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The Missing Ink

The Missing Ink [Kindle Edition]

Philip Hensher
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"We all communicate, of course (tweet tweet tweet, and yack yack yack on the mobile), but not by pen and ink. Does it matter? I didn't have to read 274 pages to be persuaded that it does, but I am very glad indeed that those pages were written and that I have read them. From this book, the wisest and wittiest argument imaginable for the preservation of handwriting, I have learnt so much, and by it have been so happily entertained, that I am compelled to recommend it to everyone." --Literary Review

"The demise of handwriting is forever being announced, but Hensher's sprightly celebration of the art of making marks on paper suggests the key board hasn't yet done for the nib." --Daily Telegraph

"This witty, heartfelt book conveys superbly the pleasures of writing by hand and the role it still has to play in our lives." --Sunday Times

"Its advocacy of one of the most humane and pleasurable forms of self-expression is pretty much irresistible." --Guardian

Product Description

Writing by hand is something that has shaped and revealed our humanity for thousands of years. In a world where people are increasingly swapping pens, letters and love-notes for typing text messages with their thumbs, The Missing Ink is itself a love letter to the lost art of handwriting -- as a cultural artefact, an expression of our individuality and as a craft in itself. Novelist Philip Hensher traces the rise and rise of handwriting in the 19th and 20th centuries, as wider education brought this most individual of skills to the masses. We meet the passionate early evangelists of fine writing, such as Platt Rogers Spencer, who travelled to every corner of America preaching the moral worth of copperplate; and the great educational reformers such as Marion Richardson, who had a deep understanding of how best children might be taught to write. But this is also a book about ink and pens themselves, objects that are even now beginning to disappear from our homes and offices; and about whether the style of our writing really does reveal anything about our inner selves. When we can no longer be interested by our friend who writes a little heart over her i's, and no longer have the end of a biro to chew thoughtfully, what will we find to replace it? The Missing Ink is a hugely entertaining, accessible investigation into the warmest of technologies, and the place it had in our lives.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1606 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0230767125
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1 edition (11 Oct 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009AV1LYO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #183,057 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Philip Hensher has written nine novels, including The Mulberry Empire, the Booker-shortlisted The Northern Clemency, King of the Badgers, and Scenes from Early Life, which won the Ondaatje Prize in 2012. He is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Bath Spa and lives in South London and Geneva.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does What It says On The Tin 20 Feb 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Excellent, easy to read and a compelling argument for returning to the pen, pencil and crayon. Somewhat harsh on the italic style but this book should be obligatory reading for all teachers, etc/
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It Still Matters 15 Feb 2013
Pleasing and legible handwriting is an art, that gives pleasure to the writer and to the reader. This book explores many aspects of the history of handwriting, the ways it has been taught, and the current disdain for this skill. I especially enjoyed the chapters on different styles and educators. In the 1950s I learned with pencil, then dip-pen, then fountain pen, with the common problem of the left-hander's well-inked hand and sleeve. I was disappointed that there was absolutely NO mention of left-handedness, and the often inadequate help we get with our handwriting.
I recommend The Missing Ink as an interesting introduction to this subject - and hope there will be a revised edition for us lefties.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes It Matters! 16 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Should be read by all school teachers, gives a great appreciation of why it still matters!
A fascinating thought provoking read.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun and games at the inkwell 10 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I so enjoyed this book - but then, I was the inky-fingered child who shot up a over-keen hand to be stationery monitor or ink monitor - at my primary school in the fifties. Hensher has done a service in framing a perfectly serious mission to put handwriting back on the agenda within a jolly set of fun and games at the inkwell. He wears his love of literacy and literature deliberately lightly, so as not to alienate those who do not share his desire to see handwriting back on the syllabus. Does anybody learn it nowadays? People just don't care about the loss of these simple skills. But when the computers go down we will need to be able to write. And who would send a note of condolence as a typed letter or (worse) an email? I loved his examples, his bits of potted history and his anecdotes. The only thing that didn't quite work for me were the chapters of first-person 'witness' - which I would have preferred incorporated into the body of the text. But I did enjoy Hensher's use of extended footnote to rant entertainingly. This is a good read - in the manner of Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time for a Slow Writing Movement? 2 Jan 2014
First, a warning: don't read this book in a crowded train or bus. Unexpected shafts of wit from the author - often in the footnotes - can cause uncontrollable laughter in the reader. But the book's theme is very serious: the sudden collapse of hand-written communication, after centuries - millennia - of letters and notes passing between individuals threatens to dehumanise us in important if unquantifiable ways. Addiction to tapping at our smart phones or even just typing away at a keyboard (as I of course currently am) has created less personal, less expressive forms of communication than writing by hand, no matter how bad your handwriting. Hensher starts by talking of friends whom he has known for years but whose handwriting he has never seen. Then he looks back - wisely only over the last couple of centuries, not back to Babylon or ancient Greece - and traces the varied schools or fashions in orthography that have dominated in the western world. One reason for the decline is lack of interest in teaching any particular form of handwriting at schools, probably reflecting social changes. (Interestingly, the French seem to have taught handwriting in schools until very recently.) But the main reason is technological. If technology exists to serve humanity - rather than vice-versa - then it is surely time to stake out a place for the handwritten note or card, so laboriously and SLOWLY written. Time for a Slow Writing Movement to echo the Slow Food Movement perhaps? Hensher has written a timely as well as entertaining book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ok, but not exceptional 4 May 2013
This is a book i was looking forward to reading thinking it would be of a similar vein to Just My Type: A Book about Fonts and Paper: An Elegy. In some ways it was, as Henshers enthusiasm for the subject is clear, but in other ways it was annoying.

