In the hundred years or so between 1850 and WW2, Joseph Gillott produced his very best pen point, the Gillott No 1 Principality. Although advertised at the time in some British pen brochures, this nib was exclusively exported to the United States and became THE pen nib used by the great American master penmen and was the nib that gave Ornamental Penmanship its distinctive character, being so sharp as to produce incredibly fine hairlines, yet flexible enough to produce broad strokes. It was snappy in its action and the master penmen of that era adopted it wholeheartedly for their fine artistic penmanship and flourishing.
Business colleges teaching penmanship and many individual master penmen at the time had their own ‘named’ versions of the Principality such as the Zanerian Fine Writer used by students at the famous Zanerian College in Columbus, Ohio and Master Penman F. W. Tamblyn’s Tamblyn No 7, both Principalities, but by a different name. We call such named nibs, ‘imprint’ nibs. Nowadays the Principality is a very rare and highly sought after pen point by present day American penmen keen to improve their Ornamental Penmanship.
Not many penman today can say that they have been responsible for the production of a new style pen nib. However, Brian G. Walker can! He was the person responsible for the development of the popular Leonardt EF Principal Nib. With this excellent nib, the future of pointed pen calligraphy is in a better shape for both Copperplate and Spencerian scripts.
Here is how he did it!
In 2003, Brian and friend, Nick D’Aquanno in Philadelphia, were discussing the poor quality of pointed pen nibs available to Spencerians. They both approached pen nib manufacturers to see if there was any interest in developing a new modern pointed nib, but no-one seemed at all interested until Brian approached D. Leonardt & Co Ltd (Manuscript Pens Ltd). They expressed some support for the idea and said they would think about it.
Eventually, and not least after some considerable discussion, and also after Brian had ‘sacrificed’ one of his precious Principalities and a Gillott 604EF to the company, did they finally give the go-ahead to see what their engineer could come up with. A few months later, Brian received a few prototypes based on the Principality. He posted these at his own expense to a few ‘pen’ friends, especially in the United States, to gauge reaction. Comments were favourable. On the back of this early feedback Leonardt’s then produced another 28 prototypes and sent them to Brian. Again he posted many of them to penmen all around the world for their assessment. His own opinions on performance and those of his fellow penmen were again very positive and passed to Leonardt & Co Ltd. Based on all of this ‘free’ market research, in January 2005, Leonardt & Co Ltd finally went into production with the Leonardt EF Principal. This nib has since outsold every other pointed pen nib on the market.
The sequel to this story happened in 2007 when Brian again approached Leonardt & Co Ltd to ask about the possibility of having his own ‘imprint’ nibs as was the case in the past. They agreed to price up the tooling required and a few months later he received his first batch of Walker Fine Writers, named after, and in honour of, the Zanerian Fine Writer. Brian’s name and a ‘W’ logo are imprinted on each nib. It really is impossible today to match the absolute perfection of the original Principality simply due to the disappearance over time of many of the old hand-made skills. However, for those of you who are lucky to have one of Brian’s signature nibs, we are sure you’ll find the Walker Fine Writer as near to the Principality as it is possible to achieve today using a combination of technology and the few remaining old hand methods.
If you corresponded with or were mentored by Brian Walker, or if you would like to comment on his work or post a written tribute on the site, please get in touch. The Walker Family would love to hear from you.