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Messages - AAAndrew

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Tools & Supplies / Re: Oblique Holder for Business Writing?
« on: June 14, 2021, 11:03:17 AM »
Just to throw in a word for the oblique pen (nib). While, historically, oblique holders were relatively rare, more common were oblique pens.

Below I've posted a photo of an oblique gold pen dating from the 1850's, and labeled as "Spencerian Pen." It was made in Detroit, MI by C. Piquette, a jeweler and gold pen maker. This is a shape that follows the original Mordant patent I mentioned above.

In my proposed glossary for pen shapes out on my site ( I suggest four specific types of oblique pens: Spear Oblique, Mordant Oblique, Elbow Oblique, Oblique Tip. A picture of all four types can be found below.

What's interesting to note is that many oblique pens are not set at quite so steep an angle as many modern oblique holders. This says that either the slope of the letters was different, or that the straight holder was held at an angle already (probably through rotating the paper) and didn't need quite as much angle from the pen.

I don't think anyone today makes oblique pens, but you can still find vintage ones, occasionally, for sale. They are not nearly as common as many other straight pens, but they do exist.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Oblique Holder for Business Writing?
« on: March 04, 2021, 02:17:06 PM »
If we go back to the beginning, the oblique holder and oblique pen were both included in the same patent by William Brockedon and Sampson Morden in 1831. The main benefit described in the patent was not for decorative writing, but that this would allow a pen to last longer as both tines were now moving across the page evenly and would thus wear evenly.

Over the years, the oblique holder generally does not show up as much in stationery catalogs or office supply catalogs. If they do appear, there may be one type alongside 15 or 20 different straight holders. It does seem that the oblique holder was mostly adopted by penman, but it was originally designed as an aid for preserving the tines of your nib while everyday writing.

So, there's no rule or law or even good advice to use your oblique holder for only decorative writing. You're just taking advantage of the benefits envisioned by the original owners.

I've attached a copy of a short side-bar article I wrote on the origins of the oblique holder and oblique pen for the summer 2020 issue of The Pennant, the magazine for the Pen Collectors of America.

Introductions / Re: Hello from North Carolina!
« on: February 23, 2021, 07:41:31 PM »
A late welcome from Durham, NC! Welcome, and glad to have you here.

Tools & Supplies / Re: Is walnut ink really that special
« on: October 27, 2020, 11:39:39 AM »
For me, walnut is the best practice ink just because, as others have pointed out, it's fairly well-behaved, and it's really, really cheap.

I get the crystals and mix them up directly in a jumbo Dinky Dip.  Just enough to cover about 2/3-3/4 of the bottom with a single layer of crystals, pour in water and shake. Leave it for 20 minutes, shake again, and you have ink.

I get my crystals from John Neal books and not sure if they're any different than the big bag used for staining wood. And I've never had a problem just using tap water. I've let it in jars for over a year and no mold, slime or anything.

No, if you're like @JanisTX and don't like brown, then you will not like it. I happen to like the color (and you can make it darker or lighter just by adding crystals or water). I particularly like it with a stub dip pen, like an Esterbrook Relief, on 100% cotton cream paper. I can't use pointed pens on 100% cotton as it picks up too many threads, but a nice stub slides like butter. And the brown on the cream looks quite nice to my eyes for a letter.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: We have a new SUPERHERO!
« on: October 25, 2020, 06:46:39 PM »
Aw, shucks. Y’all are too kind.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: An amazing work from 1683
« on: October 23, 2020, 07:49:01 AM »
If you count each compartment, each figure, each decoration individually, there are 47 of them. And that’s not including the border. It is a masterpiece.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: An amazing work from 1683
« on: October 22, 2020, 04:22:36 PM »
I think I'm on the right trail.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: We have a new SUPERHERO!
« on: October 21, 2020, 02:46:05 PM »
Thank you all for being so supportive of my odd tidbits of history and obsession with steel pens.

Y'all are the greatest!


Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: An amazing work from 1683
« on: October 21, 2020, 10:04:33 AM »
I thought you all might find it interesting.  ;D  I had no idea it was going to be my 1000's post. How fortuitous!

The print says that it was "Printed for and Sold by William Hull, at the Signe of the Angel in Fleet-street near St. Dunstans Church London."

It was engraved by John Sturt in Kinshead Court in Gutter Lane, London.

If I had to speculate on how it was made, based on how steel pens were made a century later, it was most likely a barrel pen. You would take a sheet of thin steel and bend it into a tube. You would then shape a nib out of one end with saws and files. Some slit the pen, some used the seam between the two ends of the steel sheet as the slit.

