"Born to Please":

The Art of Handwriting Instruction

Introduction | Early Modern Handwriting Manuals | The Eighteenth Century | The Spencerian and Palmer Methods | The Early Twentieth Century | Variants and Unique Examples | New Office Skills, or, Post-Handwriting

New Office Skills, Or, Post-Handwriting


Le nouveau secrètaire Italien-Francais, ou Modèles de lettres sur toutes sortes d’argumens, avec leur rèsponses…
Gênes: Yves Gravier, 1809.
– This manual, meant for the use of a private secretary in an aristocratic household, reproduces the same text in French and Italian on opposite pages. It includes groups of sample letters, the bulk of which concern interpersonal affairs such as congratulations and condolences, letters to parents and relatives, and “D’Amour, de Demandes en Mariage.” Included at the end is a brief chapter detailing commercial correspondence.

Henry Tuck.
The Manual of Book-Keeping; Or, Practical Instructions to the Manufacturer, Wholesale Dealer, and Retail Tradesman for Keeping and Balancing Their Books in an Easy and Simple Manner: To Which is Added A Complete Set of Books Showing the Business Transactions for an Entire Year; By an Experienced Clerk. 8th Edition.
London: Bell and Daldy, 1856.
– Clerks and secretaries needed to master cash accounting systems involving several sets of interrelated books, as the lithograph opposite this book’s title page illustrates. 


 “…a good business-hand is no small recommendation to young men seeking employment in any occupations of life.”
Margaret C. Conkling, 1814-1890.
The American Gentleman’s Guide to Politeness and Fashion; Or, Familiar Letters to His Nephews. By Henry Lunettes.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1866.
– Conkling disguised her authorship of this young man’s courtesy book by taking on the pseudonym of Henry Lunettes. She draws on a tradition of masculine authority in creating books of advice for young men from older relatives, of which there are many examples in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Conkling differs from many courtesy book authors in that her focus is quite equally divided between detailed examinations of fashion, health and hygiene as it is to the more common elements of conduct books such as proper habits, the choice of avocations and pastimes, and skills such as letter writing. Here, she stresses brevity above all else in business communications, with the only exception being in its execution.



Captain August V. Kautz.
The Company Clerk: Showing How and When to Make Out All the Returns, Reports, Rolls, and Other Papers, and What To Do With Them.
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1864.
– Just as civilan clerks and secretaries needed training to standardize recordkeeping practices in the business world, a similar approach to maintaining military records was crucial for both sides during the Civil War, as the armies swelled with civilian volunteers. Books such as this guide for company clerks, owned by a Captain from the 94th New York Regiment in 1864, supplemented official government regulations and documentation. 




Ida McLenan Cutler.
Rational Typewriting: A New Idea in Teaching Touch Typewriting. Single Keyboard Edition.
Chicago: The Gregg Publishing Company, 1906.
William Savage Textbook Collection.
– The first true typewriters were produced commercially in the 1860s and 1870s. By the turn of the century, their form and function in an office had become mostly standardized, and the role of the (male) secretary and clerk was to quickly change, as typewriter manufacturers marketed their machines as tools for women to use in taking dictation in the office. Schools were formed to train new office workers, and, like handwriting in the early nineteenth century, numerous methods and techniques were developed and patented.



James Edmund Fuller.
The Typist: A Course of Lessons in the Proper Fingering and the Efficient Manipulation of the Typewriter, Together With A Collection of Graded Material Suitable for Practise in the Application of the Art of Typing to Commercial, Professional, and Private Uses.
Cincinnati: The Phonographic Institute Company, 1926.
William Savage Textbook Collection.
– This typewriting manual includes extensive illustrations showing proper hand and finger positions. The book is printed in oblong format and suc-cessively on one side of the paper, allowing the book to be open fully for the student typist and sit comfortably next to the typewriter or on a copy stand. This copy also includes a former student’s typing exercise, shown here.

Back to the Exhibition Introduction



Columbia Departments Campus Libraries
Columbia Libraries and Collections