Pointed Pen Calligraphy Guides

Jay LanglyJay Langly Posts: 33
edited September 2013 in Technique and Theory
I'd like to explore Didone typefaces and want to start with a pointed pen – but I'm far away from any calligraphy workshops and the like.

Could anyone point to (or even provide if one could be so kind!) resources or exemplars for pointed pen calligraphy for roman scripts?

I can find a lot on copperplate, spencerian and other italic scripts but I'm not interested in this. Also not interested in broad-nibbed exemplars!


edit: something like this but for Latin is exactly what I'm looking for!image


  • You may be able to find what you need in this collection of rare calligraphy books:
  • Nice image. Where's that from?

    With regard to the writing of formal roman letters with a split (pointed) nib pen; it's an odd blind spot in most calligraphy manuals. It was one of the standard hands of the 18th Century writing masters, and appears in all their copy books, but without enlarged ductus diagrams.

    But pretty much everything you need to figure out the appropriate ductus for such letters is included in your Cyrillic image, and is mostly not dissimilar to broad nib patterns. You need to watch out never to push the split nib, hence the separate stroke (2) for the top of the bowl of the a.


    If you're interested in the history of this style, you might enjoy my contribution to the 2012 ISType history panel (video; poor audio quality).
  • This a sort of Cyrillic version of Erik van Blokland's pointed pen classes. Give me a day or so and I'll send u a copy.
  • ...or ask Erik.
  • Search Villu Toots (Pictures, etc). Legendary Estonian calligrapher.
  • Look also at Letterror's Salmiak which is strongly based on Erik's pointed pen didone: https://www.letterror.org/catalog/salmiak/index.html
  • Jay LanglyJay Langly Posts: 33
    edited September 2013
    Thanks for the examples, I have looked on IAMPETH but most of it is broadnibbed or italic scripts.

    I found the original Cyrillic one on a Typophile thread. (Where Ramiro actually contributed the original for)

    @ Ramiro Espinoza: I have also contacted Erik in the mean time.
  • Here you have a model of similar origins by Frank Blokland.
  • maybe off topic, but how does one draw the vertical serifs, such as those on S or Z?
  • @Jay: just by drawing/filling. Do some experiments and find your way :)
  • Letterform Archive:
    The more significant influence on the form of these examples may in fact be the engravers burin.
    I'm not convinced. George Shelley was critical of the ability of engravers to accurately represent the quality of his pen-written forms. And if you look at the first known engraving of the English Roman style (John Seddon, 1695; exhibiting a much stronger and consistent vertical stress than in the much earlier van den Velde roman), there is a significant difference in quality between the engraving of that style than the others and ornaments in the same specimen and even on the same page. This suggests to me that the style was novel for both the writer and the engraver, and that the latter was trying his best to copy what the writer had done, rather than his burin being the more significant influence on the form.
  • John Hudson:

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    You may be right, that's why I qualified that statement with "may".

    And you're certainly correct about the van den Velde not exhibiting consistently vertical stress, although the "a" is remarkably Didone like. I included it because of the ductus, which I couldn't find elsewhere.

    On the other hand, the Nicolas/Bickham is a beautiful Didone precursor.

    Shelley was hardly the only writing master to complain about engraving, which tends to support the theory that the burin influenced the forms.

    I think a more important take away in this context is that some flexible nibs can also have a slight edge, which makes roman a little easier. It's also likely that the roman, whatever nib was used, was less freely calligraphic and a little more pen fiddled.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 905
    edited September 2013
    [off topic: Rob — Welcome. I just wanted to point out that we here at TypeDrawers prefer to use real names for user names. I encourage you to revise yours accordingly. ]
  • Rob SaundersRob Saunders Posts: 6
    edited September 2013
    Done. Thanks for pointing that out, Kent.
  • Deleted AccountDeleted Account Posts: 739
    edited September 2013
    Seems like there ain't much missing from your first illustration to draw Latin without further guidance, except that the guy's wife called for him to pick up some cabbage on the way home before he could finish the ë, and he completely forgot to label where you are supposed to switch hands.
  • Rob, that's a great post!

    I realised Gerrit Noordzij's Ruse is also a great example to follow.
  • You're most welcome, Jay.

    As you can see, John and I may not agree about all the details of how these forms evolved. I'm more than willing to concede that he may be right.

    From your point of view, I think it's important to have plenty of good examples in front of you, and then trust the tool to show you the way.

