middle of the 20th century. It has become an important tool since a lot of people, especially from, advertising who wanted fonts that are personal and close to known forms especially if they did not have any lettering specialists.
The history of handwriting is extensive and the handwriting fonts are not just limited to cursive or script fonts. Many other fonts have been based on handwriting and thus, can all be attributed as part of the handwriting influence. Other fonts have emerged such as of transitional and modern as well as sans serif fonts as a reaction against more humanist styles connected to handwriting.
The pen is an important tool for any calligrapher. The pen can be round nibbed or flat-balled. Another important tool would be the brush. If you would compare many fonts of today that are calligraphic, cursive or script, they resemble some qualities of being written either by pen or brush. These are characteristics that define handwritten fonts. Other materials used for calligraphy include ballpoint pens as well as felt tip pens but since they produce only thin lines, they do not create fluid, angled lines and variations in strokes. Writing also employed the use of inks. Water based inks are preferred since they are not as viscous as oil-based inks.
In the west, Sacred Western Calligraphy contained unique features as apparent with the illuminated manuscripts. There is an obvious need for ornamentation and letters, especially first letters of each chapter would tend to carry a more artistic flair. Nevertheless, strict rules applied when it came to Western Calligraphy. There is a geometry followed and the rhythm of the text had to be observed. The characters also had specific forms and stroke orders to create consistent results. The unique feature of western handwritten calligraphy is that sizes, colors and styles have different connotations compared to typefaces that focused more on form. Also, with the Sacred Calligraphy of the West, it did not have to be legible but the viewer can definitely empathize with the artwork. A good example of contemporary Western Calligraphy can be explored in Saint John’s Bible.
Latin script was a defining component of western calligraphy and has been developed in Rome to different formats. The Roman Imperial Capitals, Roman cursives and Rustic capitals are used specifically for different media and purposes. Developments continued during the 2nd and 3rd centuries when uncial was created and became very important for monasteries especially when copying the bible. Thanks to the monasteries, they were able to keep old calligraphic legacies within the 4th and 5th centuries as the Western world of the past fell under the Dark Ages. The uncial generated a wide variety of forms depending on where it was used. The styles are dependent on the monasteries. Some of these forms are cursive in nature and like some cursive fonts today, they are not the most pleasant to read especially in extended texts.
When the Carolingian Dynasty came to being, a standardized form of writing was adopted. The style would come from popular monasteries in the 8th century. The Carolingian Script was established and its influence spread across other territories and kingdoms. The said form was adopted for several centuries until they outgrew the past forms and the Carolingian script was transformed to gothic. Its compact and economical format becomes highly popular across Europe. During the 13th century, the first printer was created by Johannes Gutenberg and so the first typeface to be used was the Gothic style. In the 15th century, the Italian humanists created a unique variation to Carolingian and were termed originally as littera antiqua which we now recognize as the humanist minuscule.
With the popularity of copperplate engraving, handwriting became more popular since penmanship books can now be produced faster. They first appeared in 16th century Italy. As the centuries progressed, the need for penmanship became more important.
Handwriting, especially with that of cursive writing has become very important in the 19th century and towards the 20th century. While handwriting and cursives are still required in some schools today, for some reason, the discipline of formal penmanship has been lost due the availability of fonts. For some, traditions like perfect penmanship are obsolete, but with the help of typefaces today, we are able to look back at the history of human skill, how technology became extensions of the hands, and how we perceive good handwriting nowadays.