In the era before school assignments were submitted online and every student had a smartphone, you had to have good handwriting. It came in handy whether you were passing notes in class or doing homework. It wasn’t just teachers who extolled handwriting, they also told us that everyone from M.K. Gandhi to Edgar Allan Poe considered good handwriting a mark of character. Then came Steve Jobs’ now iconic 2005 Stanford graduation address, in which he recounts a serendipitous visit to a calligraphy class that went on to influence the typography and graphic interfaces of personal computers. It all came down to handwriting, apparently.
I have always thought handwriting gets an unnecessary amount of importance. After all, one puts pen to paper to organise one’s thoughts, does the perfection of ascenders and descenders matter? Then, the act of writing went digital. Like everything else though, nostalgia and a desire to slow down have created a renewed interest in learning how to letter by hand.
Teenagers are buying pens and special paper to learn to write again, Gen Zers who journal for mindfulness are turning to calligraphy for creative expression, and brands looking to create a sense of personalisation are hiring experts to create handwritten notes. And of course, it all has an Instagrammable aesthetic. In our cover story this week, we meet the calligraphers and stationery aficionados thrilled by the return of handwriting and its tactile sensibility.
It’s this sense of touch-and-feel that’s probably behind the revival of independent book stores, which have weathered the pandemic far better than many other brick-and-mortar businesses. A crop of indie book stores across the country are busier than ever and opening new branches, seeming to have won one battle in their long war against corporate retailers. Behind it is the craving for the physical experience of browsing shelves, stumbling across a little-known title and enjoying the sense of community a book store fosters. And if you plan to head to a book store this weekend, you will find quite a few recommendations in this issue on what you could buy, as well as suggestions on what to eat, drink, watch and do to unwind.
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