Manuscript is a British company that has been around since 1856. Being around for over 150 years, it is no surprise that this is not my first experience with Manuscript. I seem to remember always seeing their starter calligraphy sets in WH. Smiths and Ryman. The ML1856 is, thankfully, a step-up from these sets. With a price of £125, one should hope so – but I will get to that at the end. This is certainly an improvement from their other products, which is encouraging to see.
I got the 1.5mm stub nib. In the ML1856 range, Manuscript offers a 1.1mm stub, 1.5mm stub and ‘handwriting nib’ options. The nibs are from JoWo in Germany and I think it is no surprise that Manuscript offer two stub nibs given their heritage. In my opinion, this allows Manuscript to pay homage to their past, while remaining a tool for the modern writer. This brings me on to the ‘handwriting nib’. It’s a medium nib – nothing special. The downside is that there are no (extra) broad/fine nib options.
However, if you do want something other than a medium or a stub nib, it shouldn’t be difficult to achieve; the ML1856 fits a #6 sized nib and the pen is very easy to disassemble – this will of course add to the cost. But it might be something that’ll appeal to some people, as it means you can have things such as gold (or even titanium! (which I reviewed separately for my Namisu review)) nibs as well as various other nib grades. The new nib won’t be branded with the Manuscript logo. Regardless, even though the medium is a ‘handwriting’ nib, you can still use the stubs perfectly normally. Writing the handwritten review, I actually found that I might prefer using a stub in some applications when I have time on my side, such as journalling, to write. For anyone who hasn’t tried a stub before, I would recommend trying one from someone like TWSBI, who do 1.1mm and 1.5mm stubs. At any rate, I would not recommend just spending £125 on a pen with a nib, such as this, you’re unsure of if you’ve never used it before. TWSBIs are cheaper, easier to source and will be easier to sell/trade if you don’t like the nib.
You may wish to try a Lamy Safari stub, but I don’t know how they feel in comparison. For what it’s worth, I prefer the 1.5mm stub compared to the 1.1mm. In addition, I know that Lamy offer 1.9mm stubs if that’s something you’re interested in and not something I see very often. I’m not aware of how easy it is to find these nibs, so if you can’t find them listed with Lamy pens from your retailers then it might be worth dropping them a message.
The stub nib means you can dive a little deeper into certain types of calligraphy. In my opinion this is how Manuscript stays true to their history. Writing with a stub means you can get some pretty awesome line variation, which lends itself nicely to things such as gothic scripts. I think it goes without saying, but the 1.5mm has more line variation than the 1.1mm. This is natural line variation and I am not talking about flex. In fact, I have found this particular nib to be very, very stiff (as you will see in the picture below).
The difference between a stub and an italic is that the edges are rounded off on a stub which means you will have a smoother experience than a true italic, but as a result you sacrifice crisper line variation. I think it’s this smoothness that means you don’t get much feedback. While this might be great for some, I personally prefer a touch of feedback when writing. The nib is wet and the feed keeps up well which is important for the nature of the nib. However, interestingly enough, I found that when I tried a friend’s medium – sorry – handwriting – nib, I found it to be far wetter than this one. Though as you can see below, this is definitely a wet nib. In terms of reverse writing, no. Just no. It feels horrible and is slightly difficult, as well as being extremely dry after a while. I also mentioned in the paragraph above that the nib is very stiff. I could squeeze some line variation, but it didn’t feel pleasant to do so.
So let’s talk about something other than the nib. How beautiful is this pen?! In fact, all of the designs are very nice. What strikes me is that they all have a custom pen aesthetic. Below are three pens that I think look like they could be custom pens due to their design. However, it’s only the John Twiss one on the right that’s custom made.
This particular design, Turquoise Ocean, is slightly translucent. If you hold the pen body up to the light, if you are able to see the ink level in your converter, as well as the converter itself. I’m sure I will be asked – yes you can eyedropper this. I want to make it clear however that it is not advertised as an eyedropper. I also haven’t tried using ink in it, but I have tried with water and it seems to be sealed.
I do find that Turquoise Ocean seems to have a feminine look to it. This isn’t something that really bothers me. But to some it may be a pro or a con. But I’m not one to be bothered. I think the design is hot. Though, I can’t seem to help and think that something like “Sea Green” would be a better name. It isn’t quite turquoise, but isn’t quite green either. #WhatColourIsTheDress?
The furniture on the pen, and indeed all of the pens in this line as far as I am aware, is silver. But while I prefer gold furniture, I think it would overpower the body. As with my M620 Piccadilly Circus I shall, on this occasion, accept silver. But on other models, I think gold would be a great feature.
Next is the clip. It has 1856 with two embossed circles. Why the circles? No, I don’t know either. I also don’t enjoy, and this is being extremely picky, the font that is used. I’m not sure if writing the year that the company was founded in a modern font is supposed to give some sort of contrast between old and new? If that is the case then they should’ve used a nicer font than what seems to be Arial (or at least some sort of sans-serif font). I would like to see something more calligraphic or classic. But at least it isn’t Comic Sans, ey?
The clip itself is somewhat stiff, but usable. Perhaps “stiff” is the wrong word. Maybe “strong”.
The cap screws off to reveal a resin section that matches the body and cap. It is long and flares at the bottom. Because of my weird grip, I do have my index on the threads, but I don’t feel them.
If you are someone who wants to post their pens, this isn’t for you. Though this is already a fairly decent size and I think posting would be unnecessary(M600 size uncapped). Posting makes it even larger by the fact that it doesn’t post very deep and the cap isn’t held on very securely either. What you are left with is a golf club. Personally I prefer larger pens. but Manuscript can appeal to all writers with this size – and it’s not a small pen at all anyway. Furthermore, because the pen is resin it is lighter compared to others. If you are doing some sort of calligraphy, then you would probably want a lighter pen. This would be a great way to segue into the weights and measurements… But that’ll be left for the end.
If you don’t want the Manuscript but are looking for something similar then I would suggest you look into custom pens. This will drive the price up depending on what you ask for, but you could easily get something very nice for roughly the same price as this – and of course it’s going to be custom to you. If I remember correctly, my John Twiss pen (above) cost me £135.
All in all, I am impressed with this pen and pleased with how it performs in comparison to other Manuscript products I’ve used. However, I don’t think that I am £125 worth of pleased. It seems much of the price is the aesthetic, which is understandable up to a certain limit, but £100+ is above that limit. The pen offers stub nibs, which I think is great, but so do other brands; there’s nothing offered like a piston filling mechanism or a gold nib. As I said, I am impressed, but I think this would sit better in a price range of £50-70. I mentioned my Twiss pen costing £135 and personally I think it’s worth the extra tenner, but at a lower price I wouldn’t be as pushed to make a £85-65 jump.
Weights & Measurements:
- Pen – 22g
- Body – 12g
- Cap – 10g
- Capped – 133mm
- Posted – 175mm
- Uncapped – 120mm
Handwritten review (Blackstone Golden Wattle ink on Fabriano 85gm/m2 dot):
This pen was provided by Manuscript in exchange for an honest review. All views expressed are my own and I received no other compensation for providing this review.