Friday, November 15, 2013

A jewel-tipped Mordan

Jewel-tipped nibs are rare, so this Mordan pen and pencil combination is something special. It is fully hallmarked for 1832/33, with maker's mark of Sampson Mordan and Gabriel Riddle. Both pencil nozzle and jewel-tipped nib retract in the usual manner.

The nib is lightly marked "MORDAN" on top of its shank. The tipping is intact on both sides, though its surfaces are a bit rough. Jewels were certainly hard, but not as resistant to chipping as iridium or osmium.

A project that needs doing is compiling a list of surviving jeweled nibs, as the numbers appear to be small indeed. If you have such a nib -- even if in very damaged condition -- please get in touch so we can make a start on this census.

What is a Waverley nib?

This is a Waverley nib. Its complex shape is best appreciated in a side view, which shows the necked collar, the three ridges, the up-down-up longitudinal contour, and the turned up tip.

The creation of the Waverley nib is credited to Duncan Cameron, who in 1850 joined his brothers as one of the principals of the Scottish firm of Macniven and Cameron. This date has sometimes been confused with the date of the Waverley nib's introduction, some fourteen years later. Production appears to have begun in 1864, with a British patent for the turned up tip issued in 1865 and a US patent in 1867. Elements of this distinctive design were later copied by other makers of steel and bronze nibs, but the only gold fountain pen nibs made in this form were those used in Macniven and Cameron's own "Waverley" fountain pens -- though usually without the upward bend at the tip.

The Waverley nib was very successful, and aggressively advertised. It remained in production until 1964 -- a full 100 years -- and though some sources assume this also marked the end of Macniven and Cameron, the company continued on, issuing a token to commemorate its bicentenary in 1970. Renamed Waverley Cameron, the firm ran into troubles in the late 1980s, but was only finally dissolved in 2012.

A few years ago, Richard Binder began to offer customized nibs with turned up tips, which he dubbed "Waverley" nibs as a tribute to Duncan Cameron and Macniven and Cameron.  Unfortunately, this led to a bit of confusion, with some collectors and pen sellers wrongly assuming that "Waverley" could be used as a generic term for any nib with a turned-up tip.

In fact, the original Waverley was neither the first nib with its point turned up, nor the only. Nor was its name ever used to denote anything but an actual Macniven and Cameron Waverley nib. And let us not forget that at least some original Waverley nibs -- Macniven and Cameron's own gold fountain pen nibs -- dispensed with the turn-up entirely!