  • I'm also willing to concede that Rob may be right. But I think it will be more interesting if we continue to argue our corners as the opportunity arises.

    I do encourage you to look at Bickham's compendium, and to realise that it represents a fully integrated standard writing hand by about 1735. Every one of the writing masters represented in The Universal Penman includes a formal roman in his repertoire. Tellingly, Joseph Champion refers to his as 'Print Roman' -- he also shows a 'Print Italic' --, despite producing these a decade before Baskerville had John Handy produce the first printing types in this style. I believe the intention of Seddon and Shelley, rapidly copied by contemporary writing masters such as John Ayres, was to create a style of formal roman lettering that would take its place within the larger scribal aesthetic that had developed within the 17th Century, focused on the split, flexible nib. Contemporary types, still based on late renaissance models, failed in this regard, as is painfully obvious in some engraved copy books from the early 18th Century that have typeset frontis matter.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 530
    edited September 2013
    At first look, many of the Bickham's engraving seems to be done using pointed pen, but to me they seem to be flat-nib pens.

    In "Directions for Learners" you can read: "Make all your body strokes with the full, & all hair strokes with the corner of your pen".
    After seeing the originals in the London Freemasonry Museum, I'm pretty convinced that the full-to-hairline transitions were made by varying the pressure and slightly rotating the nib toward the edge at the same time.

    Another common misconception about the Bickhams:
    1) George Bickham Junior (†1758) was not the was not the son of George Bickham Senior (†1769) but a nephew. Also, Bickham Junior was probably the teacher of Bickham Senior, not the other way around, as one may suppose at first glance.
    2) John Bickham was the father of George Bickham Senior (probably the brother of Bickham Junior?)

    - George Bickham Junior:
    1733 Penmanship made easy. Young Clerks Assintant
    1736 The Musical Entertainer

    - George Bickham Senior:
    1740/1741 The Universal Penman

    Also of importance, is the mane of Hubert Francoise Gravelot. A french engraver who lived in London, and was the designer of some/all of the vignettes and illustrations. Bickham's french style of engraving certainly owed much to Hubert Francoise Gravelot.

  • Rob SaundersRob Saunders Posts: 6
    edited September 2013
    John Hudson:

    I'm guessing we'll agree more often than not, but what fun is a debate if you don't take sides? It was indeed a pleasure sparring with you, sir.
  • Pablo Impallari:

    Not sure if you saw my blog post (linked above), but I agree with you about the edged pen.

    If you've only used metal nibs, you're likely to assume flexible and edged are mutually exclusive. Quills easily embody both qualities. To really know how it felt for van den Velde, Seddon, Snell, et al., one needs to learn how to cut a quill.
  • All these controversies vanish when you take a feather and learn how to cut and use a quill. Expansion, translation and rotation can happen at the same time in the hands of an experienced calligrapher.
  • Or even a nice gold nib wet noodle.
  • Laura Worthington introduced me to wet noodle pens last year, and I'm very impressed with the flexibility of their nibs. Of course, the first thing I did when she let me try one of hers was to write the word 'Baskerville' in English Roman style. Very satisfying, and easier than I expected.
  • Michael ClarkMichael Clark Posts: 138
    edited September 2013
    Jay, this was done with a pointed pen, if you would like a ductus contact me privately. You can click on the image to enlarge it. Done very small and enlarged (for touch up) for the George Washington Foundation.

    As John stated, this is one area where the printed info is sparse or non existent.

    Rob... if you look at your last e.g. (on your blog) the words PART 1... that is most definitely a chisel edged pen, as to the rest I would have to see a better sample. But anytime I see biased stress I go with the chisel edge!
    d.jpg 73.6K
  • Michael, what you've managed to do in the leg of the k is impressive: not a shape I normally associate with the pointed nib.
  • John, needless to say it was not the first one out of the pen! I have fixed a number of characters (width) since then.
  • Alexis SamsonAlexis Samson Posts: 11
    edited March 2015
    Coming to an old thread again:
    You need to watch out never to push the split nib, hence the separate stroke (2) for the top of the bowl of the a.
    Could someone please explain what 'push the split nib' means? I thought that the nib splits by a writer pushing the pen down?

    Is the bowl of the a in two strokes because if one was going from the stem towards the left, then down in one stroke, it would make for a bad angle for the downward stroke of the nib? I guess I will find out once I try a flex nib for the first time!
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