Bargaining with Calligraphy

A page from Queen Victoria's journalsI have been attempting to learn calligraphy.

You might be wondering why I decided I needed another hobby. Or possibly that was me.

Of course, I would simply tell myself that “this isn’t really a hobby, it’s just for this one thing.” And then, I would tell myself that for some reason, I’ve decided to share my internal dialog with you.

Probably, since you are not me, I need to add a few brushstrokes.

You might recall that new project I started in January? The peculiar museum known as “The SHUSH?”  Well, it’s still going on. I know, I’m as surprised as you are.

Anyway, as part of that project of dubious exhibits, I have been working on calligraphy. No, I’m not going to be specific, you’ll just have to wait and see like everyone else. Suffice it to say that, I have a tendency to go to weirdly absurd lengths to produce results that a) no one other than me will notice, and b) will only hold the viewer’s attention for about 90 seconds.

To illustrate what I mean by “absurd,” here’s a run-down of tasks I have undertaken to produce a document that will likely be fewer than five hand-written pages:

  1. Bought four basic calligraphy pens, the kind with small ink capsules, with assorted nibs, in multiple colors (I will need two colors of ink for this project).
  2. Bought a pad of calligraphy guide paper.
  3. Bought parchment paper to use for the eventual end product.
  4. Bought a book on basics of calligraphy.
  5. Learned that for some reason I’ve not yet fathomed, I am only capable of getting an ink cartridge to work for about two lines of practice text, and then all I’m doing is scratching the practice paper up and bending several nibs out of wack.
  6. Spent hours trying to make the out of wack nibs work.
  7. Decided that I was NOT going to buy any more nibs if they weren’t going to last longer than this, and decided to go find some of the marker sort of calligraphy pens.  Buy a set of four.
  8. Get home and realize the tips on the set of four are *way* wider than I want, and that to write one sentence with these honking big tipped pens, I’d need 10 pages of parchment.
  9. Went to a different store to find smaller tipped marker style pens, and bought four more pens plus a fountain pen that had a reservoir built into it that was not refillable, in case none of the marker-types were going to work.
  10. Could not find parchment paper I bought months ago, and bought more.
  11. Started working with the new collection of tools, to disappointing results that look no different than if I had used a normal ball point pen, no matter how much I tried.
  12. Looked at actual examples of letters between persons of the Victorian era (including Victoria’s own handwriting) (that’s the only hint you’ll get from me) and realized that, for the most part, the handwriting is pretty much like my normal cursive hand, and even if written with a quill, could pretty much be produced with any pen and no one would be the wiser. Except me. And, let’s face it, I’ve already thought about this far too much.
  13. Covered my fingers in ink blotches, and tried to figure out how the accursed pens can get ink all over my fingers, the pen grip and the barrel, but leave no trail of ink from the tip of the pen nor on the piece of paper.

I can only say that when I finally do get this thing completed, I hope you have forgotten all of this, and you look at the finished result and think, “That is surely a handwritten letter from the late 19th century! How remarkable it is to have survived until today!” If you don’t think that, could you at least have the decency not to mention it to me? Thanks.


  1. Oh darling, this is why we became friends. I had a similar experience with my attempt at calligraphy. You however Will have a finished project. I do not.