The steel pen nib was invented in 1803.

russellm's picture

It was commercially available by 1819 and mass produced by 1830. Before then, it was feathers and reeds. I think I can see an influence on drawing techniques & styles around this time that could be attributed to the tougher, springier nature of steel.

Dumb question maybe, but, is there a corresponding influence of the steel pen nib on calligraphy, and by extension, extrapolation or stylistic influence or whatever on type design?

John Hudson's picture

What's your source for these dates?

The material of the nib has less influence than the shape of the nib. Why I wonder about the dates is that the style of lettering that we associate most strongly with the development of the steel nib (specifically the flexible, pointed steel nib) originated a hundred years earlier, in the early 18th century.

Nick Shinn's picture

French modernism (e.g. the Didot types) was the primary stylistic influence of the early 19th century.
If one makes the case for technological determinism, it must surely have occurred primarily at the print works and the foundry, with the technology behind the Didone style being harder steel, smoother paper, blacker inks, and greater precision ("high res" as we would term it today). In general, engineering precision was ramped up considerably at that time. Henry Maudslay had produced a bench micrometer with an accuracy of one ten-thousandth of an inch, in 1810. Type foundries were engineering works, more a part of the high-tech world of business and manufacturing than connected to the writing master.
So it's unlikely that a change in pen tech would have had a special influence on foundry work--also considering that there were new styles of lettering emerging in signage (e.g. the sans serif) and the new medium of lithography (illustrative lettering, e.g. pictures of words that looked like they were made out of tree branches) to contend with.

William Berkson's picture

As explained in this Wikipedia article, the pointed quill pen started to be used in the seventeenth century. By the mid-eighteenth century type styles began to be influenced by it, starting with Baskerville. The improvement in steel, they say, enabled production of pointed steel pens, which no doubt further promoted the styles of writing done with the pointed pen.

Syndicate content Syndicate content