I sent away for some goose feathers and they arrived yesterday. There are numerous guides to their preparation on YouTube which should allow me to make a good quill. I have a small, thin-bladed knife – a gift from a kind friend – which should be perfect for the cuts one must make to prepare the point. I’m looking forward to the challenge.
I used to have sight of birth, death and marriage registers dating back to the middle of the 19th century. At that time all entries were made by quill pen and they included the best handwriting I have ever seen. Every entry was a work of art. Clearly there was much more to that high quality of writing than the use of the quill, but it must have played a part.
Each registrar would have had the skill to cut his quill to suit his hand and the way he (they were all men in the early years) wrote. This, it seems to me, is a better way than adjusting your hand to the unchangeable metal nib later registrars used. The style and quality of the handwriting declined as the years went by.
For most practical purposes the metal nib, whether of the steel dip variety or the gold nib housed in a fountain pen, were short-lived Johnny-come-latelies in comparison with the many centuries when the quill was what writing was produced with. Were they an improvement? I think that they were, but some artistic quality may have been lost when the quills were laid away.