Monday, December 7, 2009

Osmiroid Nibs

I spent a good part of a Sunday morning walking around The Garage, a flea market held on Saturday and Sunday from 9 to 5 at, what else, a garage located on 25th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. There's an amazing variety of items for sale at different booths, including lots of vintage clothing, posters, books, jewelry. But I was on the hunt for fountain pens, and that seemed to be the one category lacking at The Garage. However, at one of the tables I found this pack of six fountain pen nibs for $10. They are Osmiroid nibs, which I'd never heard of--six nibs total, a nice selection of two broad nibs (the B3 and B4, which look like music nibs), two italics, a broad point, and one called "Mari 2." Once I got home I did some googling and found that the Osmiroid company was founded around 1918 but had roots in the fountain pen and nib industry dating back to the 1820s.

These nibs seem to be made for the Osmiroid '65 and '75 fountain pens. A little more googling and I was pleased to learn that these nibs will fit in Esterbrook pens with a lever fill system. So I pulled the nib out of my Esterbrook and started trying out the Osmiroid nibs, which do fit perfectly. Unfortunately, my girl cat Seranne also liked the nibs, and while I was preoccupied for a few minutes with something else she decided to play with the B3 nib. The nib mostly survived, but the right side tine was slightly bent and I've been doing a little repair work trying to get it back into place. I've only tried out two of the nibs, the B3 and the Mari 2, and definitely like these. They are really flexible nibs, more so than I've ever used before, and I can't believe how far the tines move apart when I put point to paper.

For some reason, the nibs feel like they are pulling to the right--as if the right side is loose or slightly bent, even though that's not the case. But I notice that the right side of the nib "leans" and I'll have to do some additional playing to get used to the way the nib feels. Perhaps this is how a flexible nib feels? Or maybe it's just me and the way I'm holding the pen. But with other nibs, all hard as nails, I don't feel that pull to the right. Strange, but not so irksome that I don't use the nibs.


  1. They are likely oblique nibs--many Osmiroid nibs are. You need to experiment with how you hold the pen and turn it some in your grip to get the best "feel" for these nibs.

  2. With your love of pens, you should join the Society of Scribes.

  3. Thanks Wordherder for that info, that would deifintely explain the way them seem to pull to the right.

    Jill, thanks for the link. I've heard of them but hadn't gotten around to looking. :)

  4. An possible alternative to oblique nibs - legend has it nibs "wear in" to reflect the use patterns of their owners. So you could be dealing with nibs from someone with a distinctive writing style.

    But I like the oblique explanation.

  5. The broad nibs are italic nibs for calligraphy. They are designed to be held on a 45 degree angle. The Mari.2 could be for the Marion Richardson style of writing which was very popular in English schools in the 1950's, but I cannot be sure. Osmiroid pens together with Platignum pens were those used by the majority of English school children at the time.

  6. I was taught to write in a style based on Marion Richardson's work in 1950's England. We were also introduced to somewhat calligraphic italic writing using a flat-ended nib. Being left-handed, it was awkward for me to hold a flat-nib pen correctly and I was advised to try a 'left oblique' nib, the tip of which was curved to the left. That was even worse for me and I developed a style of pen grip which allowed me to write left-handed in a right-handed style.
    Pen brands were to some extent a matter of taste, some preferring the Platignum, some the Osmiroid, but for the purists among us the Osmiroid was the gold standard. It was also the one with the greatest range of nibs. They ranged from the 'rolatip' a round-ended nib suitable for general purpose writing, through various widths of flat ended nibs for stylised cursive script like italic and copperplate, and specialist nibs like the aforementioned 'obliques'. I suspect that the Mari.2 may be one of these, but it's not one I remember coming across.
    Incidentally, I was led to believe that the names were derived from the materials used in the nib tip- Osmium and Iridim in the case of the Osmiroid, and Platinum and Iridium ion the case of the Platignum. However with the cost of rare metals like these being what they are, I suspect these explanations to be somewhat apocryphal. The Osmiroid brand is no longer available, but Platignum pens have recently been re-marketed. I have a lovely, well weighted one that writes beautifully; it's just a pity that I can't do it justice.

  7. With regard to the Osmiroid Music Nib, the reason it was made oblique only was because of the nature of music copying / calligraphy. My first and only book on music copying came from one of the production shops in LA and was by a guy named Glen Rosecrans and was titled "A Guide To Music Copying" or something to that effect. It was a little pocket-like 5" x 8" spiral bound booklet with a tan cover. I lost it years ago somehow and still wish I hadn't, it was THAT GOOD! In it Mr. Rosecrans, a career LA or NYC copyist extolled the virtues of the Osmiroid Music Pen/Nib and his little 30-or-so page, entirely hand-written book was the perfect vehicle for a novice to learn everything they needed to know about how to "write" music in ink that would provide them with everything they would need to know for all practical purposes. But I digress. RE: the Osmiroid Music Nib - first of all, the music nib, complete with it's oblique nib, was intended for people who write with their right hand, even though oblique nibs are generally intended for left-handed people. Holding the pen, with the side of your hand flat on the table with your thumb on top, you hold the pen like any ball point pen or pencil. This actually points the flat edge of the nib in a vertical position. Though perhaps contrary to the general use of a fountain pen, this works perfectly with regard to a right-handed person doing music copy. When writing music manuscripts, vertical lines such as note stems and bar-lines (with certain exceptions, of course) should be very thin/fine lines, and horizontal lines such as beams that bind groups of 8th, 16th, etc. notes together, as well as whole-rests and half-rests, should be wide/bold line strokes. Music note-heads are not actually perfectly round dots either, but should actually be elliptical in shape. The ellipse of a notehead is NOT actually vertically or horizontally oriented like the number "0" with cross-hairs like a "+" sign, but more of a diagonally oriented ellipse like the letter "X" or somewhat italic or slanted. In other words, the "cross-hairs" of the elliptical shape of any note-head should more like an "X" than a "+", and the 'long' axis should be from the "lower" left of the "X" to the "upper" right. Because of the oblique cut of the nib it makes it very easy for a right-handed copyist to draw the elliptical note-heads with the correct "diagonal" shape yet, almost automatically in the proper orientation to draw the verticals and horizontals as I described. Special characters such as quarter-rests as well as ties and slurs, clefs and accidentals (sharps / flats) are also very reliant on the flat edge of the nib as well, that provides the characteristic "ribbon-like" results all flat edge nibs give, complete with serifs if wanted or needed. So, that's why the Music Nib has an oblique tip. It's not because all copyists were left handed and there was no "flat" tip Music Nib for the righties. How actual left-handed music copyists felt about any of this I have no idea, but I do know that most of the left handed people I know who write music have ALWAYS grumbled about how difficult and frustrating it can be to write music in ink.