The final two or three chapters on the Bic, and trying to purchase a particular fountain pen were great, but i didn't completely get the Witness chapters. And the footnotes were excessive in the extreme. If you have a foot note that goes over three pages, then surely that should have been part of the main text?

In all not bad, but as it promised so much it could have been so much better!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant concept, but lazy implementation. 18 July 2014
OK. I haven't finished it. I threw it across the room at about p.135. (And reluctantly recovered it to be fair.)

This is such a wasted opportunity. There is so much to say about handwriting. There is a debate (principally in the States) about the necessity or otherwise of teaching what they call 'cursive' (joined-up) script. There is interesting (but early) neuroscience research about the difference between taking lecture notes by hand and by digital device.

Instead, we get a self-indulgent, self-admittedly sloppy (see jokey footnote on p.43), gratuitously padded (the useless "witness" testimonies between chapters), text clearly aimed at a limited coterie of the chattering classes (see the opening of ch.18 "When you are elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, as most English writers sooner or later are..."), which buries some interesting material under irritating ordure.

At the cost, indeed, of clarity. The examples of handwriting are not systematically chosen. There is no way to link the points made in the text to the illustrations. I was particularly interested in the chapter on German orthography; I remember struggling with a book on "Deutschland und die Deutschen" for German O level in the late '50s. It was in black-letter typeface. (No, that's not the same as Gothic, at all--he does get that right.) But for all the discussion of the politics of orthography in Germany, where were the illustrations? I have no clear idea of what Sutterlin or Fraktur actually look like.

At least Palmer's advice on writing with the whole arm (p.73-5) does provide some support for mine to teachers about how to write on boards.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Ana
3.0 out of 5 stars Promises not delivered
I expect the book being a more profound thought on how handwriting is dissapearing. But , some how, it seems a little bit superficial: And also, very focused in the anglo-saxon... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Jaime-Axel Ruiz
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
I was expecting more than a rehash of other current work. It is short on detail and contains little about the act of handwriting itself, compared with hands-on manuals such as the... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. G. Saxby
1.0 out of 5 stars Hmmm!
Very disappointing book - seriously unimpressed! For something that received such good reviews on BBC Radio 4, it's been a huge disappointment. The language is frightful! Read more
Published 20 months ago by Classical Fanatical
2.0 out of 5 stars interesting subject, but a bit disappointed in this book..
I am a huge fan of the written (as opposed to the type-written) word, and after hearing the author talk so eloquently on a radio programme a few months ago I decided to seek out a... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Dill
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written, well researched book, written with tongue in cheek
As a pen maker, I enjoyed this book. I could relate to some of the problems found in sourcing pens without throw away cartridges although a ' converter' is freely available. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Brian Chislett
5.0 out of 5 stars for someone who values a handwritten note
it is a delight
ideas about how handwriting developed
and what we might learn aboout someone from their handwriting
gave it as a present
Published 21 months ago by lassie
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