Highley, a small village in the town of Bridgnorth. About half an hour’s drive from Wolverhampton, that was where my train stopped.
Our drive to the Manuscript HQ quickly brought me back to the leisurely cruise down the scenic roads in the Cotswolds earlier this summer. High hedges, intermittent patches of gold as we past the wheat fields and the winding country road. This is definitely not the place I imagined Manuscript to have its office in.
After all, it’s such a household name to anyone who practices calligraphy – traditional and modern.
If you aren’t sure what is this brand I’m talking about, here are some quick facts:
- They manufacture fountain pens and nibs, amongst other things.
- Leonardt 33, Leonardt EF Principle, Leonardt 40, Leonardt Round…. Ring any bell?
- They’ve recently launched their CalliCreative App which I reviewed. (Read more HERE)
Now if bulbs lit up when you saw Leonardt, you might wonder – I’m visiting the Manuscript HQ, why talk about another brand? To put it simply, this family owned business was born out of a necessity when numerous pen makers were closing shop. Eventually, it took over the production rights to the D.Leonardt & Co. brand which consists of the few main nibs we often see around.
Whilst it was established in 1989, its history stretches much further back to 1856.
Why am I so intrigued by the brand then?
As a calligraphy enthusiast, my collection of tools unsurprisingly boasts of a number of Manuscript products. The more I study the art, the more I want to understand the nibs I frequently use. Word has it that most of the staff working there have been there for ages!
Stepping into the factory took me back to the days when I ran amok in my grandfather’s noodles factory in Malaysia. The machines, jarring noise, and those aisles of goods stacked up to the ceiling all felt all too familiar.
I had such an insightful conversion with Tony, the man in charge of the production side of the things. As he brought me through the production process, I struggled to believe that I was actually standing in the very place where the magic happens. On top of that, many nuggets of history that Tony shared are still very much alive in the factory!
Take the machine above for an example. Purchased at a negligible amount of £1 back in the early days, this feller is still responsible for creating the Leonardt Principle EF that I personally love!
After a good chat and tour, I’ve come to learn why some nibs are more expensive than others. Take the Leonardt EF and Leonardt 40 for an example, both highly sought after and pricier. As compared to the broad edge and G nibs, the Leonardt EF and 40 aren’t entirely machine made. Once the base is stamped out of carbon sheets by the machine, the nibs are taken to the line where they’re split.
Because carbon is so much softer, this process has to be done by hand, very much unlike their stainless steel (the material used for hard nibs) counterparts.
The tour to the Manuscript office certainly makes it one of my most memorable trips since relocating to the UK. I love how there’s still an element of human touch to the whole brand albeit it means more tedious processes. The wealth of history and stories you hear about its journey is beyond inspirational.
One of the most fascinating pointers I’ve learnt is how the nibs actually look like before they get moulder into that curved shape. The come out flat first!! Well, of course they do now that I think about it.
By the end of the trip, I was basically satiated with information and ready for a good rest. If anything, the very story of this brand reminded me of a saying that goes – Big things often have small beginnings.
Now, if there’s one thing you’d like to find out about Manuscript Pens, what would it be?