Friday, 17 January 2014

French Notebooks Of The Past

This past summer, I had the opportunity to look through a couple school notebooks that belonged to some of my extended family. They were written by a French student named Hortense, who was probably in her early teens when she wrote these about 70-75 years ago. Unfortunately, who she was or how these notebooks ended up in the family remains a mystery. 

The calligraphy and attention to detail in each pen stroke is truly amazing. This isn't just handwriting, it's art, and no one writes like this anymore.

I opened my notebook for comparison and died a little inside. My drunken-bear style scribbling is ghastly compared to Hortense's beautiful penmanship. I would have taken pictures as proof, but feared they would have caused irreparable damage to my camera. 

I wish I knew more about Hortense, who she was and what her life must have been like... maybe in absence of fact, I can write a story... 


If you guys are interested in seeing where I produce most of my drunken-bear writing, I'll be over at the Writing Nut next Wednesday for a Wednesday Writer's Workspace interview!

Hope to see you all there. 


  1. Beautiful writing, is that what they call copperplate writing?

  2. That's quite a find.
    I'll post my scribbles if you like - it will make you feel better, I promise.

  3. it's a true beauty of a notebook, but back in ancient days, they had no computers, no TV, not many books, so all a poor lass could do in the evenings was to scribble a bit :)

  4. Sally: I'm not sure, but you got me to google copperplate writing and wow, beautiful writing indeed.

    Alex: I'm sure I have you beat in the ugly/hideous/illegible category

    Dezzy: I'm sure you're right. I just watched a guy spend over 7 minutes just to write the word 'Flourishing' in calligraphy....I can't imagine the time I would take to write notes or even a whole book.

  5. Wow! Just gorgeous. Now I want to take my notebooks full of my awful scribbles and burn them so no one ever finds them. Eek!

    Oh, and I definitely think you've got a story and/or a novel there. Historical fiction? Time travel? Mystery?

  6. What a treasure! But if it makes you feel any better, that many years ago, people had more time in their day to take it all in and share. The speed with which will live today is scary.

  7. That's some beautiful handwriting. My father used to write calligraphy and it would take him so long to do one sentence.

  8. Wow, amazingly beautiful - and I'd certainly want to find out more about this person!

  9. I loved the writing, in fact I'm jealous. Beautiful post today El and see you next week.

  10. I often can't work out what i wrote the day before my handwriting such a mess. I've taken to printing everything like a six year old so I don't forget any brilliant ideas that come to me in the middle of the night.

    Moody Writing

  11. Certainly does leave open a premise for a book to be written

  12. As a kid I learned to write beautifully but was never taught to join the letters. Then I moved to another school, aged 8, and was laughed at because I didn't join them. I just got on with it and was never taught to do it properly with the result that my writing suffered. You think yours are bad, you should see mine today particularly as I rarely hand write anything, why would I when I have a computer?

  13. It really is beautiful, but I'm kind of glad we use computers now. I can't imagine the hand cramps. Still, it's amazing that something like that came from a person.

  14. I LOVE calligraphy...that notebook is just beautiful. I dabble in a bit of calligraphy myself. It doesn't look nearly that good though. I have something to shoot for. ^_^

  15. That's gorgeous. I used to do a lot of calligraphy when I was a teen. Now I can't even read my own signature! *LOL* Have a great weekend.

  16. It's absolutely lovely. You're right it's practically a dying if not dead art. My husband has beautiful penmanship. Mine? Horrific. It was a different way of life back then. I agree there is a story in there. Great post, Elise. :)

  17. Wow. That is art! Yep, I have drunken bear notebooks too. Not even my doodles are noteworthy!

  18. Wow, that is beautiful script. Can't even make out the letters, they are so fancy.

  19. Why compare your own writing to this? When I was in high school, I did caligraphy for fun. When I had hours to kill, I'd come up with some really beautiful things. But who has hours to kill anymore? And the point of writing isn't the beautiful script, but what the words are communicating.

  20. "In absence of fact" is one of the best places to begin with a story.
    That's the greatest penmanship I've ever seen. My scratchery is downright goblinish in comparison. That's something I'd like to be good at. But to be honest, I don't even know how to write in cursive... It just didn't stick.

  21. Oh that is just art on the page. My handwriting is horrid. I should have been a doctor, as the cliche goes. I love things like this-- they just ignite the imagination!

  22. I find it amazing people could write anything without a word processor. What I you made a mistake? Did they have to start over?

  23. Hey Elise!

    Bonjour n' stuff! :) I'm well into calligraphy. My mother has beautiful handwriting. Although it's in Anglais. The example you have displayed are manifique! I have a sober dog take over my writing.

    Gary :)

  24. Madeline: This does make for a good story that could go in any direction...Oh, so tempting.... (:

    Melanie: I think so too!

    Diane: I agree, it is scary at times...):

    L. Diane: I've seen people spend 10 minutes just to write a single word...but still, the result is beautiful.

    mshatch: So do I!

    Sheena-kay: Thanks Sheena, have a good one! (:
    Moody: I don't get brilliant ideas in the middle of the night anymore...but I do still write like a 6 year old...*le sigh*

    Pat: Yes it does. (:

    Jo: I was taught to join the letters in school, but they teach it differently here in France, they don't join the letters either. Sorry to hear you got teased, kids can be so mean. I try to write notes by hand, and the first word or two is legible...but the rest looks likes it came down from the walls of a cave...

    JEO: Yeah, I couldn't imagine writing an entire manuscript by hand.

    Krystal: I'd love to see your writing some time...could be good material for a fun post.... (;

    Christine: Hope you had a good one too!

    Mina: Thanks Mina! My Italian grandmother was the one with beautiful penmanship. Looks like it died out with her in our family....

    Elizabeth: LOL! me too. (:

    Cathy: I had a hard time reading the writing too.

    Lexa: I agree, but there's something to be said about the dedication and time a person takes to perfect their art, writing included. But I see what you're saying, it's the story and not how fancy the letters are written that's important, and I agree, I just wish my handwriting was a little easier on the eyes.

    David: I write mostly in all caps when I write by hand. I have to force myself to write in cursive, and I often start off writing in cursive and end up finishing in block letters like a 5 year old, lol!

    Julie: They sure do, and I could have been a doctor based on my hand writing skills too!

    Stephen: I know! I would have never been able to be a writer if I had to write by hand. Hell, it's bad enough I make typos ALL THE TIME using a damn computer. If I had to write on paper, half the forest would be devastated because of me.

    Gary: Thanks Gary, for being my extra pair of eyes... one of these days I'll learn to use my own. (;

  25. Hope you don't mind, but I sent you an invite on FaceBook under my monica of Fyloh Phaxx :)

  26. Those are really pretty books. I wish I could write like that!

  27. Wow! An age lost, eh? Those are treasures, so truly beautiful!

  28. Hi Elise .. what an amazing notebook to have inherited .. and how fun to find out more about her - I'm sure you could! (That would take you off the beaten track somewhat). Gosh as you so rightly say ... beautifully crafted and written ... and yes - you could write lots of stories about and for Hortense ..

    What a wonderful find .. lovely ... cheers Hilary


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