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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Typ 897

John Howard Benson papers concerning The first writing book


Holograph manuscripts, notes, and proofs concerning American artist John Benson's The first writing book: an English translation and facsimile text of Arrighi's Operina, the first manual of the chancery hand.


  • 1953-1955

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


.25 linear feet (1 volume)

Includes holograph manuscripts on the instruction for writing in calligraphy and chancery, the joys of calligraphy, a translation of Arrhigi’s Operina concerning handwriting skills, notes for book including drafts of the foreword, dummy book binding, and proofs. Collection also contains correspondence between Benson and Philip Hofer of the Houghton Library concerning the production of the book, publishing the book, issues concerning the title, and matters relating to Benson's work.

Biographical / Historical

Benson was an American artist, calligrapher, sculptor, and designer of incised letters. In 1955, he published an English translation and facsimile printing of Ludovico degli Arrighi's Operina titled The first writing book: an English translation and facsimile text of Arrighi's Operina, the first manual of the chancery hand, with introduction and notes by John Howard Benson.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. Preliminary matter and notes
  2. II. Italian text and English translation of Arrighi's Operina
  3. III. Correspondence

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

84M-201. Gift of Philip Hofer; received: 1954.

Benson, John Howard, 1901-1956. John Howard Benson papers concerning The first writing book, 1953-1955: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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