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#1 derpderp

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 21:13

Hello all,

I am just writing because I am new to this marvelous website and have a question about pens. For a long time I have tried to reproduce the handwriting of the Renaissance copybooks with varying degrees of success. Ideally I should be using a quill, however I have found that I am unsuited to the instrument since I leave a hellish mess whenever I write with one. Therefore I set out to find a fountain pen closest to a quill that I might get. However the problem is in reconciling all the following points:

i. All quill pens had at least some degree of flex, and certainly moreso than rigid and semiflex modern pens.
ii. Before the advent of true Copperplate writing, nearly all quills were cut horizontally to make them "italic".
iii. Modern nibs (19th century onwards) come in two broad categories:
a. Flex: these are pointed and range from flex to super-flex. They are used for copperplate, spencerian and other round hands.
b. Italics: these are italic, oblique and stump nibs. They are universally made non-flexible.
iv. I can't write with a quill.

To illustrate what I mean I include two plates taken from Martin Billingsley's 1617 copy-book "The Pen's Excellencie".
a. Billingsley_Title.jpg
I believe that all the writing has been done with the same pen. This pen has clearly been cut "Italically" because of the way that it has produced the thick and thin lines in the title and in the English chancery hand beneath the central line. Notice that the loop on the chancery capital "Ws" and those on the circumflex Italic "T" are the same, again indicating the same pen was used for both. At the same time the pen displays an astonishing degree of flex, being able to go from the finest line to the thickest with ease. I am disinclined to think that this is just the work of the engraver, because on the right of the paper there are two attempts by someone to copy the upper left "T" and their pen shows the same qualities as the plates.
b. Billingsley_Court.jpg
This plate showing an English court hand most clearly of all shows, in my opinion, that Billingsley's pen was italic. The flexibility is retained, particularly in the fine, narrow flourishes above and below the letters.
c. Finally, Billingsley only gives one method of cutting a quill in his book, again with horizontal cut, giving no indication that he has used several pens.


Therefore, taking all of this into consideration, is there a fountain pen out there that approximates the feel of a quill? If not, then what is the nearest best thing that I could get?

Your responses are welcome and appreciated!

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  • Billingsley_Italic.jpg


#2 smk

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 14:23

Mitchel Roundhand dip pen nibs have a bit of flex to them. A set of 10 nibs ranging from 0.6 mm to 3.3 mm costs around $10 with a holder costing about $3.

As for FP's I have a Namiki Falcon modified by John Mottishaw with an oblique italic nib and added flex that shows quite a bit of line variation. John Mottishaw offers this kind of customization for other pens as well. Pendleton Brown also offers nibs like these on TWSBI pens that cost a bit less than the Namiki. I'm sure others have similar offerings but these two come to mind - maybe someone can chime in with more information.

A note on the flourishes; some of these would be drawn with the corner of the nib (or quill) to produce the thin line - basically dragging the ink around in a thin line. Most of the intricate flourishes seem to be done with a different nib cut for that purpose.

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#3 derpderp

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Posted 12 November 2012 - 23:16

Thanks for your reply!

Unfortunatly I have absolutly no prior experience with nibmeisters, as much as I see the convenience in getting an italic nib ground for flex.

Regarding the WM Roundhound nibs, I have handled similar nibs before and can say that they have produced handwriting closest of all to the plates I showed. However they are of little use outside a writing desk (unless I do like they did in the old days, and carry a flask of ink around my neck!). Rather a strange question, but is there a way of attaching such a nib to a portable supply of ink?

I see your point about using a small pen for the fine flourishes, especially on the title, however would this not amount to deception on the part of Billingsley? He clearly states in his book that all of the hands can be achieved using the same cut of quill.

#4 smk

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 00:09

I'm not sure if the flourishes are considered a part of the hand - I'm inclined to think not but that's just my opinion. It is possible that the thin lines are drawn with the edge of the nib.

