Nancy Leavitt grew up in a small farming town in northern Maine. Her first introduction to calligraphy came from a pharmacist at the store where she worked in high school. William Cummings, a practicing pharmacist well into his eighties, learned his trade through a seven year apprenticeship in the early 1900s. At that time, all medicine labels and records were written longhand with pen and ink. During slow times at the store, Mr. Cummings would demonstrate his calligraphic skill and pull quarters out of her ears.
Leavitt intended on becoming a pharmacist and in 1976 she received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Maine. Her interest in calligraphy won over and in the early 1980s she began formal study with Peter Halliday, a member of the English Society of Scribes & Illuminators. With his encouragement she entered art school at the University of Maine with her final year spent at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. While in Massachusetts, she became involved with the rich book arts community in the Northampton area and has continued to study with many fine calligraphers and bookbinders in the US and Britain.
Since 1985, she has focused on the production of hand lettered books and has created over sixty contemporary illuminated manuscripts and printed editions. Leavitt’s manuscript books weave lettering, poetry, and colorful painting and reflect her interest in the natural world, literature, and mark-making. She works and teaches in her studio in Stillwater, Maine.
About her science education she remarks, “I could not have had a better background than the rigorous one I had in biology. The biological sciences demanded stamina. It taught me how to observe and analyze, to be precise and accurate, and rewarded me for being curious.”
Biography courtesy of Nancy Leavitt
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA (1972-1976)