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The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting

3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  291 ratings  ·  89 reviews
When Philip Hensher realized that he didn't know what a close friend's handwriting looked like ("bold or crabbed, sloping or upright, italic or rounded, elegant or slapdash"), he felt that something essential was missing from their friendship. It dawned on him that having abandoned pen and paper for keyboards, we have lost one of the ways by which we come to recognize and ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Faber & Faber (first published October 11th 2011)
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I wanted to like this, not least because I bought my mother a hardback copy a while ago because of her interest in all things pen, ink and handwriting. However, after spending most of my time reading it constructing a properly scathing review — if you’re going to complain about someone’s grammar, try not doing so by saying they know “eff-all”; don’t disagree with people just by calling their opinion “crap”; some diversity of vocabulary in general would be nice, you hypocritical snob — I decided ...more
Rebecca Foster
I love this book and was delighted to win a copy through Goodreads’ First Reads!

Recently I’ve enjoyed two sprawling nonfiction books about the old-fashioned media of paper and ink: Paper: An Elegy by Ian Sansom, and this one.

Hensher’s The Missing Ink is a defense of the lost art of handwriting in an age when nearly everything is type-written. Words are unspeakably diminished when they do not bear the cast of an individual’s hand, Hensher feels. He traces the history of both handwriting instructi
Mel Campbell
I read this because I'm writing a feature on handwriting and thought it might be useful. I was sent it by the publisher when it was first released and had it lying around this whole time.

Immediately I was put offside by the author's snobbish tone. Hensher uses footnotes mainly to bitch about the people and organisations he's discussing, or to assert his own superiority to whatever he's mentioning. On page 19 he sniffs that a teacher he's quoted "evidently knows eff-all about the dangling partici
I was really hoping to enjoy this book but found myself frustrated. The book trips from topic to optic--Dickens' handwriting, graphology, the history of pens, Hitler's handwriting.... I can't say I learned much at all. The lack of coherent structure is in part the result of a completely ahistorical approach. I was so desperate for dates (Palmer method is devised when?) that I kept going to Wikipedia for help, which is not so bad considering the author cites it at one point as the only source he ...more
Finally my turn at the library to read Philip Hensher's The Missing Ink. Since the subtitle of the book is "The Lost Art of Handwriting" and since in interviews he talked about why handwriting is important, I thought the book might be different than it was. In the introduction he suggests the book is going to be about what might be lost if the habit of writing by hand disappears. But the book turned out not to address that except briefly in the first and last chapters. As a whole, it is not much ...more
Nerd alert. Unless you are into handwriting, typography, and fountain pens you probably aren't going to enjoy this book. Fortunately for me I'm enamored of all three. Like most people I hate my handwriting. It's crabbed, and even when I remark to myself that ah... that's a nicely turned capital K...when I go back to read it later. I can't.

This book feels your pain and embarrassment in a soothing sort of way. While it was a little rambling and often went down odd little paths. SHINY. If you can b
The final chapter of this book made it worth the read with its encouragement to embrace handwritten communication in the same way that we embrace the slow-food movement.
Philip Henscher needed an editor with a firm hand as he wanders away from the topic with ease. What is missing from the book are sufficeint illustrations of the styles of handwriting under discussion.
None the less it was an interesting read and has highlighted the topic of handwriting whenever it is mentioned, most recently for m
“Handwriting is good for you,” says Philip Hensher. “It involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate, and individual.”

(The incontrovertible truth of the author’s conclusion is made so much more endearing, to me, by the nonchalant use of the Oxford comma.)

This is not an author who shies from his opinions, or from sharing his vocabulary. Haruspication! Really? Oh, Philip, how do I love thee?

The Missing Ink is a very personal amble with handwriting and pens. You
Mary Whisner
I checked this out after seeing that my goodreads friend William was reading it. Now I see that he gave it just two stars while here I cam giving it four stars.

I don't necessarily disagree with anything William says in his review, but I enjoyed the book. I like Hensher's writing style. I enjoyed his anecdotes, interviews, and snippets from literature. The book wouldn't appeal to everyone, but it suited me. It also inspired me to handwrite a few notes and send them out in the U.S. mail.

