Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Nibs in a box

Apparently "Elso Magyar Iroszergyar" means "first Hungarian writing instruments factory" and RT stands for Reszveni Tarsasag, which the equivalent of a Limited Liability Company. The title is claimed by Schuler Jozsef of Budapest. Pencil enthusiasts may be acquainted with the pencils of Mr Jozsef as detailed in BrandnamePencils but the company made nibs as well. Some of them Palimpsest found in a tiny tin box inscribed "Best Deutsche Schreibfedern", that is, best German pens, or quills. It is a delightful little tin (I am tempted to start a collection) and on the tiny lid a black steel pen stands right in the middle of the green and black chequered border and reads Herm. Müller Leipzig.

Inked with an old Waterman green ink, the first nib tested was the EMI No.2, which is marked Schuler Jozsef RT EMI Budapest 28 and bears an embossed 2 just above the vent. This is a wider than average nib with a fine point. It is scratchy and flexible and it produced great writing. 

Schuler Jozsef's H39 nib I couldn't use as the ink was retained and then released at once leaving big blobs on the paper. However SJ EMI 100 was very pleasant, flexible italic nib that wrote beautifully. 

The tiny tin contained two more nibs. The Superior Crown Pen ABC which is very flexible and produced smooth writing and the Brause & Co. No. 511 whose flexibility made it the equivalent of a brush! 

All in all a great little find which is now available to buy in the shop.
Check out more Jozsef nibs and boxes here.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Waterman's Brown Ink of Old

One of those happy moments for Palimpsest a few weeks back when not only did I come across an early-20th-century Waterman's ink bottle but found that said bottle was full of Brown ink. What is it about old ink? Probably the summation of lost possibilities, unrealized potential, secrets never told - I don't know. The hexagonally shaped bottle is pregnant with wholesome brown ink. 

It was issued possibly in the early years of the 20th century by L. G. Sloan, purveyor of rubber bands, Congress playing cards and Waterman pens. Earliest advertisements of Waterman under the L. G. Sloan label are recorded in 1918 by Grace's GuideL. G. Sloan Ltd owned the Pen Corner, at 41 Kingsway, London WC2, which still stands today and is known as the Waterman House

Waterman House, off Kingsway WC2, central London, former headquarters of L. G. Sloan.
Source Google Maps
There is plenty of ink, darkly glimmering behind the paper label which bears the instructions in small black capital letters: "To fill pen when ink is low stand bottle on side." The bottle is the 1930s design of Ted Piazzoli of Capstan Glass Pensylvania. It features again on the box tipped on its side with a fountain pen (a Waterman no doubt) dipped into it. 

The ink flows beautifully after so many years. It is dark when it touches the paper and dries into a warm brown with some orange tones. It is a pleasure to dip the pen in the bottle, flex the nib on the Rhodia dotted paper, and watch the wet letters dry slowly. Wondering what words the ink given the chance will produce.

If you want a 30ml sample contact me at blogpalimpsest at gmail dot com and I will list it on my Etsy shop Inklinks.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Four Years of Palimpsest: Top 10 posts of 2012/13

Happy anniversary to Palimpsest, which is four years old this November. May it live long and prosper. 

Here are the top 10 most popular posts of the year:

1. Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum fountain pen.
Had it not been for the Montblanc emblem at the top of the cap (and the price tag), the inexperienced user might have been excused to think that this is just another fountain pen. Read more
2. Stationery Store Series: R.S.V.P. Berlin
Tucked away in a little street off Berlin's Rosenthaler Strasse, RSVP is what one may call a stationery boutique. It is nestled in the less shiny part of the German metropolis - there are no grand architectural gestures here, no gleaming structures. Read more
3. Platignum 1930s Fountain Pen review
There must have been a day in history when pen companies decided to phase out flexible nibs. What induced them to dispense with this  marvel of writing technology I cannot begin to fathom but a sad day that was, dear Readers, in fountain pen chronicles when the flexible nib was no more. Read more
 4. TomBow Oceanic Mechanical Pencil review
Designed no doubt with an aquatic animal in mind, the TomBow Oceanic is a member of the mechanical pencil group of graphite organisms. Read more
5. The Pocket Pencil of Johann Faber
"Well, he wrote so furiously that he broke his pencil and had, as you observe, to sharpen it again. This of interest, Watson. The pencil was not an ordinary one." Read more
6. Montblanc Starwalker fountain pen
The mild antipathy I was seized by during my brief encounter with a Montblanc Starwalker fountain pen was not born out of the facts. Read more 
 7. Summit Cadet S100 fountain pen
I left the London Writing Equipment Show last week, dear Readers, with a Cadet in my pocket. Read more
8. Back to School: The Magic Multiplying Pencil
Back to school for all here in the United Kingdom and those hoping to cheat their way through their timetables will be sad to know that a Magic Multiplying Pencil is certainly not the way forward. Read more
9. Pick a Pen Series: Montblanc Happy Endings by Kenneth Moyle
I've been bad-mouthing Montblanc for what I've considered their over-rated pens for years. Read more
10. Pencil Archaeology 2
The pencils of the last Pencil Archaeology post justified the title: they were battered, their paint chipped, their markings barely visible. These ones... Read more 

