I found this vintage speedball hand lettering instructional tutorial tucked into a weathered cardboard fountain pen case in a flea market in Missouri. I’m a sucker for vintage things, hand lettering, and pens, so I knew I had to buy it- as much for the tattered old piece of paper as for the actual pens it contained.

Click on the image below for a high-resolution download of this ephemera one-page lettering tutorial. I love this page because it’s a glimpse into the past- modern lettering artists work to create vintage looking fonts, but this letter-cheat-sheet is a window into penmanship and fountain pen lettering of the past.


I’ve resold the pen and packaging since taking this scan, but preserved the digital can of these step by step instructions. I recall this page being dated to the 1940’s. (Indicentally, my favorite decade for American style).

vintage hand lettering instructions
vintage hand lettering instructions

Speedball still makes fountain pens and calligraphy markers to create an authentic reproduction of these hand lettering styles.

The text of the image reads:

Four (unintelligible) there is a speedball for every drawing and lettering purpose (unintelligible) different tips.

Style a – square foursquare Gothic, block alphabets, novelty borders etc.

Style B – four round Gothic letters, uniform line drawing, border design.
 Style C oblong – four Roman, text, italics, script alphabets, accented line drawing.

Style D oval – four bold Roman, text, italics, script alphabets, bold shaded line drawings.

Poster Gothic with style a speedball pens.

Round Gothic alphabet capitals made with style be speedball pen

Showing the construction of the single stroke Gothic alphabet in its elementary composition

Roman capitals with size 1 style C speedball pens

Modified bold English to text. With style D speedball pens.

Slant position of hand when making metallic letters with either the style C or style D. Three points of contact between hand and pen

Vertical position of hand and making Roman letters for styles C and D oblong

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