see it clearly

The Art of Writing: Flourishing

Flourishing in cursive writing is the art of delineating figures by means of a rapid, whole-arm movement of the pen. This species of the penman's art has been practiced from time immemorial; not only as a distinctive feature of penmanship in the production of designs representing birds, animals, fishes, and fanciful designs, but also for the embellishment of writing and lettering. In former times, flourishing was of greater practical value and more highly esteemed than it is today.

Flourishing writing

Before the discovery of printing, when the books of the world were written and illuminated by the pen, and during the centuries immediately following the discovery of printing, the art of flourishing was extensively practiced. It was greatly prized, and considered a valuable accomplishment for professional teachers of artistic pen-work.

The exercise of the hand in flourishing tends to give ease and dexterity in the execution of practical writing. The plates connected with this subject present a series of exercises adapted for the practice of learners in this fascinating department of the penman's art.

Positions in Flourishing

The first cut on this page represents the correct attitude of the body, as well as the position of the hand and pen, while in the act of flourishing.

It will be observed that the hand and pen are reversed, so as to impart the shade to the upward or outward stroke of the pen, instead of the downward or inward stroke, as in the direct or ordinary position, while writing.

Sit square at the desk, as close as is practicable without touching it, the left hand resting upon and holding the paper in the proper position, which must be always in harmony with the position of the hand and pen. The penholder is held between the thumb and first and forefingers, the thumb pressing upon the holder about two inches from the point of the pen. The first finger is bent at the centre joint, forming nearly a right angle, and is held considerably back of the second finger, which rests upon the under side of the holder, about midway between the thumb and the point of the pen. The third finger rests upon the fourth; the nail of the latter rests lightly upon the paper about one and a half inches from the pen, in a straight line from its point, parallel with the arm.

Another position of the hands, which is used and advocated by some penmen and authors, is: rest the arm upon the ball of the hand instead of the finger nail. The latter method is preferable in the execution of work requiring large sweeps of the pen, as in the former the fingers are liable to strike into the ink lines and mar the work. In the ornamentation of lettering and the execution of small designs--in short, most kinds of off-hand pen-work--the position described in the previous paragraph is the best.

The movement employed in all flourishing is that of the whole arm, which is obtained by raising the entire arm free from the table, resting the hand lightly upon the nail of the fourth finger, all motion of the arm being from the shoulder, which gives the greatest freedom and scope to the movements of the pen. This same movement is used in striking whole-arm capitals. What dancing is for imparting grace and case of movement to the body, flourishing is to one's handwriting Its practice is thus of double importance, as a discipline to the hand, and as a separate accomplishment.