Writing with Vintage Soennecken Nibs

June Burnett from the Calligraphic Society of Arizona shared these vintage Soennecken Nibs with me at our January Meeting. A former calligrapher donated lots of their supplies to the guild. I took the time at the last Calligraphy Meetup to try them out!

Who is Soennecken?

The nibs come from a factory owned by Friedrich Soennecken, a German entrepreneur and inventor. He is best known for his passion for rundschrift, a form of French Ronde calligraphy. His broad nibs went hand in hand with the copybooks he created for teaching it.

“Bonn” refers to the city the nibs were made in.

While clicking around, I found this cool article about nib-making in Germany. It’s always fun to learn how things are made!

A Close Look at These Interesting Nibs

F. Soennecken Nr. 400

This is actually 3 calligraphy nibs in one! The center nib is a bit wider that the lateral ones, which add decorative strokes as you write.

I didn’t realize it until looking at the photos, but the left set of the fine tines is bent. Checking your nib before you start write is one of the best ways to avoid common calligraphy problems!

F. Soennecken Rundschrift Bonn 80

At first, this looks like a scroll tip calligraphy nib. The tines are separate from each other. If you look closely, the bottom tine in the picture is actually wider than the top one. It’s also split into tines of its own! Normally, scroll tip nibs have tines that are equal widths.

Preparing the Nibs for Writing

It took me a few tries to remove all of the manufacturer’s protective coating to get each nib ready for writing. For more about preparing nibs, check out my article, How to Start a New Calligraphy Nib.

Writing in Calligraphy with the Seonnecken Nibs

Since each nib is shaped like a broad nib, I used a pen module to measure how tall to write the script. I chose Italic script and marked the height on the graph paper. Check out this video I made for more about pen modules and pen angles.

F. Soennecken Nr. 400

Since the nib was damaged, it was difficult to get it to write correctly. This was the only recognizable letter I wrote successfully with all 3 tines. Even then, the top and bottom strokes of the S only have 2 of the 3 lines. I also noted that a slanted writing surface would have helped to avoid too much ink pooling on the page. That said, this nib would make a great first letter to any manuscript!

F. Soennecken Rundschrift Bonn 80

I quickly fell in love with this nib! One of my favorite things is the subtle contrast that the 2 sizes of the tines offers. It was easy to write with and held ink nicely. I would use this nib for titles of poems or the odd word to write on a whim.

Next Time I Write with These Nibs . . .

I’ll try different papers! All I had with me at the meetup was John Neal Books’ graph paper. It’s great for practicing, but the nibs were so sharp that they cut into the paper. This, and having excess ink on the nib, caused the ink to feather.

I’ll also switch to a nib that isn’t damaged :/ and try different papers as well. Calligraphy with these nibs also lends itself to decoration, so it will be fun to add color or lines in the negative space of the strokes.

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