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This white bird, plumed in swirling calligraphic flourishes, originally appeared in an issue of "The Business Educator," published by the Zanerian College of Penmanship, in Ohio. E. L. Brown, a master penman of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, executed the work, imbuing it with a rhythmic sense of movement.
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These scripted angels decorated a 19th-century certificate. Rows of continuous loops and figure eights give the uppermost figure a voluminous ruffled neckline and a head of curled tresses. The artist's line -- broad in places, delicate in others -- lends depth to the profile at right with a single stroke. Even a calligrapher's quill enters the heavenly tableau, humorously held aloft by a set of wings.
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Soft, rounded swoops become clustered leaves on this two-branch wreath, illustrated in 1866 by J. V. Montgomery. A pair of birds frames the scroll at the center, which bears the word "Remembrance". Nearby is a larger drawing of a stag, along with a creamware tankard filled with calligraphy quills.
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In its heyday, penmanship was a rigorous course of study, mastered in part by tracing and copying examples into copybooks. These relics, including an alphabet book and a pupil's practice sheet filled with scripted capital letters, are from the learning process. Beside the quill is a steel-nib pen, which revolutionized calligraphy in the mid-19th century, allowing for a sharper, more fluid line that was easier to control. The gorgeous red-inked bird in the center is unsigned, though almost certainly the work of a master penman.
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This 1950s silk scarf, printed with stylized calligraphy motifs, is a rare find. To transform it into an exquisite piece of wall art, a square frame was made using 1/4-inch wood stock, and then the fabric was stretched over canvas and secured from behind.
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Hind legs in air, a stag leaps exuberantly in a 19th-century penmanship example. Flourishes in seemingly endless repetition cascade down its neck and torso, creating a fluid, meticulously rendered coat. The spiraled ribbon securing the artwork to the wall mirrors the pen's thin and thick contours.
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George Bickham, an 18th-century penman of astonishing ability, provided the engraving for "The Universal Penman," published in London from 1733 to 1741. Conceived as a guide to English penmanship, the collection included broadsides devoted to various professions, emotions, and the arts, including "Sculpture." In addition to flourishes shown here, other pages featured vignette illustrations by Bickham.
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This penmanship exercise, crowned with a proudly posed eagle, is unusual because it was inked in more than one color. This and a near-identical work by John V. Montgomery are available for sale at Jeffrey Tillou Antiques.
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A pair of circus performers dances atop two galloping horses in this dynamic, youthful drawing by John V. Montgomery. The theatrical subject and the polychromatic palette make this work a sought-after and visually pleasing work. For more information, contact Jeffrey Tillou Antiques.