Cover image for The practice of letters : the Hofer collection of writing manuals 1514-1800
The practice of letters : the Hofer collection of writing manuals 1514-1800
Becker, David P.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard College Library, 1997.
Physical Description:
xxiii, 127 pages : illustrations, facsimiles ; 28 cm
General Note:
"This catalogue describes the collection of printed manuals for the teaching of lettering and handwriting (often referred to as writing books or copybooks) acquired by Philip Hofer for the Harvard College Library, where they form a distinct section in the Department of Printing and Graphic Arts"--Introd., p. ix.

Rare Book Room copy gift of Robert North, Jr.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z43.A2 B43 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Rare Books-Appointment Needed

On Order



After the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century, the art of writing in manuscript took on fresh meaning. Printed manuals for the teaching of lettering and handwriting quickly appeared, marketed to a growing literate readership anxious to express humanistic values through fine writing. Mixing the aesthetics of calligraphy with innovative means of printing, writing manuals reflect both the proliferation of print technology and the growing social value of a fine hand. Philip Hofer, Founding Curator of Printing and Graphic Arts in Houghton Library, was long fascinated with the printed works of writing masters and amassed one of the great collections of early penmanship textbooks before his death in 1984. David P. Becker's catalogue tells the story of this collection while illustrating the diversity and expressive power of the arts of the pen.

Table of Contents

Introduction The Hofer Collection of Writing Manuals
1 Italy--Sixteenth Century
2 Spain--Sixteenth Century
3 France--Sixteenth Century
4 Netherlands--Sixteenth Century
5 Germany and Switzerland--Sixteenth Century
6 Italy--Seventeenth Century
7 Spain--Seventeenth Century
8 France--Seventeenth Century
9 Netherlands--Seventeenth Century
10 Germany--Seventeenth Century
11 Great Britain--Seventeenth Century
12 Italy--Eighteenth Century
13 Spain & Portugal--Eighteenth Century
14 France--Eighteenth Century
15 Netherlands--Eighteenth Century
16 Germany, Switzerland, & Austria--Eighteenth Century
17 Great Britain--Eighteenth Century
18 United States--Eighteenth Century
Index of Writing Masters
Index of Engravers