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Quotations about Writing by Hand,
Pens, Paper, Ink, Penmanship, etc.

Welcome to the Web's first page of quotations about handwriting! Here you will find quotes about pens, paper, ink, penmanship, penmen, pencraft, lettering, cursive writing, script, chirography, penscript, calligraphy, graphology, handwriting analysis, etc. One of my favorite descriptions of writing by hand that I've come across in old books is "quill driving" which mainly applied to scriveners or scribes, whose job it was to copy text. A couple of interesting old synonyms for writing (in the sense of composing) was to "stain paper" or to "take up the pen." And now to jump topics from writing to reading, please enjoy the quotes! —tεᖇᖇ¡·g

Dinner over, we produced a bundle of pens, a copious supply of ink, and a goodly show of writing and blotting and paper. For there was something very comfortable in having plenty of stationery. ~Charles Dickens ("Boz"), Great Expectations, 1861

None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try. ~Mark Twain

There was the big square envelope, with the quaint, familiar hand-writing, wonderfully small and delicate, as sometimes happens with men who write constantly, with an extraordinary clearness, acquired by frequently writing Greek, and with an occasional bit of bizarre extravagance in it, when native character asserted itself. As, for instance, the W, of Miss Winter was a thing to make one wonder, and the C, of Cecil Street embraced half the address. ~Mabel Collins, In the Flower of Her Youth, 1883

Hence did the wondrous mystic art arise,
Of painting speech, and speaking to the eyes.
Thus we by wondrous magic lines are taught,
How both to colour and embody thought.
~"The Indian Manner of Writing, and the Substance they use instead of Paper," The Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the Several Nations of the Known World, Vol. III, written originally in French, and now published in English, with very considerable amendments and additions, 1731  [A later version goes, "Whence did the wondrous mystic art arise / Of painting speech and speaking to the eyes? / That we by tracing magic lines are taught / How to embody and colour thought." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane. ~Graham Greene, International Herald Tribune, 1977

Calligraphy, a spiritual art that has been forgotten in favor of an emotionless keyboard. ~Stefan Boldisor, via Goodreads

Her life was like a burst of wild, flowing Chinese calligraphy, written under the influence of alcohol. Mine was a more uniform, rounded script; pain, anxiety, happiness and pressure... ~Wei Hui (Zhou Weihui), Shanghai Baby, 2001, translated by Bruce Humes

Writing is indeed a part of the art preservative, and in this age of accomplishment, the ability to write well, with speed, and so clear that it can be read with ease, should be acquired by each individual, no matter what may be his business or place in the world. Communication between man and man must now be more frequent as it becomes universal, and every accountable being will, at once, find that there is the utmost need of knowing how to handle the pen.... ~"Writing Made Easy," The Golden Key to Prosperity and Happiness. A Complete Educator Embracing Thorough Instruction in Every Branch of Knowledge, edited by G.L. Howe, 1885

Beauty is God's hand-writing... ~Parson Lot (Charles Kingsley), "The National Gallery.—No. I." in Politics for the People, 1848 May 6th

His poetic voice both intoxicated and enthralled me..... Addison spoke in calligraphy while everyone else talked in scribbles. ~Shawn Martin, Shadowflesh, 2013

One ought to write only when one leaves a piece of one's flesh in the inkpot each time one dips one's pen. ~Leo Tolstoy

Use black ink, free from sediment, that flows well; an inkstand with broad base and small neck to save it from upsetting and absorbing the dust of the room. A fluid ink that does not appear black at once, but continues to grow black and durable, is preferred by business men and accountants. Fancy colored inks should be avoided. Paper is abundant and cheap, and it is a mark of bad taste to write on an inferior article. Bad writing on good paper is better than good writing on bad paper. Good pen-work consists in attention to small details; each letter and word correctly formed, makes the beautiful page. ~"Writing Made Easy," The Golden Key to Prosperity and Happiness. A Complete Educator Embracing Thorough Instruction in Every Branch of Knowledge, edited by G.L. Howe, 1885

