What Is the History of Cursive Writing?


Quick Answer

The ancient Romans were the first to develop a written script similar to modern cursive. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europeans developed different styles of script for the copying of Christian and classical texts. In the 8th century, Charlemagne tasked a monk with standardizing a form of script for use across Europe. This script, known as Carolingian minuscule, featured lowercase letters, word spacing and punctuation, with the goal of maximum legibility.

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After the invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century, elegant handwriting became a status symbol among Europeans. A style of script known as italic became popular among Italian humanists, partially due to its contrast to the heavy and dense style of the printing press. By the 18th century, penmanship schools had emerged to train professional scribes in the discipline of cursive handwriting, primarily for use in copying important documents. The style of penmanship among amateurs varied according to profession, social rank and sex.

In the mid-19th century, an American bookkeeper developed Spencerian penmanship for use as a standard cursive script, and American schools and businesses widely adopted it. Over the next century, different styles emerged for use in the school system, such as the Palmer method, D'Nealian and the Zaner-Bloser style. However, with the emergence of typewriters and computers in the 20th century, American schools began to eliminate instruction in cursive handwriting, replacing it with typing instruction.

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