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The CASIA online handwriting database, which contains more than 1500 handwritten texts in online format from 250 writers in two sessions. Each writer writes eight pages of texts include four pages of Chinese texts and four pages of English texts respectively. Vellum, except when an earlier text had been scraped off, presented a different problem, as it was likely to be greasy, notwithstanding prior treatment with chalk and pumice during manufacture. The jingle is attached to his translations both of Camden's Britannia and of Pliny's Natural History, both very substantial, and he may have been as economical with the truth as with his quills. Most writers, as well as their inkhorn, their pounce pot, and their quills, will also have used a pen-kife, the design of which varied over the years. That many of the texts known to an educated English reader of the seventeenth century would have been encountered in manuscript rather than in print is hardly news: the collections of major British and United States libraries contain many thousands of testimonies to this fact.
Lovers of fine books, in the decades after the appearance of the printing press, sometimes saw no appeal in the printed book, and admitted only manuscripts to their libraries, commissioning manuscript copies of printed texts; humbler personages also copied printed texts, doubtless for reasons of economy, or, perhaps, from force of habit. A typical scribal secretary hand, like this late Elizabethan example from a manuscript in the library of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, is cursive, regular, and very legible. The Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser, who served as a secretary in the English administration in Ireland, used two, and possibly three, distinct hands in his official and personal business. In addition to the commercial productions of the scriptoria, many literary texts circulated in manuscript for many years before they were printed. Many writers used more than one hand, according not only to the need for haste, but also for the formality of the document. English italic hands are hard to date, although it is perhaps true that the earliest exemplars are closer to their Italian originals.
Anglicana long 'r' appears throughout the secretary hand used in this indenture of 1514, as here in 'Indentures'. Dr Elisabeth Leedham-Green, FSA, formerly Deputy Keeper of the Cambridge University Archives, is a fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge. The Institute of Automation , Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASIA) will provide the CASIA online Database freely of charge to writer identification researchers in order to promote research. In the first session, each writer has written same sentence of about 50 Chinese and English words in one page respectively and different Chinese and English sentence chosen by writers freely about 50 words in two pages respectively.
Iron gall ink was made up from galls (usually oak-galls), copperas [copper sulphate] or green vitriol [ferrous sulphate], and gum arabic, in varying proportions; carbon inks were developed using soot.
School desks and privy walls presented their own problems, but the commonest writing surfaces were paper and vellum, or parchment. Nevertheless, given that the claim was made with pride, and may be exaggerated, it seems intended to demand credence.
Characteristically it would have had a blade with a curved sharp edge, and with one flat and one slightly convex side, the whole narrowing to a point. That some of this material was the creation of professional scribes, whose work was distributed through organized markets, while less widely known, is also a matter of record--the advent of the press did not extinguish older methods of publication through manuscript. Long after the acceptance of print, however, manuscript culture continued to flourish: Harold Love's Scribal publication in seventeenth-century England (Oxford, 1993) describes the continued function of scriptoria long after the appearance of print.


