February 19, 2011 56 Comments
The humble Osmiroid has a much longer ancestry than most fountain pens. It was made by EH Perry in the factory at Gosport. The company had been founded in 1918 by Edmund Perry, grandson of James Perry, a major figure in the development of practical steel nibs. Perry’s first steel nib patent dated back to 1830 and the company’s Iridinoid and Duragold nibs were a success for many decades.
The idea behind the Osmiroid, perhaps not surprisingly, was much more about nibs than pens. Steel nibs in a variety of calligraphic styles were united with screw-in feeds. Oblique (left and right) italic, copperplate, music nibs and many more were available individually. Quality of the nibs was very high. The intention was to provide school-children with excellent writing instruments at an affordable price. Calligraphers benefitted too!
The first pen, the Osmiroid 65, was almost an afterthought. A very basic lever filler, it was adequate for the purpose, though some of the colour mixtures it came in were unfortunate. Many of the 65s have not survived well. The early injection-moulded plastics used in their manufacture were subject to shrinkage over time, with the result that caps often no longer fit and other distortions have taken place. Not all are affected, but buy with care.
The next pen, the Osmiroid 75, was altogether better. Much less subject to deterioration (though it can happen) these self-coloured pens are excellent piston fillers, many still working today without any servicing. Together with a collection of nibs to suit your hand, the 75 remains one of the best calligraphy pens around.
Later, a different Osmiroid system was developed. The new units included nib, feed and section, which screwed into a cartridge pen. These are not interchangeable with the earlier nibs, and the quality is not so high.
Thankfully, the original Osmiroid nibs still appear on eBay quite frequently and some retailers still sell them. These nibs also fit Esterbrook J and SJ pens , and some post-war German piston-filler school pens.
Not a collector’s pen, the Osmiroid project was nonetheless a worthy one that gave a generation of children good pens with which to learn to write well, and remains a useful workhorse for calligraphers to this day.