The chapt
I like micro-history -- those books that cover just one event, one product, one year. Mark Kurlansky is a great author in this field and sometimes I feel every other micro-historian is trying to copy his success.

I am also the proud owner of two fountain pens (one with blue ink, one with purple) and some very high quality paper. I love to write -- hand write -- notes in a script I can only say was influenced early on by the Palmer method and Catholic nuns. So when I saw a book with the subtitle "
Lars K Jensen
I enjoyed reading this book, although it sort of takes off in various directions at certain points.

Hensher tells us how handwriting has evolved and the various schools, both in how to write in hand - and how to teach kids in school to do it.

There are a lot of great zingers, quote material and standpoints throughout the book, however some chapters could easily be skipped by the reader. For example the one on Proust - even though the following quote: "Nobody has ever gone more deeply into the supe
Bonnie M.
I won a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads toward the end of last year, and I wish I had pulled it off my bedside table to read sooner!

'The Missing Ink' was a delightful set of musings on handwriting, good pens, teaching, graphology, and the history of writing, all subjects that fascinate me. I love writing by hand, and I miss seeing all my friends' and family's handwriting on a daily basis, so the basic underlying message of the book--that we don't write as much as we use to, and
Damon Young
Hensher can be surprisingly sentimental (''Ink runs in our veins'') and huffy, but his refusal to censor his impressions adds to the book's portrait of an intense and fascinating personality. He contains multitudes. It is this portrait of the author, and his devotion to handwriting's palpable intimacy, that makes the book so enjoyable.

Hensher argues for, but also conveys, the value of slow, spontaneous pleasures. He also fills his book with others' memories: a novelist remembers a ''dapper, sarc
I picked this up from a library book-sale while on vacation. While there are some typically British un-PC comments towards the beginning, overall this is a fun book about the history and current state of penmanship and handwriting, and the utensils used to create it.

One of the fun things I realized is how the Palmer Method capital Q got its shape. However, I'm left with one burning question: Why do the Brits never close the bottoms of their small Ps?!
Maybe I was expecting too much from this book. Based on the title and various blurbs I had encountered, I was hoping Hensher would offer something in the vein of cultural commentary or analysis about our dwindling attachment to the physical act of writing. Instead, The Missing Ink is a motley assortment of disconnected vignettes with no real overarching structure. It's not really argumentative or following a thesis, nor is it personal enough to be a commentary/memoir hybrid like The Butterfly Mo ...more
Carolee Wheeler
Ultimately, the nicest parts of this book, the ones that made me want to get out my writing-implement-shaped flag and wave it around while tooting a big horn, were the introduction and the closing chapter. It seemed as though Hensher, passionate though he clearly is, wrote a wonderful book proposal about something he cares about deeply, and then had to fill a page count. Parts of this read like a term paper.
Just fabulous. A celebration of the dying art of handwriting. No pomposity or nonsense here, just a funny easy read. I've bought a new fountain pen and have started writing letters again!
Steve Losh
This book is... interesting. It's definitely not your standard history book. The book rambles at times, and the writing style is a bit scruffy. There are also random hard-to-read interviews scattered throughout the chapters.

The thing that bothered me the most is that the author acknowledges that graphology is bullshit, but spends almost a quarter of the book talking about it and seems to try to give it more weight than it deserves. Instead of the in-depth look at this pseudo-science I would have
Jared Gulian
This was an impulse buy when I was killing time in a bookstore before catching a train, and I'm glad I bought it. It's not all about "how handwriting made us who we are" as the subtitle on my copy said, but it was good nonetheless. It wandered a bit, but it was full of interesting observations. I liked the social history aspects, the comparisons of handwriting from different countries and cultures, and the call for embracing handwriting as people have embraced the slow food movement. I've got a ...more
This book is so much fun.

It's a mini history of handwriting, which includes discussion of the teaching of handwriting, handwriting styles, interviews with people on their handwriting, of handwriting analysis, of handwriting in literature, the Bic pen, the search for the perfect italic nib, and a lot of snarky footnotes (I'm pretty sure Hensher calls someone an arsehole in one of them).

