Information Update - Fall 2010

Zaner-Bloser Collection Donated to Library

The Weinberg Memorial Library is the new home for the Zaner-Bloser Penmanship Collection. The company was founded in 1888 by Charles P. Zaner as the Zanerian School of Penmanship. Elmer W. Bloser purchased a share of the company in 1891, and in 1895 the school changed its name to the Zaner-Bloser Company. Zaner-Bloser, a subsidiary of Highlights for Children since 1972, continues to be a leader in the field of penmanship instruction. Originally, the school prepared students for careers as penmen. Penmen often worked in business, preparing ledgers, writing correspondence and creating documents before the invention of the typewriter. Zaner-Bloser also taught students to become teachers of penmanship, illustrators, engravers and engrossers. Engrossers employ the type of ornamental writing used for diplomas and certificates.
The company began publishing its own penmanship manuals. As the company history states: "In 1904, Zaner-Bloser published The Zaner Method of Arm Movement, a landmark text that taught the simplified style of writing learned by students at the Zanerian to children in elementary schools all over the United States. This book also applied the findings of psychologists who had discovered that young children completed manual tasks more easily if allowed to use the large arm movements that were natural to them at their early stage of motor skills development."
The collection has numerous components from professional journals published for the practitioners of handwriting instruction and engrossing to rare hand writing manuals to instructional material for children and photographs of children learning to write. The collection contains more than 20 scrapbooks containing examples of ornamental penmanship done by renowned master penmen. There are also original engrossings that were engraved for publication as well as the engraved printing blocks.
The collection came to The University as a result of a 2009 Hope Horn Gallery exhibit about Scranton-based engrosser P.W. Costello, curated by Thomas Costello and Darlene Miller Lanning. P.W. Costello was an acclaimed penman whose work was published in Zaner-Bloser publications, which were borrowed for the exhibit. The company was looking for a home for its historical collections and expressed interest in The University. Special Collections Librarian Michael Knies visited Zaner-Bloser in January to survey the collection and discuss arrangements.
Although many of the published handwriting manuals from the 19th century exist in other libraries and there are some small collections of master penman examples, there does not appear to be a collection of this scale in the United States or England.
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