A NEW PLAN OF WRITING COPIES, with accompanying explanations and remarks, written, designed, and systematically arranged by A. Wrifford... Engraved for the author, by D. Fairman, and printed by W. Hooker – and for sale by the various booksellers throughout the United States. Boston: W. Hooker for the author,
1810. Small oblong 8vo, pp. 8; with 6 leaves of engraved writing samples; some light browning and staining, leave edges a little frayed; stab stitched in the original sugar paper wrappers with printed title label on upper cover. Apparently the first edition of this attractive penmanship copybook. Abel ‘Allison’ Wrifford (ca. 1780- 1844) was born at Hopkinton, Hillsborough, New Hampshire in 1779 and died there in 1844. He was teaching penmanship from at least 1809, the year before his New plan of writing copies was first published at Boston. He moved to Concord in 1831 and taught there and in the vicinity for several years (www.myrootsplace.com).
Although he says the method of teaching is his own, Wrifford acknowledges that the elementary principles are taken from John Jenkins’ The art of writing, 1793. Jenkins’ work, first published in Boston in 1791, was the first original American handwriting manual and was quickly copied or imitated, first by Henry Dean’s Improved analytical guide (Salem, 1805), then by James Carver’s New and easy introduction (Philadelphia, 1809). In later editions, Wrifford dropped his acknowledgement to Jenkins. What is odd about his citation of the 1793 edition of Jenkins is that no such edition survives (the 1813 edition is always referred to as the second), so Wrifford is either mistaken about the date, or he is referring to an edition which is now lost.
Further editions of Wrifford’s work appeared in 1812 and 1813.
Bibliography: Shaw & Shoemaker, 22109; Nash, American Penmanship, 38; not in Bonacini or Berlin; R. Williams, ‘Without a borrowed hand: the beginnings of American penmanship’ Society of Scribes Journal (2000), 3–11; OCLC locates copies at Columbia, Yale, Chicago, Indiana, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Minnesota, Dartmouth College, Princeton, the American Antiquarian Society, the Huntington, and the British Library.