He obviously used both pointed as well as broad-point pens for this. If he used a steel pen, then his pens were of good quality, better than others would be for quite a while. (early metallic pens were always criticized for being stiff and inflexible)

It's an amazing work for both the quality of the writing as well as the flourishing and decoration.

Here's another of the figures.

There's quite a bit of research work to be done on this one sheet. Will share what I find out.

Anyone want to help me identify the various hands represented on it?

Open Flourish | General Discussion / An amazing work from 1683
« on: October 20, 2020, 09:35:05 PM »
This is an advertisement for a writing master in London, published in 1683.

John Smith was a writing master in Christ's Hospital in London. He advertises that he makes his own steel pens, "curiously made to write any hand..." they were "invented and sold by the Author." He also advertises "Writing inks of several sorts," ink glasses (bottles?), pen knives, slates, rulers, etc...

He states that this large advertisement (61 x 47 cm.) includes "a small specimen of all the usual hands of England."  It does include several different writing styles as well as numerous flourishes, figures and designs, all made, presumably, with his steel pens.

I saw a low-resolution image tweeted out by the Newberry Library, the owner of this particular print. I reached out to them and paid to have it photographed and it is so much better than I had hoped. I originally paid for it because it's, by far, the earliest advertisement for steel pens I've ever found. I'm hoping to do a more full analysis of the script styles and will share more as I take a closer look.

One hack I can recommend is for dividers for pens. I have a wooden chest often called a Machinist's Chest as they are often used to hold the small, delicate tools used by machinists, to store my fountain pens. Instead of plastic dividers in the drawers, I took stiff, good paper and folded it accordion style and put the pens into the valley folds.

I like this soooo much better than plastic. They are easily replaced, don't damage the pens, and you can even label what goes into each valley.

The machinist chests can be very expensive. I ran across one at Costco that was quite reasonable, relatively. It's called the TRINITY TWM-3501 Wood Toolbox if you can find it somewhere else. The drawers are fine for fountain pens, but several are not quite long enough for dip pen holders.

If money was no object, my dream cabinet is the Tennsco 2085 steel letter-size thirty-drawer cabinet. Perfect size to store my large steel pen collection, plus different papers, pens, etc... It's also over $500 delivered. It's a commercial-grade cabinet that would way outlast me.


Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: 19thC Shorthand?
« on: September 30, 2020, 01:33:41 PM »
Not an hour after writing this response, I'm searching for another text in the Univ. of Michigan's Early English Books collection and come across an advertisement from 1680 from a writing master. One of the services he offers is to teach you a form of shorthand he's modified to make his own.

Not directly related to your question, but I thought it was interesting.  :D

"Short-hand also he Teacheth with great expedition, he having abreviated, corrected, and amended the same, to make it the more facile, easy, and plain to the Learner.";view=fulltext;q1=Penmanship+--++Study+and+teaching

Excellent method for a more focused search! It is fascinating to see how established schools of penmanship end up "translated" into everyday writing. I know my script looking little like the Palmer I was taught in school.


Open Flourish | General Discussion / Re: 19thC Shorthand?
« on: September 30, 2020, 10:53:28 AM »
My knowledge is not deep, nor terribly specific. I do know that the idea of shorthand goes back quite a long way, probably from whenever there were scribes taking dictation. In the 19th-c there were several different schools of shorthand. Some were better suited to writing with a pencil, some with a flexible steel pen, like Gregg.

In 1841, the reporters would have been writing with a pencil in a notebook. In that year, it would most likely have been Taylor (?). I think Pitman introduced his style right around that time (1830's, 40's?), so reporters in 1841 who were proficient had most likely learned Taylor.

Of course, some developed their own version of an established style, and some developed their own shorthand altogether. I've seen examples where people are trying to decipher an example of obvious shorthand, though it conforms to no known school.

I'm sure you can find more details around. There are still people who like to learn shorthand. I wish I would have learned it before college, it would have made taking notes that much more efficient.


Flourishing / Flourished animals - Balderic van Horicke
« on: September 30, 2020, 09:46:35 AM »
Jill Gage, a curator from the Newberry Library in Chicago just tweeted out a series of images from a book by Balderic van Horicke (Brussels, 1633) in their collection. I just had to share these with you all.

A lion, a camel and stork, a reclining man, wonderful owls, and what I think is an otter.


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