Stephens' Ink Scarlet Writing Fluid No. 451
The dark fluid that faintly gleams with a hint of red wouldn't perhaps look so appealing if it wasn't for the elaborate Victorian label on the glass bottle that contains it... Read more

Thank you for reading. Here's to another inkredible year.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Parker 5th - a brief encounter

Is it a fountain pen, is it a rollerball, is it a felt tip? Parker 5th is so named, says Parker, because “it offers a genuine fifth way of writing”, the innovation consisting “of a cutting-edge refill tip and an engraved metallic hood.” Palimpsest encountered this 5th wonder of writing technology in Pen Shop’s Edinburgh branch and spent some time deciding whether it was a glorified and extravagantly priced gel pen or a rollerball masquerading as fountain pen. They call it Ingenuity. Although it has been called the “Faux-ntain Pen for Everyone” (and not without reason), I may be perhaps excused if I do not care about its falsity and fountain pen pretensions: because the Parker 5th writes a treat.

The criticisms may abide. Fountain pen lovers are horrified by the nib look-alike the Parker 5 is sporting. Under the engraved metallic hood hides a felt tip which has ridges (ridges!) resembling the feed of a fountain pen. Parker 5th is luxurious enough to look like an exclusive fountain pen, yet it is not – obviously there is no real nib and the selection colour ink refills available is limited. Rolleball lovers will be mortified with its price tag – ranging from £57 for a Premium Shiny Chrome to £145 for the Ingenuity Large Black Rubber Chrome Trim.

And yet. Palimpsest cannot but admit that a strange attraction developed between her and that chimera of a pen. The Parker Ingenuity that she got to handle in the Pen Shop felt very comfortable, its texturized soft touch black rubber barrel was not sticky or sweaty, the design was sleek and she found that she was amused rather than annoyed by the felt tip coming out of the fancy hood. It wrote smoothly and effortlessly, it glided most pleasantly on the paper, leaving clear, smudge-free marks. It felt just write in her hand, it looked good. She could enumerate a dozen reasons why Parker 5th pens are wrong but she does not care to confess that she wouldn't mind one for Christmas.

Some pics of the Parker Ingenuity snapped in the Pen Shop in Edinburgh:

Friday, 8 November 2013

Ink close to his heart

Emigrants Leaving Ireland
by Henry Doyle, 1848.

"On a trip to Peebles before they left home, Walter bought himself a book to write in, but for several days he has found too much to pay attention to, and too little space or quiet on the deck, even to open it. He has a vial of ink, as well, held in a leather pouch and strapped to his chest under his shirt. This was the trick used by their cousin Jamie Hogg the poet, when he was out in the wilds of Nithsdale, watching the sheep. When a rhyme came on Jamie he would pull a wad of paper out of his breeks' pocket and uncork the ink which the heat of his heart had kept from freezing and write it all down, no matter where he was or in what weather."

Alice Munro, The View from Castle Rock, Kindle edition 2010.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Scottish Stationery of Old

I wouldn't have given the few samples of stationery exhibited in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh a third look, elaborate though their letterheads have been, if they were not remnants of the once thriving stationery manufacturing in the Scottish capital. Were have all the stationers gone? The Edinburgh City of Print is working towards collecting under one digital roof all that remains from the golden era of printing - objects and images interspersed in various museums and collections. But a Printing Museum remains elusive. And while Ghost Tours in the city's underground vaults and cemeteries are popular, there is no City of Print tour advertised along Edinburgh's Royal Mile. People are happy with Ryman. No time for George Waterston.  

Printing began in Scotland already in the 16th century and Edinburgh has been a thriving printing centre with stationery manufacturing rivalling the book trade. Not only had the Scots the machinery to print the stationery the legal, financial and educational establishments needed but also the paper mills to produce the very paper the stationery was made of. Papermaking began in Scotland in 1590 and in the 1800s the Water of Leigh had no less than 80 paper mills in operation. Waterston started a stationery business in 1752 that lasted until 2004 - no mean feat. 

