William M. Parr Handwriting, 1854
See/read samples of William M. Parr's penmanship, Brook House Academy, 1854
William M. Parr, William Parr, Brook House Academy, Carolyn Porter, Marcel's Letters, Handwriting, extraordinary handwriting, virtues, exemplar,
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William M. Parr Handwriting, 1854

A few months back I found the most extraordinary handwriting sample for sale on eBay. I planned to blog about it immediately after it arrived from England, but the sample ended up confounding me. I thought, naively (…that won’t be a surprise to any of you who read Marcel’s Letters…), that I’d be able to figure out who William M. Parr from the Brook House Academy was. But I haven’t found a thing.

Let me describe the handwriting sample to you:

The book is 14.5″ x 10.5″, hand bound with string along the left-hand edge. There are 13 thick sheets of paper (including the cover). Each interior page has an ‘essay’ of sorts on topics such as Idleness, Progress, Hope, Man, Virtue, Fame, Wealth, Resolution, and Envy. Each page has a decorative header followed by 6-11 lines of text. The decorative headers are ornate beyond what I had expected based on the eBay listing. Quite frankly, they are extraordinary.

I’ve included a selection of pages below: first the header, then the header in more detail so you can see the detail in the type and decorative scrollwork.

Since I haven’t been able to find anything about William M. Parr or the Brook House Academy, I’ve let my imagination run. To me this feels like some sort of capstone project. But what was the class? Was it a penmanship course? Or a class on character and virtue? Who held on to this book for the last 169 years? And why? What are your guesses?