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Tidy Writing, Tidy Mind | Note 41

Every kind of discipline has two sides: the material and the formal side, that is, it should both teach and educate, as it is not a goal of its own, but also a means to the achievement of another goal which is, always and everywhere, education. To achieve this without falling into thoughtless repetition, calligraphy must, like any other discipline, be taught in a way that is both appropriate and natural, that is, correlating to the character of the student and the subject, being accessible and pleasant.

Only then will the learning of calligraphy not only form the hand but also educate the mind, as it will excite the attention, stoke the will for good, habituate to discipline and obedience, sharpen the senses for comparative and critical thinking, acumen and judgement; wake up the love of beauty, regularity, tact, coherence, cleanness and order.

In this way, calligraphy will positively influence the imagination and aesthetic sense of the students. For it can be expected that a student with a developed sense of beauty, having been repulsed once and for all by ugliness and sloppiness, will be disgusted not only by a stain in a notebook, on a book, or a dress, but in later life will avoid anything that could stain their life.

The above passage, published in Lviv in 1904, comprises the opening paragraphs of the Textbook for Learning Calligraphy for Use in Schools and at Home. The translation might seem somewhat repetitive as for every English word used, there were three different Polish words in the original. On top of that, my linguistic powers don’t include translation of somewhat antiquated educational materials – I am pleased enough with being able to grasp and enjoy the gist, with all of its old-style twee glory. Still, I wanted to share it as it stokes within me some long-forgotten feelings; a love of beauty and order perhaps, and a disdain for anything that could stain my character. As I am now equipped with a fountain pen, a new notebook, and not one but two early-twentieth-century textbooks for calligraphy, I hope that not only my penmanship but also my disposition will improve thanks to the practice of cursive.

A few years ago, preparing to sit the exams for my MA, I realised with horror that I could no longer write by hand without pain. Used to the nervous click-clicking of a keyboard, my wrist could no longer draw the rounded bellies and elongated tails of cursive. I briefly considered requesting... continue reading now→


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