The Universal Penman

George Bickham (1684?-1758?). The Universal Penman. London: Robert Sayer, [ca. 1760]. Purchased on the Henry S. Morgan Fund, 2012.

Eight years in the making, The Universal Penman was the most ambitious writing book of the eighteenth century. Twenty-two scribes contributed to this compilation, containing more than two hundred calligraphic specimens adorned with high rococo headpieces and vignettes. For suitable texts, many of them turned to the fashionable authors of the day — Dryden, Pope, Addison and Congreve — culling sententious aphorisms they could use to display their skills in round hand and other scripts graced with a profusion of pen flourishes. The frontispiece is by Gravelot, who was living in London at that time.

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