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  1. The middle of the 20th Century saw an italic handwriting and calligraphy renaissance in the U.K. and the U.S.A. Alfred Fairbank was the leading proponent in England of italic script as the best choice for handwriting. In the United States, Paul Standard (on the East Coast) and Lloyd Reynolds in Portland Oregon were leading advocates. In fact, the majority of professional calligraphers I have met on the West Coast to this day were students of Reynolds or students of his students. The fountain pens that were most available for italic writing in that era, at least in the United States, were the Osmiroid models and those made by Platignum, both from England. Both of these companies went out of business in the late 1970’s, but Osmiroid pens and nibs remain quite available on internet auction sites. Complete sets - a pen and six nibs of different widths - are found fairly often, many never used. Sets of Osmiroid italic nibs included the following widths: Fine, Medium, Broad, B2, B3 and B4. A “F inter M” width was also made. These sets came in Straight, Oblique and Left-handed versions. Osmiroid also made quite a variety of round-tipped nibs, but I am not going to discuss those. The most popular Osmiroid pens were the Model 65, a lever filler, and the Model 75, a thinner pen that was a small-capacity piston filler. Late in its life, Osmiroid produced a C/C filler with what they called “Easy change” nibs. These nibs came attached to a feed and section which screwed into the pen’s barrel. It used International Standard cartridges and converters. With the “Easy change” model, Osmiroid produced a series of shadow nibs of various widths, in addition to the round nib and italic nibs for which they were known. An Osmiroid Italic Set. The pens are a Model 75 in back and a Model 65 in front. Besides a pen and six nibs, the Osmiroid Italic sets also came with a product catalogue and a nice little instructional booklet for Foundational and Gothic lettering in some packages and for Italic in others. Osmiroid nibs are 23 Kt plated steel. They are un-tipped. In my opinion, they are among the best writing italic nibs ever produced. Osmiroid pens were always inexpensive. I suspect they were meant primarily for the student market. They certainly were not meant to compete with Parker, Conway-Stewart, Onoto, Mabie-Todd, Waterman and the like. So, we had excellent writing nibs in cheap pens. My very first fountain pen was an Osmiroid 65 I bought in the college bookstore my Freshman year. it came with the set of 6 italic nibs described above. I bought it to learn italic handwriting. Now, more than half a Century later, my taste in pens and my means are both quite different. I don’t recall exactly how I got the notion of having a pen made for me that accepted Osmiroid nibs, but I asked Shawn Newton to make me a piston filling pen with two sections - one that would accept Pelikan M800 nibs and the other that would accept Osmiroid nibs. This worked so well, I asked Shawn to make two more extra sections for Osmiroid nibs to fit two other pens of his in my collection. Now, Osmiroid nibs for the Model 65 and 75 have a nipple on the end of the carrier, and they did make a converter in the day. It was a little push-pull device of mediocre quality. They are not easily found today. I have been unable to find another make of converter that fits on the Osmiroid nib without modification. The nibs work well in piston fillers. Shawn’s suggestion for a less expensive alternative was to attach a squeezable bladder to the section - essentially a bulb-filler. I thought we should give that a try. And it works just fine! Close-up photo of the nibs, showing the carrier nipple, as described. The two new sections that make it possible to use Osmiroid nibs on Newton Pens. One section is installed (on an Ebonite Bamboo Eastman) and the other un-installed, allowing a view of the attached ink sac (for an Ebonite Quapaw). My old nibs now have a new life in rather upscale digs. They will be used a lot more than they had been in their original pens. I know many FPN members (at least those of mature years) with interests in italic writing or calligraphy first learned using Osmiroid pens, as I did. Chances are, unless the pens have been restored, the more common Model 65s have seriously deteriorated sacs. I am delighted to have found a great way to keep these marvelous nibs in use. I am happy to share it. Happy writing! David
  2. I asked Shawn Newton to make sections that accept Osmiroid nibs for two of his pens that are already in my collection. The new sections are terrific. I have posted about this in detail in the general calligraphy forum. FYI, here's a link: https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/327245-new-life-for-osmiroid-italic-nibs/?do=findComment&comment=3916133 Enjoy! David
  3. With the start of the new school year, the Reed College Calligraphy Initiative is adding an "italic handwriting group" to the twice-weekly calligraphy-oriented "Scriptorium." This pleases me enormously. Handwriting is an "everyman's (and woman's) art." It's too important to leave to the artists! I am sure Lloyd Reynolds and Alfred Fairbank are smiling down from Heaven. In other news, The Calligraphy Initiative, which has been instructing Portland school children in italic handwriting for a few years, is now collaborating with the Portland Calligraphy Society in this venture. They have donated 500 Pilot Parallel pens to this program. David
  4. https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/312819-reed-calligraphy-initiative-starts-italic-handwriting-group/?do=findComment&comment=3694852 David
  5. I have had a photocopy of Arrighi's Operina for several years. For this who do not know, the "Operina," or "little work," of Ludovico Vicentino degli Arrighi, first published in 1522, is commonly regarded as the first of the Italic handwriting instructional manuals. The author is usually referred to as "Arrighi" these days, although, in his own time, he was more commonly called "Vicentino." This little book was addressed to anyone wishing to learn "Cancellaresche Corsiva," or "Chancery Cursive." That style of writing had been adopted by the Vatican for all diplomatic correspondence some years before Arrighi's time. In 1522, presses with moveable type were in use in Italy, but Arrighi's book was written entirely in the hand it was teaching and then carved into wooden blocks from which the book was printed. In his preface Al benigno lettore (To the Kind Reader), Arrighi admits that the wood blocks cannot reproduce hand written script with complete accuracy. He says he did the best he could and expresses the hope that his text provides clear enough instructions that the reader can forgive the limitations of the press to in tutti ripresentarte la viva mano (entirely represent the living hand). It has been my observation that many who have studied the Operina, rather than following the instructions, have adopted some of the errors introduced by the printing techniques and of which Arrighi warned the reader. They copied what they saw. These errors, in my opinion, largely consist of converting smooth parabolic curves into sharp angles. These occur when the movement of the pen changes direction, at entry and exit strokes and at the bottom of letters with bodies like the a, d, q, for example. This week, I received a copy of John Howard Benson's "The First Writing Book: Arrighi's Operina,"first published in 1954. This was, I believe, the first complete English translation of Operina, and Benson wrote out his translation in Arrighi's chancery cursive hand and in Arrighi's format. So, in effect, he created a translated reproduction of Operina for the English-speaking world. The Forward and Introduction to Benson's book are also written in a beautiful Chancery Cursive hand. Benson included a photocopy of a first edition of Operina, so that both the translated text and the handwriting can be compared to the original by the reader. This little book is a wonderful resource and is highly recommended for anyone interested in either the history of letters and writing or in learning to write chancery cursive. One other point: Benson's copy of Operina is a photocopy of Arrighi's first printed edition. Therefore, it has all the shortcomings of which Arrighi warned his readers. Benson's translation, on the other hand, is reproduced photographically from his hand-written original. It is free of the limitations imposed by reproducing hand written text by carving it into wood blocks. So, while Benson's writing cannot be absolutely identical to Arrighi's hand in every detail, it may be closer in certain important respects than the wood block copy represented in Operina. I wonder. David





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