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Historical Purpose Of Bold Nibs


Cyclopentadiene
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Hi all, I've been thinking about how different nib sizes came about. I'm relatively new to fountain pens, but have seen the huge variety of nibs available to tailor to each persons hand.

 

Out of curiosity I must ask. If manifold nibs and flexible nibs were born out of a need or necessity for practical purposes (which for the above I understand to be primarily accountancy and legal documents respectively), then how did the bold nib come about?

 

I know it's an unusual question, and in current times it's all about preference but who came up with the idea of a big fat line and why? The only practical application that I can think of would be for use in signatures.

 

Was there some common purpose or reason that meant that historically if you could only afford one fountain pen you'd be advised to carry a bold nib?

 

Hope this question makes sense and thanks in advance,

 

Badger

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who came up with the idea of a big fat line and why?

 

actually you don't need one to come up with B line.

When you take a look at mundane everyday writings from the late middle ages (like court protocols, city council protocols, citizen rolls,... when paper was readily available and often used) you will notice that most of them are written with a quite bold line. I guess that's due to the fact that they didn't have time / money to cut the quill into a fine nib (which deteriorates much quicker than a sturdy broadish nib).

The same goes with production of steel nibs: it's easier to produce / take care for a broad nib than for a needlepoint.

Greetings,

Michael

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When you take a look at mundane everyday writings from the late middle ages (like court protocols, city council protocols, citizen rolls,... when paper was readily available and often used) you will notice that most of them are written with a quite bold line. I guess that's due to the fact that they didn't have time / money to cut the quill into a fine nib (which deteriorates much quicker than a sturdy broadish nib).

The same goes with production of steel nibs: it's easier to produce / take care for a broad nib than for a needlepoint.

 

Makes sense! thanks mirosc :D

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actually you don't need one to come up with B line.

When you take a look at mundane everyday writings from the late middle ages (like court protocols, city council protocols, citizen rolls,... when paper was readily available and often used) you will notice that most of them are written with a quite bold line. I guess that's due to the fact that they didn't have time / money to cut the quill into a fine nib (which deteriorates much quicker than a sturdy broadish nib).

The same goes with production of steel nibs: it's easier to produce / take care for a broad nib than for a needlepoint.

 

I appreciate the emphasis on materials over aesthetics here. Have you noticed if smaller writing correlates with scarcity of writing material or ease of fashioning a fine quill?

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I appreciate the emphasis on materials over aesthetics here. Have you noticed if smaller writing correlates with scarcity of writing material or ease of fashioning a fine quill?

 

Parchment, especially good quality parchment like vellum, was extremely expensive in the early and high Middle Ages. As a consequence writing was rather limited and if, it was usually reserved for special texts, especially skilled professionals and mostly decorated in an expensive and aesthetically and intellectually sophisticated way. So: if you were willing to pay premium anyway there was no need to save on another 10 or twelve calves just to save space...

 

But if you take a look at manuscripts that were made for lesser aristocrats you will notice that they are often indeed of a smaller size, often have less ornamented or illuminated writing and are often written smaller. It's even more obvious if the book is not intended showing-off - like daily prayer books, university texts and collections of glossae, medicinal or legal treatises for studies, and so on. You can also observe that in some of those rare legal documents that were written twice (once for initial juridical purpose, once for ceremonial, imperial purpose)

 

Another well-known technique was to work with palimpsests when you took an old text and scratched the parchment until the writing was off and you could reuse it for another text. In the late middle ages we have a whole business of such practices evolving around the papal office.

 

So: yes, we can see it sometimes that scarcity of material has effects on how the texts and writing are treated.

 

But the real advent of fine nibs was later after the middle ages (I would say 1600s and later) when printing and copperplating became more fashionable and handwriting tried to catch up with that fashion and we start to see finer nibs than before. That's what I meant before: the thicker stroke was the normal one and didn't need to be invented, while the finer line was the newer aesthetic idea.

Greetings,

Michael

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Thank you, Michael, this is really interesting.

Iris

My avatar is a painting by Ilya Mashkov (1881-1944): Self-Portrait; 1911, which I photographed in the New Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

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In the past manufacturers often offered a whole host of different special purpose nibs. One was often called a "Signature" nib and would be a broad stub nib. But there were also general shorthand and Gregg and Accountant and Reporter and ...

 

http://www.fototime.com/A48357163977607/large.jpg

 

My Website

 

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So: yes, we can see it sometimes that scarcity of material has effects on how the texts and writing are treated.

