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  1. I was in Portland, OR last week for some alumni activities at Reed College, and I was able to attend the Thursday evening Scriptorium. Jaki Svaren, a professional calligrapher, author of Written Letters: 33 Alphabets for Calligraphers and a student of Lloyd Reynolds at Reed in the '50's. Jaki usually attends the weekly Scriptorium and has been of great help, coaching Greg MacNaughton who actually does the teaching. I captured some copies of a handout Jaki had provided for the attendees with her version of italic minuscule ductus and numerous instructive notes on each letter. I got her permission to upload them to FPN. I hope you find them helpful. Happy writing! David P.S. The handout refers to 22 alphabets. The current expanded & revised edition has 33 alphabets.
  2. This is not a pen review, strictly speaking. Rather, it is a review of nibs. More specifically, it is a comparison of 4 italic nibs installed on 4 high-end pens, reflecting my continuing quest for the very best fountain pen for writing italic text. A couple more distinctions seem in order: First, this is not about the cheapest italic pen, nor even the “best buy” italic pen. It is about the best italic nib. Second, it is not about italic nibs used to make ones Palmer-type cursive writing “more interesting.” It is about using italic nibs for writing italic script. Okay. That is (at least) enough for preliminaries. My accumulating/collecting fountain pens started with my resuming study of italic calligraphy about 3 years ago. I have used a rather wide variety of pens, including relatively inexpensive pens with stock italic nibs. Of these, the vintage Osmiroid italic nibs remain the best, particularly in the wider sizes. The wider Lamy nibs and steel nibs sold with Edison pens are rather good too. The narrower nibs that most would use for note taking, correspondence and so forth suffer from insufficient thick/thin line differentiation. On the other hand, 14 and 18 Kt gold stock nibs from higher end modern pens (Pelikan, Onoto, OMAS, Conway Stewart, Nakaya, etc.), custom-ground to crisp cursive italics by Richard Binder, John Mottishaw and Michael Masuyama have been excellent to heart stoppingly incredibly amazing. Most started as round nibs, except for the Conway Stewarts and a couple Pelikan M800 IB nibs. But, the question remained in my mind: Are there stock italic nibs out there that can come close to matching the wonderfulness of my custom-ground italic nibs? So far, the only one I have found that comes close is the Conway Stewart IB nib, which is pretty darn nice. Recently, I have acquired a couple new examples of stock italic nibs from lines that have good reputations for nib quality - A 14 Kt gold Stipula italic nib that is 1.1 mm wide and an 18 Kt gold Aurora italic nib that is 1.0 mm wide. This has prompted me to offer this comparison. The pen photos are primarily to show the sizes of the nibs and the pens on which they are installed. The Pelikan M800 and Pelikan M620 are more widely known pens of comparable length to the Stipula Erutria Tuscany Dreams and the Aurora Primavera, respectively. However, both the Stipula and Aurora pen barrels are of greater girth. The little bear up top is there to keep the pens from rolling. For this comparison, all four pens were loaded with Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black Ink. The Pelikan M800 is an example of a customized wide nib. The Nakaya is an example of a narrower nib. Both the Stipula and Aurora nibs are flawless in terms of quality of manufacturing. Neither has problems with skipping, failing to writing after a rest, outrageously dry or wet ink flow or any other “defect.” Both are single-tone, yellow gold. The writing sample demonstrates that, while the Stipula has quite reasonable line differentiation, it is not nearly as good as that of either the Pelikan M800 customized IB or the Nakaya customized BB nib. The Aurora nib has surprisingly poor differentiation, particularly since I had read that the Aurora italic nibs were especially good and quite crisp. What you can’t see is that the Stipula nib writes very smoothly. The Aurora nib is rather toothy - not to a problematic degree, though. Now, I am quite aware that one nib from a pen company is not sufficient grounds for any sweeping generalizations. But, based on this comparison, I will continue having nibs custom ground rather than thinking I would be satisfied with stock italic nibs “out of the box,” even from pen manufacturers with reputations for excellent quality. In fact, I would have to say that, in my opinion, the much less expensive nibs from Osmiroid, Lamy, and those made to Brian Gray’s specifications, for example, are better for italic script than these gold nibs, as they come from the high end pen makers. I suppose this should be no surprise. It speaks more to how fortunate we are to have folks like Binder, Mottishaw and Masuyama available to us than to the shortcomings of the stock nibs. I would be very pleased if others shared their experience and opinions of the italic pen/nib market. David Note: Since this is not really a pen review, if it fits better in another forum, I trust the moderators will inform me and move it.
  3. I never had really good handwriting. I started to learn Italic in college but could not continue with it after entering medical school. My "regular" cursive just got worse and worse as I increased my writing speed, trying (fruitlessly) to keep up with the professors. It stayed worse too. A couple years ago, as I approached retirement, I resumed my study of italic writing. Now, in retirement, I use italic almost exclusively. It has become my everyday hand. I hope this is seen as a message of hope by those seeking improved penmanship. David





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