Zaner-Bloser, Inc. / Sonya Bloser Monroe Penmanship Collection

Collection Guide


An extensive collection of American ornamental penmanship from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, featuring professional journals, books and manuals, scrapbooks, penmanship samples, photographs, correspondence, ephemera, publication mockups, and a wide variety of original works by master penmen.
Zaner-Bloser Company
Date Range

Access and Use

Digital Access

Portions of this collection have been digitized and are publicly accessible online.

Physical Access

The collection is open for research. Physical materials may be browsed by appointment in the Reading Room of the University Archives and McHugh Special Collections. Because of the size of the collection, as well as preservation and security concerns, the collection is not fully available to researchers. Please contact Special Collections staff for more details.


Some items in this collection are believed to be in the public domain. The McHugh Special Collections staff is unaware of any restrictions on the use of these materials.

For most other materials, copyright is held by the Zaner-Bloser Company. The Company has granted permission to The University of Scranton to digitize and publish collection resources online. They may be used freely, with attribution, for educational, research, or private purposes. To request permission for other uses, including commercial use, please contact the McHugh Special Collections.

Preferred Citation

[Item Title], [Folder], [Box], Zaner-Bloser, Inc. / Sonya Bloser Monroe Penmanship Collection, McHugh Special Collections, The University of Scranton. [Reference URL for digital objects]

Linked Data




Administrative/Biographical History

See history of Zaner-Bloser.

Scope and Content Note

The Zaner-Bloser, Inc. / Sonya Bloser Monroe Penmanship Collection documents the history of the Zaner-Bloser company and more broadly the history of American penmanship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The collection has numerous components, from professional journals published for the practitioners of handwriting instruction and engrossing, to rare hand writing manuals to instructional material for children and photographs of children learning to write.



The collection includes a large set of professional journals, published for the practitioners of handwriting instruction and engrossing during the "Golden Age" of ornamental penmanship. Most notably, the collection features a complete run of Zaner-Bloser's Business Educator (including its variant titles) as well as many issues of journals published by competitors.

A significant portion of the journals have been digitized and are publicly available online. Many are available via Internet Archive (organized by bound volume) and others are available in the Library's digital collections (organized by individual issue).

Zaner-Bloser Journals
  • The Zanerian Exponent
    • Publisher: Zanerian Art College Co.
    • Dates of Publication: 1895-1897 (Vol. 1 - Vol. 2)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1895-1897 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1895-1897
  • The Penman and Artist
    • Continuation of The Zanerian Exponent
    • Publisher: Zanerian Art College Co.
    • Dates of Publication: 1897-1900 (Vol. 3 - Vol. 5)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1897-1900 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1897-1900
  • The Penman-Artist and Business Educator
    • Continuation of The Penman and Artist
    • Publisher: Zaner & Bloser
    • Dates of Publication: 1900-1902 (Vol. 6 - Vol. 7)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1900-1902 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1900-1902
  • The Business Educator
    • Continuation of The Penman-Artist and Business Educator
    • Publisher: Zaner & Bloser
    • Dates of Publication: 1902-1931 (Vol. 8 - Vol. 37)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1902-1930 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1902-1930 (by volume), 1902-1915 (by issue)
  • The Educator
    • Continuation of The Business Educator
    • Publisher: Zaner-Bloser Company
    • Dates of Publication: 1931-1955 (Vol. 37 - Vol. 58)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1931-1955 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1931-1955
Competitor Journals
  • The Penman's Art Journal
    • Publisher: Albert H. Hinman (1877-1877), Daniel T. Ames (1877-1906), Horace G. Healey (1906-1916)
    • Dates of Publication: 1877-1910 (Vol. 1 - Vol. 34)
      • Includes The Penman's Art Journal and Teachers' Guide (1883-1888)
      • Includes The Penman's Art Journal and Penman's Gazette (1888-1891)
      • Merged with The Educator in September 1916
    • Dates Available - Print: 1877-1910 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1877-1910
  • The Business Journal
    • Continuation of The Penman's Art Journal
    • Dates of Publication: 1910-1912 (Vol. 35 - Vol. 37)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1910-1912
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1910-1912
  • The Western Penman
    • Publisher: A. N. Palmer
    • Dates of Publication: 1884-1906 (Vol. 1 - Vol. 22)
      • Beginning in 1900, published in two editions (student and professional)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1884-1906 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1884-1906 (most)
  • The American Penman
    • Continuation of The Western Penman
    • Publisher: A. N. Palmer
    • Dates of Publication: 1906-1938 (Vol. 23 - Vol. 55)
    • Dates Available - Print: 1906-1938 [see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1906-1938 (most)
  • The Penman's Gazette
    • Publisher: G. A. Gaskell
    • Dates of Publication: 1876-1890 (Vol. 1 - Vol. 14)
      • Renamed as The Penman's Gazette and Business Educator in 1886
      • Renamed as Gaskell's Magazine in 1887
    • Dates Available - Print: 1881, 1883, 1886 [incomplete, see catalog]
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1881, 1883, 1886
  • The American Penman and Business Educator
    • Briefly titled The American Penman, but renamed The American Penman and Business Educator in September 1886
    • Publisher: H. C. Clark
    • Dates of Publication: 1886 - ?
    • Dates Available - Print: 1886-1887
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1886-1887
  • The Penman's Art Gazette
    • Publisher: H. F. Vogel
    • Dates of Publication: 1887 - ?
    • Dates Available - Print: 1887
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1887
  • The Pen-Art Herald
    • Publisher: W. D. Showalter
    • Dates of Publication: 1887 - ?
    • Dates Available - Print: 1887-1888
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1887-1888
  • The Pen and Ink Journal
    • Publisher: Pen and Ink Journal Co.
    • Dates of Publication: 1886 - ?
    • Dates Available - Print: 1886
    • Dates Available - Digital: 1886

