Manuscript Pens – keeping Calligraphy alive, the Birmingham way!
This story begins typically. Once upon a time, long, long ago, Birmingham in England, was the centre of the world’s pen trade. The city had earned itself the distinction following John Mitchell pioneering the mass production of steel nibs thereat. At its apogee, there were about a hundred pen factories which employed around eight thousand skilled workers, an overwhelming number of whom were women. These factories, put together, made as many as a hundred thousand varieties of pens and many a manufacturing technique, some even followed till date, was perfected here. Considering the strict working conditions under which the workers plied their craft, production was naturally high and the contribution of Birmingham to the spread of education and literacy through the supply of cheap, mass produced pens, is universally acknowledged.
It was in this Birmingham, in the year 1856 that Diedrich Leonardt established the D Leonardt & Co which, in no time, became renowned worldwide, as the premier maker of nibs of all shapes and sizes. With more than three thousand people working for it, the entity was virtually the engine driving the then booming Birmingham Pen Trade.
Today, from fountain pens to wax seals, Manuscript manufactures materials for artists, authors and writers throughout the globe. Thanks to the association with D Leonardt and Company it continues to produce calligraphy pens and quality nibs to get people writing – be it Arabic calligraphy or hand lettering – and is perhaps one of the last purveyors of a lost art, not to mention the proud legacy of Birmingham. (For further reading on the subject, may I suggest that you check out the Pen Museum in Birmingham which is situated in the heart of Birmingham’s old Pen trade: https://penmuseum.org.uk/ )
The reason why Manuscript has survived while many of its distinguished elders and contemporaries have failed, is because it has always had innovation at the very core of its drive forward and because it continues to push the boundaries of what calligraphy pens and crafts sets can be. From the much celebrated “Callicreative Markers” to Manuscript’s unique “Calligraphy Pencil”, the Company has had the solution for all creative needs that an artist or a calligrapher or even a dilettante may have. All the while, keeping afloat the banner: proudly Made in Britain.
My first brush (no pun intended) with Manuscript products, and calligraphy for that matter, was when I had visited the Maestro – Prof K C Janardhan, Calligraphic virtuoso in his Bangalore studio. He was kind enough to let me write with a Manuscript pen – one that he had acquired in England more than two decades back and has been using ever since. Even in my gentile hands, I remember, how the pen had performed, miraculously rendering my randomly drawn lines and according to them a respectability they surely did not deserve.
Prof Janardhan had spoken so highly about Manuscript and my own initial “brush” was so pleasurable, that I had vowed to myself, my despicable calligraphic skills notwithstanding, to acquire a set, which I finally have. The Deluxe Set comes with a holder pen, cartridges in four different colours, a converter and six nib units ranging from 0.85 mm to 2.8 mm. The fact that the nibs come fitted to the grip and the entire section can be removed obviates the possibility of untrained hands fiddling with the nibs, making the construction virtually idiot proof.
The pen looks elegant and has a get-up reminiscent of the proverbial “stiff upper lip” – the term used more to highlight the understated elegance than alluding to anything even remotely pejorative. The weight is justifiably light, and that is how it should be, considering the artistic needs of the calligraphers, whose hands they are designed to adorn. The flow of ink too, is just perfect and wetting the feed seems to whet the appetite of the nib, which kind of silently urges one to let it dance on paper every time it is unsheathed.
I may not be qualified to pass judgement on this excellent instrument made for the calligraphers, whose art is way beyond my mortal abilities, but I must say as a lover of fountain pens, I could not have asked for more. As a matter of fact, I now desperately want one of the standard Manuscript Fountain Pens.
Stay tuned, 2020 is young and there is a full year of excuses to gift one a … Manuscript Fountain Pen!
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