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Italic script, also known as chancery cursive, is a semi-cursive, slightly sloped style of handwriting and calligraphy that was developed during the Renaissance in Italy. It is one of the most popular styles used in contemporary Western calligraphy, and is often one of the first scripts learned by beginning calligraphers.
Italic script is based largely on Humanist minuscule, which itself draws on Carolingian minuscule. The capital letters are the same as the Humanist capitals, modeled on Roman square capitals. The Italian scholar Niccolò de' Niccoli was dissatisfied with the lowercase forms of Humanist minuscule, finding it too slow to write. In response, he created the Italic script, which incorporates features and techniques characteristic of a quickly written hand: oblique forms, fewer strokes per character, and the joining of letters. Perhaps the most significant change to any single character was to the form of the a, which he simplified from the two-story form to the one-story form ⟨ɑ⟩ now common to most handwriting styles.
Under the influence of Italic movable type used with printing presses, the style of handwritten Italic script moved towards disjoined, more mannered characters. By the 1550s the Italic script had become so laborious that it fell out of use with scribes.
The style became increasingly influenced by the development of Copperplate writing styles in the eighteenth century. The style of Italic script used today is often heavily influenced by developments made as late as the early 20th century. In the past few decades, the italic script has been promoted in English-speaking countries as an easier-to-learn alternative to traditional styles of cursive handwriting.
In the UK this revival was due in part to the 19th century artist William Morris, in the 20th century it was Edward Johnston's book Writing & Illumination & Lettering (1906) and Alfred Fairbank's book A Handwriting Manual (1932) and the Dryad Writing Cards (1935). These Dryad cards were used for teaching young school children to write an italic hand.
A modern version called Getty-Dubay was introduced in 1976.
- Harris, David (1995). The Art of Calligraphy. DK Publishing, Inc. ISBN 0-670-86270-3.
- Mehigan, Janet; Mary Noble (1999). Beginner's Guide to Calligraphy. Quarto Publishing plc. ISBN 0-7858-1934-7.