Precious Ink

Photo by Sarah Parrott via Flikr
(was 02.10.2013)

Everybody used to learn handwriting in school.  And whether or not our handwriting was beautiful, we knew cursive and studied penmanship.  Today, clasroom instruction hours are shrinking and who needs penmanship when we have keyboards and autocorrect?  This hour, are we witnessing the twilight of handwriting?  We check out culture of graffiti, hear listener-stories about their most precious handwritten notes, and get to know writer David Foster Wallace through his letters.

  1. Listeners on their Saved Handwriting

    We asked you to share memories and stories of your most precious saved handwriting.  Here's some of what you told us.

    Average: 3.8 (4 votes)
  2. Adam Mansbach on Graffiti Writing

    Adam Mansbach knows the world of graffit writers.  He's even tried tagging himself, but mostly, settles for writing about it in his novel "Rage is Back."

    Average: 4.2 (6 votes)
  3. Scott Topper on the Dangers of Writing and Reading

    Scott Topper's a poet, but that doesn't mean he's not conflicted about the twin powers of reading and writing.

    Average: 4.5 (11 votes)
  4. Kitty Burns Florey on the Rise and Fall of Handwriting

    With so much curriculum to get through in school - should we still be teaching handwriting?  Kitty Burns Florey says - yes!

    Average: 4 (3 votes)
  5. Listeners on their Saved Handwriting II

    More stories from you -- about precious bits of handwriting you've saved over the years.

    Average: 5 (1 vote)
  6. Samara O'Shea on Letter Writing

    Samara O'Shea is a professional letter writer and the author of "For the Love of Letters."  She tells Anne Strainchamps about the ingredients that go into a powerful letter.

    Average: 5 (3 votes)
  7. DT Max on the Letters of David Foster Wallace

    David Foster Wallace wasn't just a writer of novels and essays. He was also a prolific and energetic correspondent.  Biographer DT Max used his letters as a primary tool for understanding one of America's most verbose and cerebal writers.

    Average: 3.5 (4 votes)

Slideshow: Handwriting


  • Kenji's Photo from Listener Stories

    Kenji's Letter from his Grandfather from Listener Stories

  • Asiyah's box of letters

    Asiyah's box of letters

  • Angela's letter from her son

    Angela's letter from her son

  • A Valentine from Rosalind's husband

    A Valentine from Rosalind's husband

  • Photo from Joseph

    Photo from Joseph

  • Navy Journal from his grandfather, submitted by Dave

    I thought I'd submit a sample of some of my grandfather's handwriting. He was a navy man for most of his life, was a member of the Sea Bees and was in WWII. Back before he married my grandmother, when they were still courting, he would write to her from whatever ship he was on. Thing is, he wouldn't write individual letters, but mini-journals. Some were repurposed - the attached picture is from a Weekly Time Book wage journal - and some were hand made and sewn together with whatever he had at hand. In any case, the journal I have, from December of 1932, opens with the line: 5:45pm Order All clear ad we're off. On leaving the pier, the tide forced the ship against the pier, stoving in the bulwark and wrecking the gang plank. Outside of that, all O.K.
  • A war letter from Pam

    I have a handwritten letter, dated June 11, 1947, to my mother, __ from Abbott Roueche, a parish priest in Valdoie, France. The priest is thanking her for matching up people in his parish with Americans willing to send care packages after the Second World War. An excerpt follows: “You have made an appeal on the radio on behalf of the French. . . . Some packages have already arrived in our parish. You should see the joy they bring to those who receive them. Because two years after the armistice, we still are in need of so many things.” As you can see, the letter is in French. The above quotes are my own translation. FYI, I also have a copy of a newspaper article featuring my mother and the appeal she made on radio.
  • Larissa's correspondence with her Grandma and Aunt

    Since I was a child, my maternal grandmother and I wrote each other regularly - right up until her death in 2009 when she was just shy of age 97. She pretty much kept all of my letters (we're talking 30 years worth, about once a month!). For many years, I would end my letters to her with the line, "you can throw this letter out" because I once helped clean her room and could not believe how much stuff she had saved. But I was really no different and packed away most of her letters, too. Her newsy correspondence often included recipes, newspaper clippings, and family pictures. Now that she is gone, I sometimes pull out a random letter just to 'hear' her voice again. In the mid-1990s, I became pen-pals with an aunt, too, and she regularly sends me letters that are filled with doodles, drama and her beautiful cursive. Our faithful correspondence was very comforting after my Grandma died, as I still have someone to write! It's such a treat to receive fat letters from loved ones and when they are gone, they really do become treasures.
  • One of Angela's collected inscribed books

    One of Angela's collected inscribed books

  • Heather's note about Sally Ride from her Mom

    When Sally Ride died last year I unearthed this note from my mother. My mom wrote this note before she bolted out the door to work in the wee hours of the morning. She often left notes. This one was in 1983, I was 19 years old and somehow wise enough to keep this note all these years. It hangs on my fridge. My friends are amazed that I held onto it after all the moving around I have done. It's one of my most precious possessions. My mom died 10 years ago. I miss everything about her but I especially miss her sense of humor. This note isn't "politically correct" at all. It's funny - kind of a huge commentary on my moms life with my dad. It's a short note but now that I am sitting down and writing about it to you I realize that it contains a lot of information. I have a few other handwritten things from my mother - one of the notebooks holds notes she wrote while battling cancer - she wanted to make me and my brother quilts so she made lists of what they would have on them - her writing is very shaky and almost unreadable - I am sure it's the last thing she wrote. My moms handwriting was always so beautiful, pretty, super girly and mine is so awful like my dads was... i sometimes think of making it better but i think at 49 I'll take on a better hobby.