Italic Hand from a Sixteenth Century handwriting manual

John de Beauchesne1571

Derbyshire Record Office

Derbyshire Record Office
Matlock, United Kingdom

Modern British handwriting is based on the italic hand, but in the 1500s, most people wrote using secretary hand, which looked very different. Italic hand was generally reserved for highlighting specific text in a document, or for inscriptions. By the mid 1600s, secretary hand slowly began to be replaced by italic, although the process took many decades.

Italic handwriting came from Italy, and in Europe, italic became dominant much earlier.

The full title of this manual is: "A booke containing divers sortes of hands, as well the English as French secretarie with the Italian, Roman, Chancelry and court hands. Also the true and just proportion of the Capitall Romae set forth by John de Beav Chesne P[arisien] and M[aster] John Baildon. Imprinted at London by Thomas Vautrovillier dwelling in the blacke frieres."

John de Beauchesne (c.1538-1620) was a scribe and teacher of penmanship. He was born in Paris but moved to England in c. 1565. He may have been a Huguenot as he seems to have been associated with a number of Huguenot printers and booksellers who came to England at around this time. He first published this book in 1570; this copy is a reissue of 1571.


  • Title: Italic Hand from a Sixteenth Century handwriting manual
  • Creator: John de Beauchesne
  • Date Created: 1571
  • Location Created: London, England
  • Provenance: Stanley family of Ogden (D331/26/1)
  • Subject Keywords: Handwriting, Calligraphy, Palaeography

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