Paper endures everything. ~French proverb

Paper is patient. ~German proverb

To women Cupid is kinder. Instead of making them appear ludicrous, Love has the power of transforming even a homely feminine face into a vision of loveliness by throwing a halo of tender expression around it. This wondrous transformation effected by Love is one of its greatest miracles; and to one who has seen the girl previously it immediately betrays her infatuation. It is a kind of emotional calligraphy in which the merest tyro can read, "I love him." ~Henry T. Finck, "The Language of Love," Romantic Love and Personal Beauty, 1887

Herein a power lies, within the reach
Of all who study what it fain would teach;
Whereby the writer by his pen doth show
The inward self of those we outward know...
~Fanny Kern Weir

Dearest, dearest love. A thousand, thousand thanks, a thousand blessings, for your letter. It was such a darling letter, so long, so kind, and so clear. Your handwriting is so beautiful that I never shall find the slightest difficulty in making it out, if your letters were crossed a thousand times. Besides, dear love, to tell the truth, I should rather like to experience a little difficulty in reading your letters, for I read them so often, over and over again, till I get them by heart, and it is such a delight every now and then to find out some new expression that escaped me in the first fever of perusal. ~Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881), Henrietta Temple, 1837  [A little altered. Letter written by Henrietta to Ferdinand. Fun fact: Disraeli's nickname was "Dizzy." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

In my calligraphy, there is ink, tea, breathing, mindfulness and concentration. This is meditation. This is not work. Suppose I write ‘breathe’; I am breathing at the same time. To be alive is a miracle and when you breathe in mindfully, you touch the miracle of being alive. ~Thich Nhat Hanh,

Every bottle of ink contains at least one good letter — and it's at the bottom. ~Peter Thornton (

I have a new nib in my pen. In the ordinary way, when Shakespeare writes a tragedy, or Mr. Blank gives you one of his charming little essays, a certain amount of thought goes on before pen is put to paper. One cannot write "Scene I. An Open Place. Thunder and Lightning. Enter Three Witches," or "As I look up from my window, the nodding daffodils beckon to me to take the morning," one cannot give of one's best in this way on the spur of the moment. At least, others cannot. But when I have a new nib in my pen, then I can go straight from my breakfast to the blotting-paper, and a new sheet of foolscap fills itself magically with a stream of blue-black words. When poets and idiots talk of the pleasure of writing, they mean the pleasure of giving a piece of their minds to the public; with an old nib a tedious business. They do not mean (as I do) the pleasure of the artist in seeing beautifully shaped "k's" and sinuous "s's" grow beneath his steel. ~A.A. Milne, "The Pleasure of Writing," c.1910–1919

      But if there be one compositor not carried away by the mad rush of life, who in a leisurely hour (the luncheon one, for instance) looks at the beautiful words with the eye of an artist, not of a wage-earner, he, I think, will be satisfied; he will be as glad as I am of my new nib. Does it matter, then, what you who see only the printed word think of it?
      A woman, who had studied what she called the science of calligraphy, once offered to tell my character from my handwriting. I prepared a special sample for her; it was full of sentences like "To be good is to be happy," "Faith is the lodestar of life," "We should always be kind to animals," and so on. I wanted her to do her best. She gave the morning to it, and told me at lunch that I was "synthetic." Probably you think that the compositor has failed me here and printed "synthetic" when I wrote "sympathetic." In just this way I misunderstood my calligraphist at first, and I looked as sympathetic as I could. However, she repeated "synthetic," so that there could be no mistake. I begged her to tell me more, for I had thought that every letter would reveal a secret, but all she would add was "and not analytic." I went about for the rest of the day saying proudly to myself "I am synthetic! I am synthetic! I am synthetic!" and then I would add regretfully, "Alas, I am not analytic!" I had no idea what it meant.
      And how do you think she had deduced my syntheticness? Simply from the fact that, to save time, I join some of my words together. That isn't being synthetic, it is being in a hurry. What she should have said was, "You are a busy man; your life is one constant whirl; and probably you are of excellent moral character and kind to animals." Then one would feel that one did not write in vain. ~A.A. Milne, "The Pleasure of Writing," c.1910–1919

