The Swan Calligraph Revisited

1949, 1951 and 1952 were important years for Swan, and not all of them in a good way. 1949 was certainly good as it ushered in the long-awaited series of cigar-shaped pens. 1951 brought the Calligraph and the redesigned Leverless to the market, both very good ideas, just perhaps not as well implemented as previous designs. And, of course, in 1952, Biro took over Mabie Todd. There were not many years left for the company, and the years that remained were not of their best.
It’s the Calligraph I want to look at today. This example is, I think, an early one. The reason I say so is that it’s an italic with flex, a decided nod in the direction of producing calligraphy with a fountain pen. In fact, this nib was advertised as being perfect for Chancery Script. This is, I have to say, only the third Calligraph I have handled with an italic nib. Most Calligraphs seem to have had perfectly ordinary fine or medium nibs. Broad, stub and italics appear to be very much in the minority.
This happened, I believe, because demand was low for real calligraphers’ pens, and the company made a school pen of the Calligraph. I say that because so many of those that arrive on my bench have been chewed and mishandled. They belonged to kids, those pens. They have thinner gold plating that the other models of the time, and seem to have been placed a little lower in the market from the outset. There’s a hint of flimsiness about the Calligraph which I think increases with time. The later, leverless Calligraphs seem more poorly made, to me. Some of those have disappointing nibs and whatever the faults of the earlier ones might have been, their nibs – like this one – are superb.

So whenever a Calligraph arrives, I get out the heat gun and the abrasives to remove the worst of the chomping and the scraping. If I’m unlucky, I have a so-so pen with an adequate nib, but if fortune smiles on me, I have a pen with a nib like this. Who cares about worn plating or a few scratches when the pen has a nib like this one?

That said, italics don’t sit well in my hand, as I’m sure you can see from this writing sample. I prefer a more rounded stub, myself.


I’ve written about Calligraphs on a couple of previous occasions.  The search facility will find them for you if you’re interested.

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