Penna Volans – “the flying pen” – is a website dedicated to beautiful letters and their stories. Here, calligraphers and script-lovers will find a place to cultivate their passion by diving into the history of traditional pointed pen calligraphy.
My name is Sybille, I live in Belgium and I fell in love with copperplate scripts in 2014.
I am not a seasoned calligrapher who got her first calligraphy kit at 11 years old, and I didn’t have the opportunity to study face to face with great masters, so what makes me qualified to talk to you about these things ?
I certainly never thought I’d ever pursue calligraphy as a hobby ! As a kid, I decided to give up arts and crafts when my art teacher told me I had terrible fine motor skills… I considered myself “artistically challenged” for a very long time, even though I was fascinated by images and secretly dreamed of learning how to draw properly. I felt much safer expressing my creativity through writing (I wanted to become a sci-fi author)… but even then I didn’t trust my ability to create, so I eventually turned to the study of History “to have something to write about” and discovered a passion for research. After graduating, I got married, had kids, moved to the countryside and felt a need to create beautiful things with my own hands. Photography, scrapbooking, sewing, embroidery, even watercolors… kept me busy until I fell into the calligraphy rabbit hole.
But learning copperplate was not an easy task : as I found no one to teach me in person I had to turn to books and online resources. I practiced every day for hours, participated in exchanges, discovered Instagram (I’m @pebbleinthesky), reached my first plateau and decided to learn Spencerian penmanship at the same time… I took various online courses from Master Penmen and lesser knowns instructors, did my best to excel and progressed rapidly. Then I got bored and forced myself into a 365 challenge, burnt myself out and lost all courage again. Still, I never lost my love for calligraphy.
I pushed through, found systems to make the most of my practice time, learned to accept my flaws and did a lot of research about the history of pointed pen styles. I have many flaws, especially when it comes to communicating, but I’m passionate about this subject and love to bury myself under a pile of old smelly books to find out “fun facts” about the “olden days”.
Being a calligrapher is a lifelong journey, not a destination. This is the place where I want to share my passions and maybe even help others in need of motivation and advice. You are welcome to be a part of this : leave comments, ask questions, tell me how I can help.
Where to start ?
- If you’re looking for inspiring old examples of calligraphy, go to the Bibliography section, where I listed all the copybooks I could find online (there are over 300 books listed there). You will also find some basic information on the development of calligraphy and handwriting after the revolution of the printing press.
- I am currently working on building a full catalogue of capital variations in the English Round Hand (the original name of Copperplate). Go take a look here.
- You’ll also find a few interesting posts in the Journal section, and I’ve got many more ideas in store ;)
About this site’s title
The title and headline of this site are not my creations. The title “Penna Volans” was used by at least three writing masters, among whom is George Shelley, who was active in the early 18th century in London). It is also George Shelley who created the visual identity (“logo”) of this site, as I borrowed his design to use as a header. I do not claim any intellectual property on this title, nor on the designed title. I never claimed it was my own creation and never will. I see this site as a continuation of what writing masters of the past intended to do : keep the Art of writing alive. So, I like to think George Shelley would have approved of this content.
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