Books and Manuals

The collection includes a substantial set of primarily American handwriting instruction books, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, but a few reaching back to the 17th century. Many of these materials have been cataloged in the Weinberg Memorial Library system. None of the collection volumes have yet been digitized, but the publications may be available in digital format from other sources, such as IAMPETH. Artwork, mockups, and manuscripts also exist for some of the published handwriting instructional material, albeit mostly from the mid-20th century.

The collection of manuals includes John Jenkin's 1791 The Art of Writing, Reduced to a Plain and Easy System, which is considered the first penmanship manual printed in the United States.

The collection of 19th century American manuals is by no means comprehensive, but it is substantial. Along with penmanship manuals, the company also built a general reference library of books showing medieval script and other styles of handwriting whether in the form of historical surveys or contemporary interpretations.


The collection also contains more than twenty scrapbooks containing examples of ornamental penmanship done by renowned master penmen. Selected scrapbooks have been digitized and are publicly available online. Zaner, Bloser, other company employees, and outside individuals compiled the scrapbooks. Many of the scrapbooks contain envelopes, calling cards, correspondence, and assorted ephemera contemporary to the early decades of the company. However, some scrapbooks contain penmanship examples dating prior to the establishment of Zaner-Bloser. One curiosity, from an archival standpoint, is that in many cases the company saved envelopes, because they were addressed in fine ornamental penmanship, but seem to have discarded the contents, possibly because they were typed.


Photographs in the collection depict topics such as children and adults in handwriting classes, classroom activities, blackboard drawing, demonstrations of appropriate poise and posture, the Zanerian School, and professional penmanship associations. Selected photographs have been digitized and are publicly available online.

Digitized photographs include over 500 photographs of penmen, including 453 male and 96 female calligraphers, dating primarily from the 1900s-1940s. Most of these photos were solicited by C. P. Zaner from the penmen for publication in penmanship journals (often the Business Educator or Educator).

Essays and Writings

While the collection contains essays and writings by Zaner elaborating his philosophy of penmanship, there are not many business records.

Penmanship Samples

The collection includes extensive original artwork by master penmen, including (but not limited to) flourishing, engrossing, and alphabets. A small selection of works have been digitized and are publicly available online. There is also a substantial collection of before and after student samples. Essentially, a student would submit a penmanship sample upon starting a Zanerian course and then submit a sample upon graduation. In addition, the collection contains framed penmanship samples.

Marketing Materials

The collection includes various catalogs and other marketing materials promoting the Zanerian College and the Zaner-Bloser Company. Selected materials have been digitized and are publicly available online.


The collection includes approximately numerous letters, primarily dating from 1948-1969. The majority are addressed to Parker Z. Bloser. There is some correspondence with authors.

Printing Blocks

Zaner-Bloser saved approximately ten pallets of printing blocks from the production of the journal and their manuals. The blocks provide a good sampling of high quality engravings and relief blocks depicting both fine flourishing, ornamental alphabets, and examples of business writing. The printing blocks have value as examples of how late 19th and particularly early 20th century printing was carried out in the United States, showing a variety of reproduction technologies.

Ephemera and Artifacts

Among the ephemera and artifacts in the collection are original pens including those used by Platt Rogers Spencer, Zaner, Bloser, Madarasz, and other prominent penmen.

Competitor Ephemera

Zaner-Bloser saved a small quantity of newsletters, instructional materials, advertisements, and other marketing material from arch-rival Palmer, mostly from the 1920s.

Acquisition Information

Donated by the Zaner-Bloser Company in 2010. The company was looking for a home for its historical collections and expressed interest in the University of Scranton after a a 2009 Hope Horn Gallery exhibit about Scranton-based engrosser P. W. Costello, curated by Thomas W. Costello and Darlene Miller Lanning.

Processing Notes


Selected materials from the collection have been digitized for special projects, exhibits, or research requests. In generally, digitization was performed in-house, using an Epson Expression 10000XL flat-bed scanner. Digital images were captured at between 300-600 dpi in full color (24-bit) in uncompressed TIFF format.

A large set of penmanship journals from the collection was digitized in 2010 by Internet Archive as part of the Lyrasis Mass Digitization Collaborative. Bound volumes of journal issues were digitized, with page images captured in JPEG2000 format at 400 dpi, 24-bit color. Searchable text was generated via automated optical character recognition (OCR). Master images may be downloaded from Internet Archive.

Penman photographs were digitized in 2013-2014 by Thomas W. Costello, who also provided descriptive information. There were notes or signatures on the backs of many photographs; these were also digitized and are presented with the front photographs as a single digital image.

Bound volumes of issues of The Western Penman and The American Penman were digitized in 2017. Digitization was outsourced to Backstage Library Works (BSLW) in Bethlehem, Pa. Page images were captured at 400 dpi, 24-bit color in TIFF format, using an overhead area array camera and copystand with glass. Searchable text was generated via automated optical character recognition (OCR). Master images are available upon request.


Metadata from this collection is exposed via Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). Known, active harvests include: