The text we know today as Formal Penmanship was written by Edward Johnston during the last fifteen years of his life and left unfinished. It was later edited by Heather Child from his notes and finally appeared in a posthumous volume in 1971.
Johnston wrestled with chapter 1 now called ‘The formal pen and its stroke shapes’ (which is 11 pages long in its current form), for over 10 years.
There was going to be a second part of this book where he would try to ‘face fundamental things’ (Johnston, 1980) which never materialized.
In a letter regarding Formal Penmanship he wrote ‘You will understand why this is short when I say that I have this moment composed the following sentence. “He cuts the nib of the pen to a special shape” –and let us hope it is permanently composed because planning to use that remark appears to have taken twelve weeks’. (Johnston, 1980).
When asked, once, how he had ever managed to finish his first book, Johnston answered “It was comparatively easy then because I knew nothing about the subject’.
In addition to Formal Penmanship, the book also contains Johnston’s Imprint articles.
This book is essential bibliography for anyone interested the shape of roman letters.
I’ve visited this book countless times.