 

But the real advent of fine nibs was later after the middle ages (I would say 1600s and later) when printing and copperplating became more fashionable and handwriting tried to catch up with that fashion and we start to see finer nibs than before. That's what I meant before: the thicker stroke was the normal one and didn't need to be invented, while the finer line was the newer aesthetic idea.

 

That's very helpful. Thank you. Of course, it makes perfect sense that (as your response suggests) materials, technology, and aesthetics would have a more complex relationship than I implied.

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http://www.fototime.com/A48357163977607/large.jpg

 

Brilliant photo there jar! I happened to pick up an extra-fine nib of one of those pens pictured (not sure of the correct naming of that particular model). Only ever seen a sheaffer flex nib once, surprised to see it was available on that body.

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Interesting question.

 

 

And i learned a new word today. :)

 

 

Palimpsest

 

 

I guess a blackboard is sort of a giant palimpsest...

 

D.ick

~

KEEP SAFE, WEAR A MASK, KEEP A DISTANCE.

Freedom exists by virtue of self limitation.

~

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

What does a short hand nib look like? Would it be closer to a broad or extra-fine?

 

Find that fine nibs with less flex are more conducive to quick writing

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What does a short hand nib look like? Would it be closer to a broad or extra-fine?

 

Find that fine nibs with less flex are more conducive to quick writing

 

A real shorthand nib is usually rather fine and somewhat flexible or springy, because you have to distinguish the thinner and thicker strokes in shorthand. A broadish nib takes up too much space.

Greetings,

Michael

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A real shorthand nib is usually rather fine and somewhat flexible or springy, because you have to distinguish the thinner and thicker strokes in shorthand. A broadish nib takes up too much space.

 

I believe that were multiple shorthand styles. Some used line width variations and thus required a flexible nib. Others styles used a constant line width and for these a stiff fine nib would be preferred. I've never heard of a style that used stub/italic nibs but that doesn't mean one or more didn't exist. In different regions (for example: US versus UK) different shorthand styles were more prevalent and became local defacto standards. As a result large pen manufacturers might offer multiple shorthand nibs optimized for different styles, while smaller manufacturers would probably only offer a single shorthand nib optimized for whatever style was most popular in the manufacturers home market.

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  • 4 weeks later...

anyone know of any manufacturers know for producing really broad nibs that were also flexible?

 

i found a vacumatic with a factory broad nib thats really flexible and i have a modern sheaffer veiwpont that had a flexible nib after i reshaped the nib (one tine was longer than the other)

 

i am absolutely in love with how they write and draw and would like to find more like them

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anyone know of any manufacturers know for producing really broad nibs that were also flexible?

I have a nice wartime Pelikan 100N broad flexible (flexes to at least 2mm with not too much pressure)

Greetings,

Michael

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anyone know of any manufacturers know for producing really broad nibs that were also flexible?

 

i found a vacumatic with a factory broad nib thats really flexible and i have a modern sheaffer veiwpont that had a flexible nib after i reshaped the nib (one tine was longer than the other)

 

i am absolutely in love with how they write and draw and would like to find more like them

 

Most manufacturers made both flex and non-flex nibs in a variety of widths. The issue is many such pens have no markings to tell you what nib is installed.

 

My Website

 

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anyone know of any manufacturers know for producing really broad nibs that were also flexible?

 

i found a vacumatic with a factory broad nib thats really flexible and i have a modern sheaffer veiwpont that had a flexible nib after i reshaped the nib (one tine was longer than the other)

 

i am absolutely in love with how they write and draw and would like to find more like them

 

In the 1950s, Pelikan nibs were semi-flexible. All widths and many styles are readily available. They are also interchangeable on the different pen bodies. So you can find the 400, 140, 120 and the 400NN with a broad nib and can switch the nib between the various pens. I have one that is my favorite nib. I don't really flex it much, but I do appreciate the softness when writing with it. Writing with it feels different....almost like painting with a brush. Also, these broad nibs look and write like italics, so you don't need to flex them to get line variation.

 

Dave

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bold nibs were mainly used for illustrations, drawing or important signatures

Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

 

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i wish noodlers would make a 1.2mm broad flexible nib. i am convinced that the market for noodlers is not with writers but with artists. artists don't mind fiddling with a tool to get it to work just right and artists would appreciate the price of noodlers.

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