Scribes employed by government, or by those who could afford private secretaries, often used a notarial hand-deliberate, often with otiose strokes, upright and, again, very legible (once you have got used to it). They might, if good humanists, use italic in public, but secretary hand for private documents. She is co-editor, with M T Webber, of the forthcoming History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland (CUP), and with R. In the CASIA online handwriting Database there are three datasets: Dataset 1 (Chinese database) , Dataset 2 (English database) and Dataset 3 (Chinese and English database).
In the second session, each writer has written different Chinese and English sentence about 50 words in one page respectively.
Each writer has written same sentence of about 50 Chinese words in one page respectively and different Chinese sentence chosen by writers freely about 50 words in two pages. Each writer has written same sentence of about 50 English words in one page respectively and different English sentence chosen by writers freely about 50 words in two pages. To either mixture could be added other ingredients affecting the colour and the consistency to suit the immediate purpose: a rapid writer might want his ink runnier, a professional scribe preparing a formal text, a blacker and stickier ink. Paper in this period was invariably rag paper, less than perfectly smooth, and naturally absorbent.
There was room for improvisation: some writers commended crushed egg-shells with powdered incense, others a mixture of allum and resin. There had been metal pens, possibly from Roman, and certainly from late medieval times, but relatively few survive and it is difficult to gauge their popularity; and, from antiquity there had been reed pens, which needed frequent recutting.
At the other end of the scale, Exchequer clerks in 1807 had an allowance of between one hundred and three hundred pens a quarter-up to about 3 quills a day.
Several texts published by writing masters gave instructions on the cutting of pens; of course, the final finishing would depend on the style of writing intended, according to whether a stroke of consistent width (as in some chancery hands) or a variety of broad and narrow strokes (as in secretary) was required. It sounds like a silly question, and to some extent, of course, they wrote the same sorts of things as we write nowadays--but only to some extent. That certain seventeenth-century poets, among them Donne, Corbett, Strode, King, Carew, Pestell, Marvell, Cotton, Katherine Philips, Traherne, Rochester and Dorset, wrote primarily for scribal transmission is amply acknowledged by their editors and confirmed by the formidable list of sources for the best-known of these given in Peter Beal's volumes of the Index of English literary manuscripts. Before print, scriptoria had produced multiple copies of liturgical texts, university text-books, and a vast range of other literary texts. Such scribes made conscientious use of engrossing hands for titles, and of italic for quotations from foreign languages, especially Latin, and often for proper names. Some scholars also attribute to Spenser a more florid, rounded italic hand appearing on some important letters from Arthur Lord Grey de Wilton, Lord Deputy of Ireland, to Queen Elizabeth. Any person or organization is not permitted to distribute, publish, copy, or disseminate this database. Paper for writing was treated with size, a gelatinous substance made from the hooves and skins of animals, applied to the surface after the paper had been removed from the mould, rather than mixed with the pulp as it has been in later years. Unlike Philemon Holland, the Exchequer clerks probably had little time to re-cut or repair their quills in the course of the working day. The stiffness of the pen could also be varied both by the practice of 'dutching' (soaking the barrel in water and then plunging it into hot sand or ashes) and, of course, by the width and length of the nib.


Vellum was expensive, and was reserved for very fine presentation copies of literary works and, far more copiously, for title deeds and other legal documents--things designed to last. What is lacking to date has been an awareness that each of these things is a part of a larger phenomenon--scribal publication--which had a role in the culture and commerce of texts just as assured as that of print publication. After print, they tended to concentrate on material for which print was less suitable, or rather, for which manuscript transmission was uniquely suitable, such as political satire.
Different government departments, for example Chancery, the Exchequer, and the King's Bench, each had distinctive scripts. Appearance in print was often regarded as not quite gentlemanly, and besides, there was a cosiness in the distribution among friends only; although, of course, many pieces, originally confined to a few select individuals, escaped into the manuscript anthologies which were so popular throughout the reading classes of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Paper for printing was normally much less sized, as printer's ink was oil based, and so did not run.
Paper, however, was expensive too, and memories correspondingly better; so, though we may find mundane documents, such as accounts, we shall seldom find shopping lists. Scriptoria also issued newsletters, and in this context it is worth remembering that, if speed was of the essence, scribal publication of a document of modest length, could well be more rapid than print. At the other end of the spectrum, early sixteenth-century hands often conserve forms from the earlier anglicana styles, notably the long 'r'.
A problem, accordingly, confronted those wishing to make marginal notes in printed texts, and a remedy was to rub the margins with powdered gum sandarac, a resin, so as to make them easier to write in.
The great majority of quills were goose quills, but other large fowl were put to service: ravens, crows, ducks, peacocks, vultures, even pelicans and, in the fulness of time, turkeys--which last, in particular, provided lawyers with broad nibs for engrossing hands. If we do find anything so ephemeral, it will be written on blank spaces of something intended to last longer, like the endpapers of printed and manuscript books, along with pen-trials. The scribes in scriptoria cultivated similar hands, so that work could be shared between several writers without distracting or confusing the reader by, for example, having one quire in one hand and the next in another. That being said, most writers retained the basic characteristics of the hands (often both a secretary and an italic hand) which they first learned, maybe fifty years earlier, and their writing master might have formed his hand yet fifty years earlier still--so precise dating from the hand alone can be hazardous. Many writing masters contended that this slowed the pen too much for use on sized writing paper. Queen Elizabeth favoured swans, and wisely: although some writers found them too stiff, a swan quill would outlast 50 goose quills. These hands are rapid and nearly always very legible, sometimes stylised, but seldom formal, in the sense that they have few extraneous flourishes or unnecessary strokes. Richard Okes, Provost of King's College, Cambridge from 1850 to 1889, regularly employs a long 's'. Each of the following lines corresponds to one point characterized by features listed in the following order: x-coordinate, y-coordinate, time stamp, button status, azimuth, altitude, and pressure.



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