It's a very interesting and entertaining look at handwriting and also a very personal one, the author having be
I didn't like this book as much as I'd hoped I would. Hensher, a British author, asks if we will actually lose anything as handwriting disappears with the increased use of electronic communication? Will we lose part of our humanity? But Hensher never really answers his own questions. The book's content is, at first glance, not terribly different than Kitty Burns Florey's book Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. But when you read Hensher's book, you find that Florey's coverage ...more
I enjoyed receiving and reading this book from Goodreads because it reminded me of a class I once took. In a Mystery Literature class, we were all asked to write one sentence on a piece of paper using our dominate hand. Then we were asked to write another sentence on another piece of paper using our other hand. Afterwords, we all gathered around and tried to guess which slips of paper belonged to whom. (FYI: We did this after we had read selections from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Sherloc ...more
I enjoyed reading this book, although it sort of takes off in various directions at certain points.

Hensher tells us how handwriting has evolved and the various schools, both in how to write in hand - and how to teach kids in school to do it.

There are a lot of great zingers, quote material and standpoints throughout the book, however some chapters could easily be skipped by the reader. For example the one on Proust - even though the following quote: "Nobody has ever gone more deeply into the supe
I've always had a "thing" -- maybe one could even call it a fetish -- for smooth-flowing, finely-balanced pens and for luxurious paper. Stationers wee my porn shops, the places I'd guiltily slink into, fondle the merchandise, then self-consciously buy something not quite as wicked as I really wanted. The irony here -- more like the shame -- is that I seldom had any ideas for what to do with the goods once I got them, so they simply accumulated and were unused. Also, my handwriting is terrible. I ...more
This is a time when I wish goodreads allowed for half stars. This was better than a three-star book, but not quite a four-star book. It was really interesting at times, and really dry at other times. The author is British, and sometimes it seemed like he was not even writing in English--I found myself rereading chunks of text, or going back a few pages to figure out what I had missed. I put it down for long periods, and it took a long while for me to finish. But the author also included a lot of ...more
Review first published on my blog:

The Missing Ink speaks about the dying art of handwriting. It speaks about the evolution of writing, its history, its tools, and its place today in education and society. The book includes research and factual information and statements from "witnesses" to the process of handwriting.

Overall it is an interesting book about a topic we should address. The movement away from handwriting has influences some things for the bett
I have to thank Hensher for his humorous tone in his book. This is a subject that could very easily be a complete bore to read, but his funny footnotes and quips made this short book easy to read. Despite his light tone, I was happy to finish this book.

The only bits I found worth reading were the introduction, the chapter about the evolution of the pen nib, and the conclusion. The other chapters felt a bit forced, much like filler. The "Witness" sections threw me off a bit and I ended-up skippin
Brittany Craig
This book made me curious, so I entered the giveaway and won. I was pleasantly surprised that it was light and easy to read, but I was really turned off by the snobbiness of the author. In the first couple of chapters he poked fun at farmers and rural people, insulting their lack of smartphones and dialect. This assumption of a backwardness, and also the insinuation that not having a smartphone is backward, not to mention his pretentious opinions of grammar, annoyed me. He also was very particul ...more
For the first few chapters or so I hated this book. I thought the author was patronizing and overly critical. But then he shared an example of his handwriting. After that I just sat back and enjoyed the amusing interviews with random people about how they learned to write or their thoughts on different types of handwriting, and the consistent criticism of people who dot their i's with hearts. Extremely silly.

I learned all sorts of interesting things about different types of handwriting and a few
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The Book Vipers: The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting 11 46 May 04, 2013 06:11PM  
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  • Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One
  • Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction
  • The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys
  • Reflections: On the Magic of Writing
  • Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story
  • Books Make a Home: Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books
Hensher was born in South London, although he spent the majority of his childhood and adolescence in Sheffield, attending Tapton School.[2] He did his undergraduate degree at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford before attending Cambridge, where he was awarded a PhD for work on 18th century painting and satire. Early in his career he worked as a clerk in the House of Commons, from which he was fired over th ...more
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“Depressing realization sets in. Writing was invented not by human beings but by accountants. Most of the early writing systems are records of how much crap people own, how much money they have, how much money they owe, and other lowering/boastful facts of human life.” 2 likes
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