I still have my old copy of Sophocles, heavily underlined, covered with sweet embarrassing notes-to-self... written in my rounded, heartbreakingly neat schoolgirl print. Like seeing a photograph of yourself as a child, encountering handwriting that you know was once yours but that now seems only dimly familiar can inspire a confrontation with the mystery of time. ~Francine Prose, Reading Like a Writer, 2006

Her handwriting was sweeping, immaculate, breathless. ~David Shields, "Satire," 2002

I loved her impatient handwriting, her purple ink, the melodrama of the whole thing. ~David Shields, "Rebecca's Journal," 2002

She may have looked normal on the outside, but once you'd seen her handwriting you knew she was deliciously complicated inside. ~Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot, 2011

Poets don't draw. They unravel their handwriting and then tie it up again, but differently. ~Jean Cocteau

She drinks pints of coffee and writes little observations and ideas for stories with her best fountain pen on the linen-white pages of expensive notebooks. Sometimes, when it's going badly, she wonders if what she believes to be a love of the written word is really just a fetish for stationery. The true writer, the born writer, will scribble words on scraps of litter, the back of a bus ticket, on the wall of a cell. Emma is lost on anything less than 120gsm. ~David Nicholls, One Day, 2009

Say what you will, sir, but I know what I know;
That you beat me at the mart, I have your hand to show:
If the skin were parchment, and the blows you gave were ink,
Your own handwriting would tell you what I think.
~William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors, c.1589  [III, 1, Dromio of Ephesus]

But the effort that cost her the deepest humiliation was a request to Higgins, whose pet artistic fancy, next to Milton's verse, was caligraphy, and who himself wrote a most beautiful Italian hand, that he would teach her to write. He declared that she was congenitally incapable of forming a single letter worthy of the least of Milton's words; but she persisted; and again he suddenly threw himself into the task of teaching her with a combination of stormy intensity, concentrated patience, and occasional bursts of interesting disquisition on the beauty and nobility, the august mission and destiny, of human handwriting. ~Bernard Shaw (1856–1950), Pygmalion, 1912

Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader's eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin. ~Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being, 2013

Your handwriting is like the accent of your hands. ~Reddit user What-the-curtains, 2015

There is a deep-rooted belief that writing and printing are two different and mutually incompatible techniques and that they should be kept strictly apart. The written letter is something personal, organic, unique and spontaneous. It mirrors the character and the personality of the writer, and often his mood of the moment. But the printed letter, which can be cast as often as necessary from the mould, goes on being repeated in a precise and invariable form. It is impersonal, neutral and objective by nature... ~Emil Ruder (1914–1970), Typographie, 1967  [Ruder was a Swiss typographer and graphic designer. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

I passed through trees. Inside their wooden samurai armor they are geisha beauties, each one a 'person-of-the-art,' limbs dancing, arranging flowers, carrying the wind's music, the calligraphy of their roots pure poetry, rhyming earth and berth. ~A.A. Attanasio, "Fractal Blood Soul," 2007

Excuse this letter's being like a hotch-potch. It's incoherent, but I can't help it. Sitting in an hotel room one can't write better. Excuse its being long, It's not my fault. My pen ran away with me—besides, I wanted to go on talking to you. It's three o'clock in the night. My hand is tired. The wick of the candle wants snuffing, I can hardly see. ~Anton Chekhov (1860–1904), letter, 1890 May 16th, translated by Constance Garnett, 1920

No, Officer. My speech isn't slurred, I'm just talking in cursive. ~Internet joke, c.2011

I have loopy penmanship, like a little girl, so anything I write looks like a motivational poster in a health clinic. ~Tom Hanks, "These Are the Meditations of My Heart," Uncommon Type: Some Stories, 2017

