Thursday, June 23, 2011

Engrossing

Engrossing was a form of artistic writing popular during the Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship, which flourished from the 1870s to about 1920.


Engrossers created decorative lettering used on resolutions, certificates, testimonials, memorials, and manifestos. The example above is by Patrick W. Costello (1866-1935). Costello’s engrossing work was often executed in limited tones of Payne’s gray or umber.


Engrossers such as Costello, Dennis, and Sickels often used decorative block letters that influenced cartoonists and poster designers of the 1960s.


Originals were as large as 22 x 28 inches, often illustrated with flags, portraits, flowers, or other pictorial devices. They reflect a culture that placed a premium on congratulatory or memorializing messages, usually presented publicly to formally recognize an individual achievement.
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More about the lettering of this era at the IAMPETH website
Books:
An Elegant Hand: The Golden Age of American Penmanship and Calligraphy
The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing (Thanks, William!)
Previously on GurneyJourney: Offhand Flourishing

9 comments:

EZ Goodnight said...

Fantastic.

MrCachet said...

From about 1880 on, businesses utilized these various lettering styles on business letterhead, and often incorporated a similar design on their billheads. The 'flowering' came about at the turn of the century. I have hundreds of examples of fancy letterheads that will make your eyes pop out.

Tom Hart said...

James, have you run across any mention of a correction technique for errors that occured during the execution of such penmanship? These people were very skilled, but human, nonetheless...

Timothy V Richer said...

Beautiful art form, thanks for sharing.

Michael said...

I have a few old trinkets from my family's past, and I've run across a few photos with enormous versions of this from over 100 years ago. This was such a wonderful art, I wish it still existed en masse.

Thanks so much for sharing, James!

Terry said...

There are several places on the web where they "teach" this art. I didn't keep any URLs but I had a fine time hunting them down one slow Saturday afternoon.

MrCachet said...

The 'art' is still alive. Do a Google for letterheads. http://www.theletterheads.com/index.html

william said...

very cool, I did some typography work for a grad class in G.Design, and had a project that I did some engrossing for. A great book to check out for people into this is "The Zanerian Manual of Alphabets and Engrossing." You can still find some used copies around and it has about 20 amazing pages of engraving by E.A. Lupfer

James Gurney said...

Thanks, William, I added a link for that Zanerian book. I've seen it, and it's great.