William Waterston was an East Lothian schoolmaster who in 1752 dealt in flambeaux or wax torches and later produced sealing wax, wafers and ink. In 1828 the family opened a retail stationery shop and by the second half of the 19th century Waterston was thriving producing paper products, social and domestic stationery and art books. In 1864 it won a contract to print banknotes and in 1865 introduced a lithographic printing shop. Edinburgh City of Print has a useful list of other printing houses operating at that time and you can see their collection of photographs related to George Waterston on Flickr.

The room dedicated to the printing industry in the National Museum of Scotland has printing presses, a huge paper making machine, paper scales and samples and it is a delight to be able to see these old marvels of printing technology. However it hardly does justice to the vibrant printing centre that was Edinburgh. 

List of paper mills in Scotland, 1832. National Museum of Scotland.

Quadrant paper scales calibrated to show the weight of a ream of paper. National Museum of Scotland.

Book of paper samples 1840s-1880s by Cowan & Sons paper mills. National Museum of Scotland

model of paper guillotine at the National Museum of Scotland

The world's first successful rotary printing press was made in Edinburgh, Scotland, by the printer Thomas Nelson ca. 1850. National Museum of Scotland

Friday, 18 October 2013

Summit Cadet S100 fountain pen

I left the London Writing Equipment Show last week, dear Readers, with a Cadet in my pocket. Yes, Palimpsest is now the proud owner of a Summit S100.

Summits were made by a Liverpool-based pen manufacturer which was established in 1899 as “Lang Co. Ltd”, became Curzon, Lloyd & MacGregor Ltd, then Curzons Ltd in 1920, L. Wilson & Co Ltd in 1928 and finally settled for the name “Summit Pens Ltd.” after the Second World War – a wise move since Summit was the most successful pen this company ever produced.

S models were the most commonly available Summit models, the earliest being manufactured in 1929. You can find out all about them in the Summit Pens website created by Summit collector, Paul Martin. 

My Summit Cadet has got a stunning barrel and cap with a wonderful green marble effect, very vibrant and pearlescent. The cap is a screw-on with a black flat top (slightly concave), a metal clip engraved with the word “Summit”, and a single nickel trim. In contrast with other Cadets dating from the late 1940s I browsed in the site above this one’s barrel has a rounded end. “Cadet S100 Made in England” is stamped near the screw thread. The pen measures 124mm capped, 140.5mm uncapped. 

There is a delightful 14ct flexible nib, producing ever so smooth writing. The Cadet is a lever filler so lifting the lever compresses the ink sac inside. You place the nib in the ink, close the lever and wait for 10 seconds to allow the sac to inflate completely. I’ve inked the Cadet with J. Herbin Vert Empire (to match the exterior). The nib succumbs easily to pressure making writing a real pleasure. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The London Writing Equipment Show October 2013

Once more Palimpsest stood in awe at the magnificence of pens and pen knowledge both abundant at this year's London Writing Equipment Show. Sheaffer was there, too, celebrating its 100th year with a big cake. Inexpensive Lamys, £1500 Pelikans and everything else in between and probably beyond said price tag. Palimpsest was delighted to mingle with pen experts, pen dealers, pen repairers, collectors, calligraphers and keen punters. 

Until next year...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Blue Swan ink of old

No dives in Orkney Islands were necessary for the discovery of this Swan ink bottle. It was found in the most mundane of places: an eBay auction. Instead of a shell entombed within it, the bottle was full of ink. Mundane places have their advantages. Let us not forget too that an old bottle full of ink is difficult to come by – even on eBay. This one was full and the paper label in superb condition. The old swan of Swan ink was swimming elegantly amongst decorative waves. 1920s?

The paper label has got a yellow border with Blue Swan Ink written in white against a dark blue background. It reads:
“Made in England by the Swan Pen People
Swan Ink
[swan-splashing-in-water logo]
Fixed 6d Price ~ Purchase 1d tax
Mabie Todd & Co. Ltd London

The blue metal cap reads Swan Ink Trade Mark and features the same swan logo.

Mabie Todd Co. was established in New York City in 1860 and in 1884 a London office was opened. In 1914 Mabie, Todd and Co Limited was established as a British firm.

The ink that comes out of this Swan bottle is a grey blue – a dusky blue I would say, perhaps with some hint of purple. All these nuances become apparent to me only when I apply a handsome quantity of ink on paper with a paint brush. Writing with a dip pen you get a good flow, and a reasonable flow in a Lamy Safari - you wouldn't call it a wet ink, though. I would say that both shading and saturation are medium. In any case, writing with  an old ink is always a pleasure.