[O]rnate writing or pen-work has no connection whatever with the practical business of life. To do that kind of work, one must have the skill of an expert and the eye of an artist. ~"Writing Made Easy," The Golden Key to Prosperity and Happiness. A Complete Educator Embracing Thorough Instruction in Every Branch of Knowledge, edited by G.L. Howe, 1885

      Many years ago I was told that when asking for writing-materials, I should request Paper, Pen, and Ink — not Pen, Ink, and Paper; Ink, Paper, and Pen; or the three scriptorial essentials in any other order than that first named.... No wonder the scribe asks first for paper! The pen does its work, and perishes in doing it. The ink forgets the lines in which it was guided, unless the paper grasps it and fixes it. The enduringness of the graphic work is in the guardianship of the paper....
      All the unliving things of the sleeping mineral world, except the wild sea and the viewless air, have served man as paper, and from the once living world he has borrowed as well. But especially has he gathered from dead plants. When "by desire of power the angels fell, and men by that of knowledge," as Bacon reminds us they did, it was in the shape of a tree that the coveted knowledge of good and evil rose before our first mother. And with a tree the literature of every highly civilized people inseparably connects itself, preserving by such terms as library, codex, folio, and leaf, its recognition of the peculiar indebtedness of mankind to plants for what we, par excellence, style paper.
      And can it be the blood of Eve stirring in our veins, that makes us turn from even the most suitable of those dead papers, and find such delight as we do in carving the names of those we love upon the bark of living trees? ~George Wilson, "Paper, Pen and Ink: An Excursus in Technology," Macmillan's Magazine, November 1859  [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

From such records on the living pages of unconscious leafy organisms, I find myself unavoidably led a step higher, to gaze at that strangest of all papers, the bodies of living men! There are nice discussions in historical works as to the date of the first English paper-mill, and whether British paper is older than the days of Queen Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth! Say, rather, Queen Boadicea, or, far beyond her, select Queen Anonyma, who reigned in prehistoric times. Our ancestors wrote on their fair skins, in native woad or indigo, what they sought to put on record, and for I know not how many thousand years the practice has prevailed down to our day. We are living writing-paper. ~George Wilson, "Paper, Pen and Ink: An Excursus in Technology," Macmillan's Magazine, November 1859  [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

The paper is before us, the pen in our hand, mere mechanical media as it seems; but the ink quickens and slackens its current, and ebbs and flows, as the tide of our emotions sinks and swells. ~George Wilson, "Paper, Pen and Ink: An Excursus in Technology," Macmillan's Magazine, November 1859

Thanks to the Great Big Printing Method, until we reach about age 8, we all write legibly. Then the schools — in what I believe is the single biggest impediment to human productivity — teach us all how to write in script, or "cursive"... The very word is Latin for "a kind of handwriting that is legible only to the person who is writing it." Oh, sure, cursive looks OK when we're first learning it, and the teachers are making us write nice, clear letters... But as soon as we get out of the classroom our handwriting starts to degenerate, and pretty soon it has mutated into a series of random marks... ~Dave Barry, "Word Processing," Dave Barry in Cyberspace, 1996,

Calligraphy — the dance, on a tiny stage, of the living, speaking hand... ~Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style, 1992

Seeing that the public have been told in some hundreds of volumes who invented printing, it is a matter of surprise that no industrious literary hack has compiled a history of writing and writing materials. Quills, ink, sealing-wax, gum, paper, and the caligraphic art are fully as interesting as the movable types of Caxton and Gutenberg. They have, moreover, the charm of antiquity. ~"Ink, Sealing-Wax, and Quill-Pen Making," The British Trade Journal, 1884 November 1st

