I've been doing a bit more writing and reading and George Bickham recommended a right oblique pen for English roundhand/Copperplate:Make the nib of the your pen for the round & round text hands the breadth of the full stroke & that part lying next the hand something shorter and narrower
Young Clerk's Assistant Dover re-print, p6. So the right tine would be shorter than the left one i.e right-oblique.
Now, his directions for holding the pen:Never turn your pen, nor alter the position of your hand [...] Hold your pen between the two forefingers extended almost straight & the thumb bending outward with the hollow downwards & the nib flat. Let your paper lie directly before you & your hand rest only on the top of the little finger. Rest your arm lightly between wrist & the elbow. Keep your body upright and your elbow almost close to your side. Rest your body on your left arm & keep your paper down with your left hand.
Young Clerk's Assistant Dover re-print, p4 & 5.
Here is a commentary on holding the pen from p21 & 22 the article "What's in a grip?" from the Letter Arts Review volume 21 number 1:done with the with the hand held in the way these authors instruct, it is possible to achieve these effects with the natural and rhythmical movement of the fingers that occurs when downward movement is led by the index finger pivoting from the first joint (as would have been the case, given that the fingers were, according to Clark in the above quote, extended), and the upward movements are pushed by the springing back of the thumb. Certainly the movement has to be totally natural for the following instructions from George Bickham's The Young Clerks Assistant to make sense: "Make all your hair strokes with the corner of your pen...Never turn your pen, nor alter the position of your hand". Implicit in these instructions is that the pen for Roundhand is held at a flat angle to the writing line, and that the right hand corner of the nib is held fractionally off the surface. "But little pressure" (only that which is natural to the pivot of the fingers) is then needed to bring the full face of the pen into contact with the surface while the release of pressure as the thumb springs back up is enough to take the quill back onto the corner.
So something like this:
Here is a 1mm right-oblique pen:
And here is some writing I did with it, following the instructions which Bickham gives on how to hold a pen:
Because ink flows from the corner of a quill very well and you can make a finer continuous line with it, a broad-edged quill is far better than a broad-edged steel pen for writing English Roundhand/Copperplate and won't have the flow issues. No doubt this was one of the reasons why people switched from a broad edged quill to pointed steel pens.
Elaborate but wrong theories and explanations have been invented and woven about and around English Roundhand/Copperplate and people have imagined that engravers invented it, that they modified it and so forth. We should be pleased to learn that nothing of the sort took place: the cart did not drive the horse: engravers did not invent, alter, modify or change English Roundhand/Copperplate.
Perhaps one reason these myths and theories gained currency was people not knowing about and/or not using the appropriate pen-hold and positioning for English Roundhand/Copperplate and finding themselves unable to write Roundhand as it was written and therefore imagining that it was impossible.
With regard to the use of the narrow-edged nib, Joyce Irene Whalley wrote "There is no doubt that that many writing masters envied the engraver his skill, and gradually began to produce scripts which followed the style of the burin (or graver) rather than making them truly pen formed....the learner must have had the greatest difficulty in trying to make with his quill pen those shapes so easily produced on the copperplate."
There is no evidence for Whalley's claims that Roundhand was the style of the burin or that writing masters were trying to imitate engravers or whatever, and as I've demonstrated it is perfectly possible to write English Roundhand/Copperplate with a broad edge. All she is doing is repeating the same confused myths about how no one could actually write English Roundhand/copperplate which only seem credible when you don't know how it was done. I also question her objectivity on the matter of English Roundhand since she claimed that calligraphy stopped existing in the 18th century! Refer to page 243 of "The Art of Calligraphy Western Europe and America:
"Generally it may be considered that in the 18th century calligraphy ceased to exist [...] there was little concern for writing as an art let alone a fine art"
The reason for that is revealed by her claim on page 329 that "the father of the 20th century revival of calligraphy was Edward Johnston": In order to be able to give false acclaim to Johnston as the re-discoverer of calligraphy she had to pretend that it stopped existing.
Columba Livia’s heroic efforts in attempting to write Copperplate with an edged nib, only serve to reinforce my belief that this was not how the original English Roundhand style was written. It is inconceivable to me, that the 18th century Writing Masters would have attempted to write in this style with edged nibs as it would have been, at best, inaccurate and tediously slow.
You flatter me by describing my copperplate/English Roundhand written with an edged nib as "heroic", but I assure you there is nothing heroic or especially hard about it. I can also assure you that it is a very natural and speedy way to write. I can appreciate more than ever now, why this script became so popular as it combines beauty with ease of writing and speed.
Would it be possible for you to capture a video of the writing technique? I am really interested in learning how to do this.
Sorry, I don't have a video camera.
Edited by Columba Livia, 26 November 2012 - 14:35.