Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Recent Acquisitions: Nibs, Nibs, Nibs

A while back I hinted that I was going to share with you "more nibs than I thought I would ever own in my life."  Well, wait no longer, because that time has now arrived!

To start with, there are these nibs:

A full set of Speedball nibs, on their original card.  If you can't read the card, they include six nibs with square tips ("for Square Gothic and Block Letters"), six with round tips ("for Round Gothics or Uniform Lines"), six with oblong tips ("for Roman, Text and Shaded Italics"), and six with oval tips ("for Bold Roman, Texts, Italics, etc.").  I can't imagine actually using all of these nibs for their intended purposes, but it is clear that a previous owner did just that, as most of the nibs (and the card) are stained with ink.

Then, there are these nibs:

These are for a "mapping quill pen", something I had never heard of before.  They are made in England, and the nibs themselves are marked "crow quill".  Unlike the previous set, these do not appear to have been used much, as the card and the nibs are quite clean.

Finally, if all of those nibs weren't enough (and of course they weren't, were they?), there are all of these:

Most of these nibs are Speedballs; there were also a few marked "Sprotts No. 2" and one marked "Macleans Best-ever."  All of these nibs were loose in a glass jar (helpfully labelled "NIBS" on the lid), and all of the nibs and pens in this post came in a box along with an assorted collection of rulers, drafting supplies, pencils, charcoal pencils, stencils, ink bottles, erasers, sealing wax, and bookplates.  (If you're wondering how I ended up with all of this, it was donated to a local thrift store where my mother volunteers.  I sometimes help by putting together bundles of stationery, repairing jewellery, etc.  Most of the contents of the box has since been sorted out and gone back to the thrift store, hopefully to find new homes.)

I think it is unlikely that I will keep all of these nibs.  Most of them need cleaning and probably some adjustment before they can be used, which is not a task I feel like taking on.  There are a few too many here to keep simply for my collection, especially since they are not as easy to display as my vintage ink bottles.  I am not sure yet what I will do with them, but I do hope that one day they can belong to someone who will appreciate them and maybe even use them.


  1. Please try cleaning up one or two and write with them before giving them up -- you might find you love them! What a cool thrift store find. I wish I could shop there -- looks like it gets great estate donations! Way better than what I typically see at my thrift store.


    1. I guess should give them a try, though I have to admit I do find them rather intimidating. And I don't think my thrift store is any better than average; you have to be very patient and go through a lot of junk to find the few good items.

  2. Wonderful post, Heather:) Speedball nibs were, I think, a staple among draftsmen and commercial artists. We actually had in-house art departments at one local department store, our newspaper, and at least one local ad agency in a pretty small area (metro pop. about a half-million in the 1960s). One artist I knew of lettered "price cards" that were fitted to clamps atop clothing racks, notions counters, in the front of window displays, etc. Those jobs are gone, or mostly gone.


    1. Thanks so much for the comment, Jack! I wish there were still more things done by hand like those price cards. And I feel so curious as well about who owned my nibs and how they used them.

    2. If my memory's okay, the "price cards" (or maybe "display cards") at one local store, Strouss's, were usually light tan, with the price centered, and a decorative border. The lettering and borders were done to suit the product category. I'll guess the artist did the work very quickly and very expertly.

    3. Sorry, that's me above. Jack/Ohio

  3. I frequently find (and snap up) "bulk lots" of vintage nibs on ebay, for everyday calligraphy I stick to modern Brause and Japanese G nibs.


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