      Amongst the numerous and diversified objects of human investigation, it would, perhaps, be difficult to single out one, more curious and interesting, than that of the medium which bears the symbols of language. Undoubtedly the noblest acquisition of mankind is that of the faculty of speech, without which the endearments of friendship and the communication of wisdom alike would become unavailing.
      The use of speech given to Adam immediately upon his formation, to say to Eve that first sentence "This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh," thus was man at once rendered as superior to the brute creation. And then by the aid of writing was he especially distinguished from the condition of uncivilized savages. To conceive of the origin of an art so invaluable in its tendency to elevate mankind, as that of exhibiting to sight the various conceptions of the mind, which have no corporeal forms, by means of hieroglyphics or legible characters, is still as difficult and perplexing as in past ages it has ever proved to the sagacity of mankind.
      Writing gives a sort of immortality to all other things. ~Richard Herring, Paper & Paper Making, Ancient and Modern, 1855  [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Geometry can produce legible letters, but art alone makes them beautiful. Art begins where geometry ends, and imparts to letters a character transcending mere measurement. ~Paul Standard, quoted in Basic Typography by John R. Biggs, 1968

I look at lettering as a huge palette which includes calligraphy, type-forms, and everything in between. The colours of that palette can be mixed into an infinite variety of blends. ~Julian Waters, quoted in A History of Calligraphy by Albertine Gaur, 1994

As long as we are studying penmanship in school or at home it is a merely mechanical operation; we simply follow the copy-book or the blackboard letters written by the instructor, but after we have mastered the art of penmanship, we become independent and write and form letters of the alphabet to suit our personal taste and ability. Our hand then becomes the unconscious instrument of our brain and merely transcribes into letters, words and sentences, the active thoughts as they are formed.... We find just as many different kinds of handwriting as there are people. ~Hugo J. von Hagen, Graphology: How to Read Character from Handwriting, 1919

It occurred to me that there might be some truth in the supposition that the handwriting gave an inkling of the mind of the writer.... Napoleon the Great wrote a most detestable scrawl. Canning's penmanship had a chaste and classical appearance. Washington Irving is described as writing a perfect lawyer's hand. Lord Jeffrey wrote as if with a stick dipped in ink; of his sentences scarcely a word was intelligible.... [T]he handwriting of the late Sir Harcourt Lees was compared to the leg of a spider dipped in ink, and dancing on a wall. ~David George Goyder, My Battle for Life: The Autobiography of A Phrenologist, 1857

[T]here was practically one handwriting common to the whole school when it came to writing lines. It resembled the movements of a fly that had fallen into an ink-pot, and subsequently taken a little brisk exercise on a sheet of foolscap by way of restoring the circulation. ~P.G. Wodehouse (1881–1975), "A Corner in Lines," 1905

I have remarked a perfect analogy in the language, movement of the body of a person, and his handwriting. The more I compare different handwritings, the more am I convinced that handwriting is the expression of the character of him who writes. ~Johann Kaspar Lavater

When they were in school, Peter used to say that everything you do is a self-portrait.... "The only thing an artist can do is describe his own face." You're doomed to being you. This, he says, leaves us free to draw anything, since we're only drawing ourselves. Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It's all giving you away.... Everything is a self-portrait. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Diary, 2003

Graphology, which has been spelled sometimes graphiology, or, as it has been written frequently, graphomancy, is the science and art which deals with handwriting as an index to character, &c.; the divination, in fact, of mental and physical peculiarities by the inspection of a person's penmanship.... In truth, it may be said we write not merely with our fingers, but with our brains. ~Richard Dimsdale Stocker, The Language of Handwriting: A Text-Book of Graphology, 1904  [a little altered —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Graphology is the most practical, useful, and mightiest searchlight that reaches the deepest corners of any human soul at any distance. Our soul is the Queen of the body; our brain is either the king or the servant of the body; our hands and our voice, through the action of the nerve centers, are the servants of both soul and brain, because they translate our feelings, thoughts or wishes. Whatever we do is the result of external cause; if the producer of that cause is near by, we use our voice, but when many miles away, we take a penholder or pencil between our fingers to transmit the message from our soul or from our brain.... In fact, Graphology is so practical and useful a subject that it might well be called "Wireless-Soul-o-graphy." ~George Beauchamp, "What Is Graphology?", The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health, January 1909

