Originally published in 1540 with the title, Libro nuovo d’imparare a scrivere, Palatino’s writing manual/encyclopedia of current writing styles became an immediate and popular success. It was reprinted several times and then, in 1545 a new revised and enlarged edition was published with 15 additional plates and more exotic alphabets.
The first printed writing manual was published in Rome by Ludovico degli Arrighi in 1522. The audience for this and others that followed was mostly secretaries. Palatino’s book somehow attracted a wider audience, with its chapter on cryptography and lettera mancina (mirror writing), recipes for ink, illustrations of a variety of writing implements, and so on.
According to Ewan Clayton in his essay “A History of Learning to Write,”
Palatino’s book is interesting for what it tells us about the ordinary writing of that time. Most documents in the sixteenth century were still written in varieties of Gothic cursive and Palatino illustrates examples of such hands from Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence, Sienna, and Genoa. …Writing was not as homogeneous as it is today and there were many different styles in use concurrently.
For other editions and translations at Princeton University, continue below.