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George Bickham's Round Hand script, from The Universal Penman, c. 1740–1741.

Round Hand (also Roundhand) is a type of handwriting and calligraphy originating in England in the 1660s primarily by the writing masters John Ayers and William Banson. Characterised by an open flowing hand and subtle contrast of thick and thin strokes deriving from metal pointed nibs, its popularity rapidly grew, becoming codified as a standard through the publication of printed writing manuals.

Later in the 17th and 18th centuries, English writing masters including George Bickham, George Shelley and George Snell helped to propagate Round Hand's popularity, so that by the mid-18th century the Round Hand style had spread across Europe and crossed the Atlantic to North America. The typefaces Snell Roundhand and Kuenstler Script are based on this style of handwriting.

It is true that the Round Hand is English, but merely by default of the English language itself and the spelling of "Round". In the mid-1600s, French officials were flooded with documents written in various hands and varied levels of skill. As a result the officials complained that many such documents were beyond their ability to decipher, and this led to the Office of the Financier restricting all legal documents to three hands, namely the Coulee, the Rhonde, and a Speed Hand, sometimes called the Bastarde. While there were many great French masters at the time, the most influential in proposing these hands was Louis Barbedor, who published his Les Escritures financière et italienne-bastarde dans leur naturel circa 1650. After the Sack of Rome in 1527, the capital for writing masters moved to southern France, and by the turn of the century the Italic Chancery Circumflessa began to replace the Italic Cursiva. It is this Italic Circumflessa that directly fathered the Rhonde and later the English Round Hand.

In England, Ayres and Shelly popularised the Round Hand while Snell is noted for his reaction to it, delivering warnings of restraint and proportionality. However, Edward Crocker began publishing his copybooks 40 years before the aforementioned.


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