Typophile post: Greek scripts

[Text reproduced from a reply on Typophile in April 2007, as was]

It is not possible to map Latin hand models to Greek ones in anything approaching a one-to-one relationship. It is possible to see how specific tools lead to corresponding ranges of shapes, but there has been little effort to deal with the question ‘what forms does this tool give rise to?’ There have been sporadic entries for Greek in the ‘manuals’ of writing masters, which are really there to tick the box (‘Look Ma, I can do Greek!’) but range from the uninformed to the clumsy. An exception is Porson’s manual devoted to Greek (see an excerpt below) but it tries to find consistency is some movements where none exists.

Richard Porson’s model (1835)

More importantly, in addition to the absence of writing manuals generated by an elite (what you could call top-down models) there is a corresponding absence of models for teaching schoolchildren, and by extension adult learners of the script (bottom-up models for wider consumption). This continues through the nineteenth and twentieth century, despite the weight attached to language as an instrument of nation-building. To this day no Greek Ministry of Education or related authority conducted any serious research into the matter, and primary school teachers are left to their own devices. The official books for the early school years differ considerably in their approach (some have script models for copying, some use Helvetica – I might add: a fantastically uninformed choice that betrays not only cluelessness in matters or writing system acquisition, but also the history of typeface design). Parents and adult learners are left to consume mostly flimsy booklets produced by the numbers, often translated from British editions.
There is only one serious study of the matter, a 1935 work by a Cretan educator, Maria Amariotou, but it is as rare as it is important: I have only had sight of one copy (in Klimis Mastoridis’ library) and know of no other copy in existence.
So, after this long diversion, the answer to Paul’s question is: different script, different models. The script does not lend itself to joining as much as the Latin does, but most native writers join the letters in very imaginative (and often illegible) ways that you wouldn’t expect, because people tend to develop highly personal hands.
Of script typefaces out there, Segoe Script is probably the best model for a contemporary informal Greek hand you can find. Jim and Carl did a great job of a difficult brief.
And, just to throw you off the scent, here’s an excerpt from a letter (2000, educated male):

Greek adult male handwriting (2000)