Author Topic: An amazing work from 1683  (Read 921 times)

Offline AAAndrew

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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.
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Offline AnasaziWrites

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2020, 09:24:15 AM »
Amazing is the right word. Mind boggling. I can't imagine how long it took to do that piece. Do you think he did the engraving as well? Makes me wonder if any of the masters of Bickham's UP used a steel pen.

Also, congrats on achieving superhero status--your post number 1000 is most appropriate.
@AAAndrew
« Last Edit: October 21, 2020, 09:32:25 AM by AnasaziWrites »

Offline Trazo

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2020, 09:50:23 AM »
Wow! This is a gorgeous piece. Thank you very much for sharing. I can't understand why the Newberry Library doesn't have it in one of his public digital collections (by the way, they have a collection of French calligraphy books: https://paleography.library.utoronto.ca/islandora/object/paleography:calligraphybooks)

How do you think this steel pen could look? How do you think it was made? Is there any exemplar of actual writing by Mr. Smith? Please keep the forum informed of your research.

Thanks again.

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #3 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?

Check out my steel pen history blog
https://thesteelpen.com/

Offline Trazo

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2020, 11:06:10 AM »
Thank you very much for the explanation. Very interesting. I would like to help, but my historical knowledge of the hands used in that period is very weak.


Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2020, 01:43:17 PM »
This is truly astounding! Wow! What a great share. And many, many thanks for all of your fabulous contributions to our forum! I've been watching every day to see when you would hit the mark.  ;D And this is a great way to do it.  :-*
Truly, Erica
Lettering/Design Artist, Homeopath, Photographer, Mom, Wife
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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2020, 03:29:38 PM »
This is an amazing piece. I have had the pleasure of visiting the Newberry Library - before covid - when you could just walk in and request anything in the collection. It was unbelievable what kinds of things they would bring out of the vault. I just checked the website - and they are open - but you need to make an appointment. You also need a library card - which is easy to get - just fill out the form online.

I just got back from two weeks in Chicago -- wish I had known about this -- but will be going back in November - so might be able to work it in.
I'd be able to take more photos.


Offline AAAndrew

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2020, 04:22:36 PM »
I think I'm on the right trail.

Check out my steel pen history blog
https://thesteelpen.com/

Offline Andrew Davies

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2020, 05:15:50 PM »
This is extraordinary! Talk about planning your piece, this looks like about 30 pieces in one. I canít begin to imagine where you start with this, the flourished compartments that you write in later? Or do you write the text and flourish around it afterwards? Start in the middle, top-centre, top left? Iíd be a gibbering wreck after about 30 minutes of just thinking about this. :o :o

Offline AAAndrew

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Re: An amazing work from 1683
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2020, 07:49:01 AM »
If you count each compartment, each figure, each decoration individually, there are 47 of them. And thatís not including the border. It is a masterpiece.
Check out my steel pen history blog
https://thesteelpen.com/