Desbarolles, in his works, connects Graphology with Chiromancy and Astrology, showing how the hand is influenced by the action of the planets upon it. ~Richard Dimsdale Stocker, The Language of Handwriting: A Text-Book of Graphology, 1904  [Chiromancy is palmistry, or palm-reading. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

Graphology is the art or science of reading character from the handwriting. It does not claim to be an exact science, like mathematics, for example. But it is quite as exact as medicine, and as many of the other sciences.... The differences between the writing of each individual and his fellows are as distinct as the features of their faces.... Each dot and stroke is amenable to a certain law or laws regulating its formation as an expression of the mind... ~J. Harrington Keene, The Mystery of Handwriting: A Handbook of Graphology, 1896  [Fun fact: Keene's byname was "Grapho." —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

[P]resently the expert in handwriting appeared, and all Philip's hopes of acquittal vanished into air. ~S.J. Adair Fitz-Gerald, The Love-Thirst of Elaine, 1903

I wondher why ye can always read a doctor's bill an' ye niver can read his purscription. F'r all ye know, it may be a short note to th' druggist askin' him to hit ye on th' head with a pestle. ~Finley Peter Dunne, "Mr. Dooley on Drugs," in McPike's Bi-Monthly, 1907

I only failed through bad handwriting.... Actually, "bad" doesn't do justice to my handwriting. Neither does "handwriting." "Desecration of paper" just about covers it. ~Mark Barrowcliffe, The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange, 2007

He had written in cheap ballpoint ink that had blotted... in many places. His handwriting was a looping but legible scrawl, and he must have been bearing down hard, because the words were actually engraved into the cheap notebook pages; if I'd closed my eyes and run my fingertips over the backs of those torn-out sheets, it would have been like reading Braille. ~Stephen King, 11/22/63, 2011

For, truth to tell, dancing in all its forms cannot be excluded from the curriculum of all noble education: dancing with the feet, with ideas, with words, and, need I add that one must also be able to dance with the pen — that one must learn how to write? ~Friedrich Nietzsche

A just thinker will allow full swing to his scepticism. I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I am not afraid of falling into my inkpot.... We are of different opinions at different hours, but we always may be said to be at heart on the side of truth. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Worship," The Conduct of Life, 1860

...The feather, whence the pen
Was shaped...
Dropped from an Angel's wing...
~William Wordsworth (1770–1850), "Ecclesiastical Sketches: Walton's Book of Lives"

[W]riting is thinking on paper. ~H. Phelps Gates, "Easy Ways," You Know You Can Write, 1949

A signature is the shape of our personality; it's our nameprint, our soulmark in ink. ~Terri Guillemets

"And when once the itch of literature comes over a man, nothing can cure it but the scratching of a pen."
"But if you have not a pen, I suppose you must scratch any other way you can."
"To be sure... I have seen a litherary gentleman in a sponging house do crack things on the wall, with a bit of burnt stick..."
~Samuel Lover, Handy Andy, 1841

At the point of the pen is the focus of the mind. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Sparks from the Philosopher's Stone, 1882

Handwriting is autobiography. ~Terri Guillemets, "Analysis," 1990

As there are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write, so the heart is a secret even to him (or her) who has it in his own breast. ~William Makepeace Thackeray, The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., 1852

Mr. Choate... had his pen in his hand always. It was his weapon of warfare. ~Edward G. Parker, Reminiscences of Rufus Choate, the Great American Advocate, 1859

Old-style cursive handwriting is so elegant — a beautiful garden of words with flowering letters. ~Terri Guillemets

This work shop had a grim look, as if the laborer within it would sacrifice everything to the demands of his toil; changing his life blood into ink if necessary; and his soul into a pen. ~Anna McClure Sholl, "His Heartache," National Magazine, October 1904

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