A Show of Hands: Handwriting in the Age of Print

Handwriting didn't disappear with the invention of the printing press. Or the typewriter. Or the Internet. It evolved.

A disembodied hand writes on a piece of paper

David Roelands (b. 1572) ’t Magazin, oft, Pac-huys der Loffelycker Penn-const (The Store Room or Ware House of the Praiseworthy Art of the Pen) [Netherlands]: Engraved by and Printed for the Author, 1616. Call number: Wing folio ZW 646 .R622

For centuries, handwriting served as a powerful tool for communicating information, preserving knowledge, shaping identity, and building empires. In our digital world, however, fewer and fewer people can read handwritten words.

Handwriting has survived disruptive technologies before. The invention of printing did not diminish the need for handwriting. Instead, it created new markets for ambitious printers and entrepreneurial writing teachers. These men and women used advances in print technologies to widen the influence of handwriting in everyday life.

A Show of Hands focuses on people, cultures, and technology to illustrate how handwriting has been taught, reproduced, and reimagined over the past five hundred years. Displaying a range of books and manuscripts from the Newberry’s collection, the exhibition makes the role of handwriting in the age of print newly legible.

A Show of Hands is generously supported by the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, the Fitzgerald Family Foundation, and Diane and Richard Weinberg.


Tuesday – Thursday
10am – 7pm

Friday and Saturday
10am – 5pm

Admission for Newberry exhibitions is free. No advance registration required.

Guided Public Tours

Visit for a free docent-led tour of A Show of Hands.

  • Tuesdays at 1pm
  • Thursdays at 11:30am
  • Fridays at 1pm
  • Saturdays at 1pm

Private Tours

To book a private tour of a Newberry exhibition (for a group of 10 or more), please contact Rebecca Haynes at (312) 255-3526 or via email.

Private tours are free, but donations are encouraged.