The “Italic” hand originated in the 15th-16th century in Italy. The Renaissance and printing press created a literacy boom which made a big demand for men who could copy writing for business and legal documents. These people looked to the writing which preceded them which was pleasing to their eye. This writing was the Caroline hand with its beautiful round curves and clean look. But the need at hand was speed and legibility.

Generally speaking, whenever writing becomes faster, the round curves become sharper and more elliptical and it slopes to the write. So by nature this hand took on these qualities. When the Papel chanceries adoped this style for the copying of briefs about the middle of the 15th century, it was called chancery cursive or “cancellaresca corsiva”.

There were many prominent penmen and teachers who wrote books to teach their particular version. Some inclde rude and disparaging comments on the other books and authors of the day.

Giovan Francesco Cresci (1570) wrote of another “If I possessed the defect and the ugly appearance which they display in their writing: for, on account of the poor constitution of their fingers, they hold the pen in such a distorted fashion that, when they write, they reveal to anyone watching them letters that are ragged, uneven, and shaky, and lines so twisted that their pupils cannot possibly derive any profit from them. If they had any sense at all, it would be their duty not only to run away and hide themeselves because of these faults and never let themselves be seen in the act of writing, but also to stop boasting that they have taught to others an art, which, in point of truth, they have never been able to master properly by reason of these defects.”

In 1898, Monica, wife of the poet Robert Bridges, published A New Handwriting for Teachers, which was influenced by the chancery hand and Edward Johnston included a few examples in his book Writing & Illuminating, & Lettering (1906).

In 1922, Alfred Fairbans saw some of these copybooks at the Victoria and Albert Museum and began modernizing the letters and created handwriting exemplars to teach what he called “italic”. In 1932, his Handwriting Manual was published and contributed to the education of must of the western world on this subject.