Gold on blue always makes an impression. An vintage stamps make it even more special.
This is a beautiful print published in 1888 by one of my very favorite artist/calligraphers, Daniel T. Ames. The first time I saw his work was in the Ames Compendium, and I gotta tell you how blown away I was by his work. Every little detail is perfect and his certificates so well designed. Many certificates from that period leave me wanting but his work is always perfectly executed and flawless in terms of spacing and design. It makes me shudder to think that it was all done without a computer!
On the artwork it says the original is 24x30 inches, but the print is 7 x 9.25in. I wonder where the original is at?
My favorite combo, a classic black on white.
old nib vs new nib
I’m glad you like my blog and I hope you will enjoy your new Brian Smith holders :)
It’s hard to say when one should change the nib, there are so many factors in place that can add to the wear and tear of the steel. Just like how a car’s MPG is determined by how one drives the car, a nib’s PPN (‘page per nib’? lol) can depend on how one uses and cares for it. And no, it’s not possible to keep using a nib forever until the tip falls off, because as it wears off, the tip gets corroded and wonky and it will affect your writing and thus affect your improvement. Worse still, if the metal is fatigued enough it may snap and put your eye out!
Here are some factors that may contribute to nib wear:
- The ink used: If you are using iron gall ink or any other acidic ink, rest assured that the acid is slowly eating away at your nib, particularly the fragile areas such as the tip! This cannot be reversed and is the main reason why a nib needs changing so often. A chrome plated nib like the Japanese Nikko/Zebras do last longer, which is why they are recommended to beginners.
- The paper used: I find that if one is using a smoother paper, the nib isn’t as heavily taxed. But if one uses a rough sandpapery paper where there’s lots of scratching or fibers getting stuck in the nib, then it is more likely to wear out quicker.
- How clean it was kept: A dirty nib will rust or crust much faster than a clean nib. Here’s a dirty secret.. many years ago when I was still a teenager playing around with dip nibs for drawing comics, I didn’t even know a nib needs to be changed or washed. I used a thick sumi ink on a Hunt nib and never cleaned it.. for months of daily use. Yep, at the end it was completely stuck on the holder and coated with layers of ink and won’t even flex anymore! Basically I was drawing obliviously with a stick crusted in ink. I wish I kept one of those monstrosities.
- How often it was used: Of course, if you only write a letter a week and keep a clean nib, then you’re is probably okay. But if you write 2 letters a day, no matter how clean the nib is, it is more prone to wear.
- How it was used: If you’re just writing letters with a fine line with minimal flexing, then it’ll last longer. But if you’re applying pressure every other word or using it to write large engrossers script, then of course it will wear out faster. I’ve heard of masters using a new nib to write a really large, dramatic word with a really heavy stroke.. and having to throw away the nib right away as the nib will be too fatigued! Keep in mind a steel nib is like a rubber band.. nice and taut at first, but if you keep applying pressure, at one point it will just lose its springiness and that’s that, time to get a new rubber ba- I mean nib.
Below is a pic of two of my well used Leonardt Principal nibs and on the right is a brand new Principal. It looks exactly the same but you can see how it’s starting to rust, discolor, and even looks thinner and more tired than the new guy.
So how to determine when to change it? Well a method that Michael Sull taught me was to gently run the nib up your thumb. If it starts to catch in your skin, then the metal has gone too sharp and is probably too scratchy for good use. Sometimes I keep on using it though, because I’m weird and actually like tooth in my nibs. So this is your first sign.
Another bad sign if the tines are split, like how you can see light showing through it at an angle. That means I’ve pressed too hard and the metal has been stretched too far. You can still kinda use it, but the line quality is no longer very good. Better change up, or this is the last warning from your nib.
Also keep your eye on your nib and try to familiarize yourself with it. I love my Leonardt Principal and am quite familiar with its line quality, and can tell if it starts to feel a bit ‘off.’ Of course.. nibs are expensive and it can be a little painful to change up, but let me illustrate below. I’ve written something using one of my super old Principal nibs and with a brand new Principal nib. Both are exactly the same kind of nib but they look like completely different makes..
I wasn’t pressing down or anything! The top has been so worn that its default line is now much thicker. The new nib is still untouched by the ravages of nature and the line is so much lighter and finer. You can still keep the old nib for larger work which do not require fineness, but it’s not ideal for practicing fine writing anymore. Now to really change up!
Hope this helps!
A quick late night writing of some modern prose.
I got these lovely note cards and it has been my favorite set for sending off little notes. They’re a bit on the small side but just enough for a line or two.
The illustrations are super cute and the paper, while not exactly thick, is just sturdy enough for dip pen or fountain pen.
You can get a box here. I’m not affiliated btw!
I thought I should color coordinate this letter for a floral spring look. Too bad the recipient is a guy and may not be as appreciative!
Gold ink on white envelopes.. a lovely and classy way to make a statement.
So I left my inkwell open for a weekend and this is what happens. It was almost full of walnut ink and when I came home on Sunday night, it looked like a cracked desert puddle. And for the record, it is only February here in Las Vegas. I imagine if it was June or July, it would have dried up even more. Keep your inkwells closed, if you live in a dry area!
I wasn’t even sure why I bought this ink, but it was in my order. It is the Terracotta Sepia Ink, and while the shading is amazingly beautiful, I don’t think it is suitable for pointed pen. The ink is very thick and concentrated, pools and smears like nobody’s business after drying. I think I’ll save it for when I pick up broad pen calligraphy.
A swirly gold envelope design for a bride.
I’m not sure if I had posted this before, but here is one of my most precious specimens, an original FB Courtney bird flourish.
Francis B. Courtney (1867-1952) is considered the Pen Wizard, and is known for his flamboyant bird flourishes, pen illustrations and chalkboard demonstrations. He was very creative and designed modern scripts for his time including the Needlestitch script, Figure Writing and Backslanted script, and if I’m not mistaken, he also created a particular script where you have to hold the paper a certain way to read it properly.. forgot what it’s called it’s past my bedtime right now I’ll blog about that next time..
Anyway, I was very lucky to acquire this piece and tried to take photos at angles where one can appreciate how lovely the lines are. It is astounding to see it in ones hands, the birds really seem to come to life. The masters back then really were something else!
My favorite part of weekends is writing letters.
Valentines for a calligraphy exchange, these are going to friends who are also married men. I told them to warn their spouses in advance, they assured me they did and challenged me to ‘bring it on.’ Hence all the ultra girly flowers and flourishes and roses and things. Don’t worry, I included a little something for their ladies in the envelopes :)
Oh, and the back is also super decorated!
E.A. Lupfer is one of my favorite penman. He lived from 1890 to 1967 and became the last principal of the Zanerian College. His writing and artwork is impeccable, and this specimen of his writing ‘The River of Dreams’ is considered the epitome of his skill.
My hands were practically shaking as I pulled this out of the sleeve. It is written on a very fine Zanerian foolscap paper (you can see the watermark on it) and the ink very black and dark. Probably iron gall ink.
The letterforms are astounding, very bouncy and lively and flows so well. I took a photo of one with my finger so you can compared just how fine the lines are.
The best part of this whole piece is the D in “Dreams.” It is written absolutely perfectly.
Thanks to Dr. Joe Vitolo of Zanerian.com for sending me this amazing piece.