For many years I used nothing other than pens with flexible nibs. It might be worth saying that in those days I didn’t write several pages at a sitting and when I began to do so I found my flexible nibs less than convenient. I wanted to write fast, as the thoughts flowed, and flexible nibs were too demanding for that. I also relished the challenge of writing well – or at least legibly – at speed. Experimentation showed me that I do best with a firm fine nib. I don’t have much use for medium or broad firms. I can imagine work for which these nibs would be good but they don’t relate to the way I work.
I do still enjoy writing with flexible nibs and I keep one or two though I have no practical use for them. I also like stubs which can confer a different type of line variation. Some of the old manufacturers made wonderful stubs, particularly Swan, Conway Stewart and Onoto. At the moment I have a superb example engraved with the name of Philips, Oxford, the last official service agent for Swans and Onotos. Slant a stub a little and you have an oblique. It is generally said that obliques were supplied for those who habitually turn their pens. While I’m sure that is so, I habitually turn my pens with oblique nibs so that I can enjoy them – not the other way round.
A good, sharp italic can make for wonderful lettering and I enjoy their unforgiving accuracy, but again, that’s a nib style I have no practical use for. The sharpness of its tip precludes fast writing, for me, at least. There are italic nibs with rounded corners these days, called cursive italic nibs. Aren’t they just stubs?
There are other more unusual nibs like the architect and the Japanese fude nib and perhaps a few others I haven’t heard of – oh, and there’s a nib that’s a stub or italic turned through 90° for writing in other scripts such as Persian.
Coming back to my everyday writing with firm fine nibs there are a few manufacturers whose nibs suit me best. I love Newhaven Parkers. They are just about the ideal nib for me. I have several fine-nib Duofolds and I’m writing this with a 45. It’s not the finest nib I have but within the range I like and totally reliable. Modern Japanese nibs are quite similar to English Duofolds, I find, or at least some of the Pilots and Platinums are.
There are so many nibs to enjoy, modern and vintage. We are very well served.
My assistant likes to sit out on the window ledge and enjoy the sun. She really isn’t much help.