Macniven & Cameron

Macniven & Cameron are well known as the leading Scottish manufacturers of dip pen nibs and fountain pens. Actually there is a quibble with both these statements. Most of the nibs issued under their name were made in Birmingham and many were made for them by other nib manufacturing companies. Did they ever have a fountain pen making plant or were all their fountain pens made on their behalf by other companies?

Macniven & Cameron sold all kinds of office supplies, pens being only one part, though the basis of their wealth was steel nibs for dip pens. We are most familiar with the Waverley though they produced several other popular nibs as this advertisement shows. Their main office was in Edinburgh with – at one time – some manufacturing in Currie.

They were the most literate of pen companies. The background of the picture shows the Scott Monument and an image of Sir Walter Scott is embossed onto the clips of some of their fountain pens. The name of the Waverley nib refers to the district of Edinburgh where their offices were and also to Scott’s most famous novel. There was a reference to Dickens too, as you can see, and I believe that is Mr Pickwick in the foreground.

Though Macniven & Cameron produced many other stationery lines and even ventured into publishing for a time, the decline in the use of the dip pen was reflected by an equal diminution in their fortunes. Production of cheap fountain pens – probably made on their behalf by Burnham – sustained the company for a time. They made some very high quality pens bearing their famous leaf-shaped nib but I see no evidence that those were big sellers.

They gradually dwindled away until they were subsumed within a bigger stationery company. I read years ago that there was still a sprung paper clip that bore their name but I expect that’s gone now too. Macniven & Cameron made wonderful dip pen nibs that made writing easier than some of the paper slashers that were made by some of their competitors. Every now and then a truly outstanding pen bearing their name will appear for sale. Those pens alone provide a wonderful legacy and boxes of their dip nibs are still commonly available in eBay.

9 thoughts on “Macniven & Cameron

  1. Hi,
    I suppose you are familiar with the advertising ‘verse’:

    They come as a boon and a blessing to men,
    the Pickwick, the Owl and the Waverley Pen.

    Cheers, Kevin.

  2. Thanks so much for this enlightening text. Now, I know the etymology of Waverley. I always thought IvanHoe and Roy Roy were Scott’s most famous… but what do I know… 🙂

    1. Hi Bob,
      Maybe those texts are better known now but Waverley was huge in the 19th century. I don’t suppose many people read Scott now. I do and I like his work but it can be hard going at times.

      1. That makes sense. As a kid I believe had several longan classics. One of them was IvanHoe. I never attempted to read any of his books… I were more into Russian and French authors..
        I still enjoy the the 1952 Ivan Hoe movie.. and often laugh at the finale, especially the way they volley of arrows are thrown like matchsticks…

  3. It doesn’t follow the novel. It has it has its own storyline. Mostly focused on Rebecca/Ivanhoe/ Bois Gilbert triangle. While the special effect are childish compared to Ridley Scott’s gruesome Gladiator, it’s enjoyable. Unfortunalty movies nowadays are either extreme violence, or extreme PG. Rare are movies in the middle path, with desensitized viewers… But I digress, from Waverley….

  4. What a timely article. Macniven & Cameron Fountain Pens have been my ‘obsession of the week’. I don’t suppose you know of a source anywhere that has a good list of the different finishes and models that they offered?

    1. Sorry, I don’t know of any such source. Macniven and Cameron isn’t well covered, either in print or on the web. If you use the search facility on my blog you’ll see the M&C pens I have covered.

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