"Our Tools of Learning" : George Arthur Plimpton's Gifts to Columbia University

Handwriting > Page 3


The American Instructor: or, Young Man’s Best Companion. Containing, Spelling, Reading, Writing, and Arithmetick, in an Easier Way Than Any Yet Published; and How to Qualify Any Person for Business, without the Help of a Master. The Ninth Edition Revised and Corrected

Philadelphia: Printed by B. Franklin and D. Hall, 1748

Plimpton A375 1748 F53 copy 1

The first instructions in handwriting printed in the American colonies were the five plates and eighteen pages of letterpress instructions that accompanied them in this edition of The American Instructor printed and published by Benjamin Franklin and David Hall. The engraved plate of the round hand, shown here, is said to be based on Franklin’s own hand. Not content with merely reprinting the popular text, Franklin revised it as well. In his preface, he says, “In the British Edition of this Book, there were many Things of little or no Use in these Parts of the World: In this Edition those Things are omitted, and in their Room many other Matters inserted, more immediately useful to us Americans.” Franklin’s emphasis on the need for an American work is an interesting foreshadowing of the attitudes that led up to the Revolution.

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


Dean’s Recently Improved Analytical Guide, to the Art of Penmanship Second Edition, Revised, Improved, and Enlarged

New York: Published for the Author, and sold by Hopkins & Bayard; Baltimore, Samuel Jefferis, [1808]

Plimpton A091 1808 D345

This is the second, revised edition of Dean’s work, described by Ray Nash as “The most ambitious publication ever to grace American handwriting,” featuring 110 pages of letterpress and thirty-six copperplates. This plate, a mathematical abstract of all letterforms, and the title page were drawn for Dean by Eloise Richards Payne, whom he mentions in his preface as “the daughter of his particular friend, William Payne, of Berry Street Academy, Boston.”

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


The American Penman, Comprising the Art of Writing, Plain and Ornamental

Hartford, Conn.: Eleazar Huntington, 1824

Plimpton A091 1824 H92

Huntington, a student of Nathan Towne, produced several books, of which this was his last. He had become an engraver as well as a writing teacher. This work contains a folding plate, “In Honor of the Illustrious Gen. Andrew Jackson,” in addition to this woodcut of a teacher and his students.

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu