To those who know a bit about italic -
CAUTION: you won't like what follows. In fact, you may well find it
appalling. If so, it might appal you enough to write to the newspaper
that printed it (the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD in Australia).
The following appeared in the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD's "Big Questions"
column, which answers readers' inquiries on factual subjects.
Today, the column contained this:
[Reader's question:] Why are letters printed with a slant to the right
described as "italics"?
["Big Questions" answer, submitted by another reader]
October 2, 2004
A Venetian printer, Aldus Manutius, in 1501 printed a book by Virgil
which appeared with sloping letters, in a poor attempt to pass it off
as his own handwriting. Europe (or at least the part of it that could
read) was shocked beyond measure. Called italics because it was
invented in Italy, it was more difficult to read than normal print (and
resembled handwriting, at least in that respect).
- David Buley, Seaforth
[Fortunately, below David's slander came another response - this one
accurate and non-derogatory:]
The most important bureaucracy in the Renaissance world was the Papal
Chancery in Rome. Scribes needed to work fast to keep up with
correspondence which was sent all over the Catholic World. By the
mid-15th century, the rounded Humanist hand became oval, joined and
sloped to the right - resulting in a cursive hand, the Chancery Hand
(cancellaresca corsiva).In the two decades it took to reach England, it
became known as "italic" or "Roman" hand. Shakespeare alludes to it in
Twelfth Night: "I think we do know the sweet Roman hand."
- Heather Courtis, Killara
[While welcoming Heather's response, I feel that pride of place should
not have gone to David's slander of a very legible way of writing!]
Anyone caring to respond to the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
can reach the paper as follows -
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Fax: +61 (0)2 9282 3492
Snailmail: GPO Box 3771, Sydney 2001
The HERALD provides the following instructions to letter-writers:
"All letters and email (no attachments) to the Herald must carry the
sender's home address and day and evening phone numbers for
verification. Letter writers who would like receipt of their letters
acknowledged should send a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Ideally,
letters will be a maximum of 200 words. By submitting your letter for
publication, you agree that we may edit the letter for legal, space or
other reasonable reasons and may, after publication in the newspaper,
republish it on the Internet or in other media."
Kate Gladstone - Handwriting Repair -