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MS Typ 473.22

Specimens of penmanship from writing schools in Boston, 1748-1782: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Typ 473.22
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: Specimens of penmanship from writing schools in Boston
Date(s): 1748-1782
Quantity: 1 linear feet (2 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: 201 specimens of penmanship from 18th-century Boston.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

No accession number. Gift of Miss G. E. Holbrook; received: 1904 May 23.

Processing Information:

Processed by: J. F. Coakley and Bonnie B. Salt

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Specimens of Penmanship from Writing Schools in Boston, 1748-1782 (MS Typ 473.22). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Biographical / Historical

The public schools of colonial Boston consisted of two grammar schools, the North and the South (called the Latin School) and three writing schools. The writing schools were the Writing School in Queen Street (opened in 1684), the North Writing School (founded in 1700), and the South Writing School (from 1720). The writing schools taught spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, and the catechism.


For further description see: E. Jennifer Monaghan in Visible Language 21:2 (1987): 167-214.


Arranged into the following series:

Scope and Contents

201 single leaves generally copying a moral text or business account. Some use ornamental scripts and calligraphic drawings. Items are 32 x 41 cm or smaller. Many are in iron gall ink.
Includes specimens from: the South Writing School (50 items numbered SWS 1-50), including signed work of Abiah Holbrook (SWS 1-6, dated 1766-1770); the North Writing School (20 items numbered NWS 1-20); the Writing School in Queen Street (10 items numbered QSWS 1-10); unknown writing schools (109 items, numbered UWS 1-109), including signed work of John Fenno (UWS 33-36, dated 1764-1765); and Miscellaneous engravings including: engraved specimens of writing for copying (4 items, numbered MISC 1-4); sheets with decorative engraved borders (8 items numbered MISC 5-12, 59 x 31 cm or smaller), including borders printed by George Bickham, Henry Overton, and J. Deverson.

Container List