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Penmanship or handwriting is the art of writing with the hand and a writing instrument. Styles of handwriting are also called hands or scripts.




The earliest example of writing is the Sumerian pictographic system found on clay tablets, which eventually developed around 3200 BC into a modified version called cuneiform.[1] Cuneiform is from the Latin meaning “wedge shaped” and was impressed on wet clay with a sharpened reed.[2] This form of writing eventually evolved into ideographic system (where a sign represents an idea) and then to a syllabic system, (where a sign represents a syllable).[3] Developing around the same time, the Egyptian system of hieroglyphics also began as a pictographic script and evolved into a system of syllabic writing. Two cursive scripts were eventually created, hieratic shortly after hieroglyphs were invented and demotic in the seventh century BC.[4] Scribes wrote these scripts usually on papyrus with ink on a reed pen.

The first known alphabetical system came from the Phoenicians, who developed a vowel-less system of 22 letters around the eleventh century BC.[5] The Greeks eventually adapted the Phoenician alphabet around the eighth century BC. Adding vowels to the alphabet and dropping some consonants, the Greeks developed a script which included only what we know of as capital Greek letters.[6] The lower case letters of Classical Greek were a later invention of the Middle Ages. The Phoenician alphabet also influenced the Hebrew and Aramaic scripts, which follow a vowel-less system. One Hebrew script was only used for religious literature and by a small community of Samaritans up until the sixth century BC. Aramaic was the official script of the Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian empires and ‘Square Hebrew’ (the script now used in Israel) developed from Aramaic around the third century AD.[7]

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