Zaner-Bloser Collection

Weinberg Memorial Library at The University of Scranton 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.   There is a complete run of Zaner-Bloser’s Business Educator (including its variant titles) as well as many issues of journals published by competitors such as The Penman’s Art Journal and the Western Penman’s Journal. Weinberg Library has digitized the complete run of the Zaner-Bloser journal and assorted issues of the Penman’s Art Journal.  These are available through Internet Archive www.archive.org.  However, because there is no easy way to find everything in the Zaner-Bloser Collection we have created a premade search that will return everything digitized as of the end of October 2010.  Some issues of the Business Educator and the Penman’s Art Journal are still being digitized and will appear in the near future.  The search can be launched from any web browser by simply entering this URL http://bit.ly/bFbDvJ  A link for this search is available on the collection homepage under Journals and Magazines. A portion of this material is also available under the Images link

The collection also contains more than twenty scrapbooks containing examples of ornamental penmanship done by renowned master penmen. Samples from this material will be digitized and made available on the Zaner-Bloser Collection website in the future under the Images link.  After preservation and security concerns are addressed, the scrapbooks will also be made available for research.

A highlight of the Zaner-Bloser Collection is the Horace Healey Collection of original engrossing. Healey, publisher of the Penman's Art Journal and later editor of The Business Educator, collected the original art and penmanship samples used in the journals. The Healey Collection was digitized before its arrival in Scranton by the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH), and is available through the Images link. 

There is also a substantial collection of primarily American handwriting instruction books mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, but a few reaching back to the 17th century.  These books and instructional publications are being catalogued and will be available for research in the Weinberg Memorial Library Special Collections department.  This collection can be found on the Collection homepage under the Books and Manuals link. Researchers can also go to the Weinberg Library online public catalog at http://matrix.scranton.edu/academics/wml/index.shtml and typing Zaner-Bloser into the search box.

The Collection also contains framed penmanship samples, photographs, a small amount of Zaner-Bloser company correspondence and mockups for some Zaner-Bloser publications. Among the ephemera and artifacts in the collection are original pens including those used by Platt Rogers Spencer, Zaner, Bloser, Madarasz, and other prominent penmen.  

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. 

Providing access to the collection, digitizing parts of it, preserving fragile documents, and mount in the exhibits will be a time consuming and expensive endeavor.  Zaner-Bloser provided financial support for the collection by selling a set of reprinted penmanship manuals, Fascinating Pen Flourishing, CC Canan-Collection of Penmanship, and the Secret of the Skill of Madarasz. Additional copies of this set will be available starting in 2011 directly from Weinberg Memorial Library, University of Scranton for $70.00 plus postage. Copies of individual  books in the set are available for $25.00 each plus postage. Click here for more information. Proceeds will support the Zaner-Bloser collection.  Furthermore, a number of individuals made donations toward the support of the collection during the IAMPETH conference.

Because of the size of the collection, as well as preservation and security concerns, the collection is not fully available to researchers. Please contact Special Collections for more details.

Special Collections is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and appointments are recommended.  Evening and weekend hours are possible with advanced arrangement.  For more information please contact Michael Knies at Michael.Knies@Scranton.edu or at 570-941-6341.


Pride, Passion, Promise: Experience Our Jesuit Tradition