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2 minute read / May 1, 2013 /

What Today’s Revolution in Publishing is Missing

There’s something beautiful about handwriting that we’ve never been able to capture on the Web. Handwriting has style, a uniqueness to each writer and also an ability to capture the evolution of thought with crossed out words, carats and interjected clauses and margins full of edits. The image above is my favorite from Emily Temple’s curation effort of a series of famous authors' manuscripts on a Tumblog.

I was thinking about how much differently this blog feels to a reader than the above draft of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Doyle’s writing, careful and well-spaced, clean looks like Sherlock Holmes' hand and it gives a feeling of methodological study and thought.

And most of all, it is unique to Doyle. Other examples, like Nabokov’s below, confer a very different feeling of chaos and stress and long frenetic nights of writing. Unlike each of these manuscripts, this blog, no matter my emotion or state of mind, always reads the same way.


We have built CSS and font service provides like TypeKit to render blogs and publications with a sense of uniqueness and personality. And though those are both great innovations, neither captures the character, the emotions and the process of the author quite like handwriting.

We’re in the midst of an evolution in publishing with platforms like Svbtle and Medium and others. Part of that evolution is design. Another is curation. A third development could be related to personality and evoking the uniqueness and the state of mind of each author.

Imagine a font that changed its look depending on your state of mind, rate of typing, time of day. Wouldn’t that be something?

I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to translate the emotion and personality and character of handwriting from paper to iPad. And perhaps the emoticon is the zenith of that effort. But if we could replicate handwriting, I’m certain the web would be a richer, more beautiful and more interesting place for it.

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