I did not think quill nibs were cut so fine as to produce a thin line and then be able to swell to the largest of the shades but the 'W' in your last example seems to be written with just such a nib. Either that or it is a masterful use of the edge of nib.

The Copperplate instructions by George Bickham are for writing the script with a square cut quill using the edges for the fine lines. However, all the examples of his writing are from engravings which show letter forms that cannot be produced with an edged nib. While I don't doubt the validity of his instructions, the engraving and printing process clearly changed the writing enough that the original instructions did not apply. It is possible that a similar transformation occurred here.

As for the dip pen nib being attached to a pen, I know of Ackerman pump pens that take pointed dip pen nibs but I'm not sure if they take square cut nibs as well, especially since they work best with a reservoir. I have never used one so can't comment on the performance.

Ordering a flex-nibbed pen from one of the nibmeisters is the same as ordering any pen online. You can also send them your pen for modification. It would help if you discussed your needs by email or phone first so they can send you exactly what you want. I have one from John Mottishaw (www.nibs.com) and can verify that it's a very well done modification. Pendleton Brown offers TWSBI pens with flex italic nibs (www.pendletonspens.com) - I'm looking forward to getting one these. Richard Binder (www.richardspens.com) might offer this type of nib too - he is certainly capable of the modifications :-)

BTW - I don't have any affiliation with any of the vendors mentioned.

Salman

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#5 Randal6393

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 01:12

Writing masters were prone to using "sleight-of-hand" to promote their work. They would make a (true) statement that "all hands can be written with the same cut of nib" and then use a variety of nibs for effect. Not really a falsehood, but misleading. Looking at the piece you have up, I see at least three cuts used -- a broad italic, a narrow italic, and a very fine italic that is practically round. The effects are produced by masterful manipulation of the quill. So to expect to learn to use a quill and become a master overnight is setting one's goals very high.

For practice, would recommend using Manuscript student calligraphy pens, available at most fine-arts stores for a lot less than the cost of one Binderized Pelikan. Would also recommend broadening your studies to include italic, other broad-nib hands, and cursive hands with a pointed pen. Study, study, study.

Cutting a quill -- there are several on-line manuals that discuss this. My favorite is Writing and Illuminating and Lettering by Edward Johnston. His book has many other bits of information of great benefit to the developing penman.

Best of luck to you,

Yours,
Randal

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#6 Stompie

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Posted 13 November 2012 - 09:58

Here on FPN is a gent by the name of Caliken - go look at his website where there are numerous examples of his writing which includes the type of script you are looking for.

ALso, there are YouTube's of some of his stuff. The one I am thinking of specifically is with a Brause Rose nib. There you will see what can be achieved with a simple nib.

Akermans pump pens, well the jury is still out on that! I ordered and paid for 2 some months ago and just can not get any sort of response out of him so I would not waste my money if I was you!

Then in terms of 'modern day pens', here in the UK we have John Sorowka who can fine tune nibs for you.
If you can get your hands on a Waterman Artist nib it may just do the trick but they are expensive if you can find one.

If you go to the thread called "Dont just tell us what pen you are using, show us" you will see some work done by a variety of members with all sorts of pens - some of it is amazing stuff! Look under General pen topics Writing Instruments board.

I really can not say about the quills thing. I have been trying for some time now to get a quill right and so far no luck. But it must be possible - Donald Jackson has got it right but he has also been doing this sort of thing since childhood :thumbup:
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#7 smk

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Posted 27 November 2012 - 18:31

The Copperplate instructions by George Bickham are for writing the script with a square cut quill using the edges for the fine lines. However, all the examples of his writing are from engravings which show letter forms that cannot be produced with an edged nib. While I don't doubt the validity of his instructions, the engraving and printing process clearly changed the writing enough that the original instructions did not apply. It is possible that a similar transformation occurred here.


It turns out I was mistaken in that assessment. Please see this thread for more details: http://www.fountainp...lish-roundhand/

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