6-shot Mauser Selbstlader. Courtesy Giuliano Alfinito. All rights reserved.
Mauro Baudino & Gerben van Vlimmeren - All rights reserved.
Handwriting study: learning to read Paul Mauser's scribbles - G. van Vlimmeren   Studying   old   German   handwriting   is   a   bit   of   a   challenge.   Several   styles   existed   of   which   the   Sütterlin   style   is   one   of   the   worst   to   get   to   know.   Paul Mauser   was   born   and   educated   well   before   Sütterlin   was   introduced,   which   was   a   bit   of   an   advantage.   His   handwriting   is   a   variation   of   the   Kurrent style, a handwriting style used for many centuries in Germany. The   first   samples   of   Paul   Mauser's   handwriting   I   worked   with   were   found   on   the   back   of   a   letter   from   Georg   Luger   to   Paul   Mauser,   dating   from   the early   1890s.   Paul   had   scribbled   his   notes   using   a   blunt   blue   pencil,   which   didn't   improve   things.   The   technique   I   employed   was   to   work   from   a   digital copy   of   the   letter.   This   helped   to   preserve   the   original   and   it   enabled   me   to   zoom   in   and   out,   using   a   digital   imaging   program.   This   in   turn   helped   to zero   in   on   individual   letters.   Key   to   identifying   letters   is   the   isolation   of   commonly   used   (short)   German   words   like   'die',   'das',   'und',   etc..   Once   the   first words   were   identified,   the   characters   were   digitally   copied   to   a   chart   and   this   way   Paul   Mauser's   version   of   the   alphabet   was   slowly   completed.   This chart with mappings of different characters in both upper- and lowercase variations was then used as  a basis for further translation efforts. Interestingly,   the   writing   style   differed   quite   a   bit   when   Paul   switched   from   pencil   to   pen   (ink)   and   back   again. Also   we   see   some   changes   in   his   style during   several   stages   of   his   life.   Paul   had   a   serious   eye-   and   hand   injury   in   1901   as   the   result   of   a   testing   accident   with   one   of   his   repeating   rifle prototypes.   This   accident   (he   lost   one   eye   and   damaged   the   other,   as   well   as   almost   losing   his   index   finger)   had   a   lasting   effect   on   the   quality   of   his handwriting. A   second   chart   with   mappings   of   characters   written   with   a   pen   was   made   as   an   aid   for   translating   material   written   with   pen   and   ink.   The   most challenging   problem   lies   in   the   limitations   of   the   reader   (in   this   case   myself),   the   reader   has   been   taught   his   own   writing   style   and   he   automatically 'translates'   handwriting   to   the   style   embedded   in   his   mind.   We   know   what   an   'a'   looks   like,   and   an   's',   for   example.   Now,   if   we   look   at   the   Mauser   files, we   see   that   the   's'   and   the   'h'   are   written   in   a   similar   way,   which   resembles   an   'f'.   The   'e'   is   hardly   recognizable   as   such,   and   the   'a'   looks   like something went horribly wrong with it.