Category Archives: 2017

2017 Raffle Winners

One of the biggest factors in helping Scriptus continue year-after-year is the raffle. Our fourth show was supported wholeheartedly by many exhibitors, and we had a record number of prizes on offer. The draw was held in the last hour of the show, and we are happy to announce the results!

Nell Carter • Canada 150 Bundle • Pomegranate Letterpress & Design
Natalie Tsui • Cherry Oblique Pen Holder & Nibs • Toronto Pen Company
Dominic Conforti • 7 Pen Stand • Timber Elegance
Yoram Shelley • Montblanc Anniversary Edition
Safety Pen •
Be Urbane
Stan Smith • Lamy Safari Fountain Pen •
• Caran d’Ache Popline Ballpen •
Leuchtturm1917 Notebook •
• Sailor Jentle Ink •
• J Herbin 1798 Amethyst Ink •
Phidon Pens
Greg Ricci • Cross Matrix Fountain/Ballpoint Pen • Murtaza Amarshi
Linden Laserna • Canada 150 Limited Edition Greeting Card • Roses Without Thorns
Eric Bruce • Diplomat Excellence Fountain Pen •
• Diamine Sapphire Blue Ink •
• Leuchtturm1917 Notebook •
Knight’s Writing Co
Lauren Beaton • Taroko Design Notebooks •
• Robert Oster “River of Fire” &
“Purple Soul” Inks •
Jennifer Quill • Exposed-binding Custom Notebook • Grace Notes Press
John Trebych • Lamy LX Rose Gold Fountain Pen •
• J Herbin Ink •
• Leuchtturm1917 Notebook •
Knight’s Writing
J Wise • Edison Collier Fountain Pen •
• Kobe Ink
Wonder Pens
Lesley Kovacs • Robert Oster Ink 4-pack with card •
• 2 Bottles Blackstone Ink •
• 3 Tomoe river Notebooks
Claimed at show • Montblanc “Noblesse” Fountain Pen • Pearce Jarvis
Sunil Sebastian • Show Ink: Confederation Brown • Scriptus
Graeme Spicer • Artwork • Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto
Aykut Gurcaglar • Sheaffer Targa slim fountain pen •
• Pen Storage Box •
Bryan & Cheryl Hall
Claimed at show • DuPont Orpheo, in case • Mark Sheppard
Kevin Shin
Maria Pacheco
Elaine Chak
Melissa Breakwell
Shawn Kinghorn
Elena Woo
Jazmyn Ballaret
King Tung
One claimed at show
• $25 Gift Certificate •

All of the winners will be contacted individually with details as to how to collect their prizes.

We would like to extend a special word of thanks to Peter Laywine and his staff at Laywine’s Pens & Organizers for their extra help and assistance in connection with the raffle.

Our congratulations go out to all of the winners. And our greatest thanks go to the prize donors and everyone who donated to Scriptus by participating in the raffle this year. Thanks to you we can look forward to Scriptus 2018!

A Giant Thank You

Once again Scriptus has come and gone. And once again it was a huge success! With over 1,000 visitors spending the day with us, the challenge could have been overwhelming. Why do we say “could have”? Because, with an army of volunteers to call on, the day was smooth and clear! And several cheerfully laboured for the entire day.

As an additional note, Peter and his staff at Laywine’s have not only volunteered to distribute our raffle prizes, but (in lieu of a raffle prize, at our request) also provided a thank-you gift for each volunteer.

The Scriptus team would like to give a huge shout of thanks to all of our volunteers at Scriptus 2017, in no particular order:

Lisa Cox (co-ordinator)
Priscilla Yu (raffle)
Harry Kassabian
Karen Feder
Gilbert Salgado
Martin Franklin
Scott Hamel
Chris Foley
Shaun Browne
Lucy Zhang
Helen Skibinski
John Trebych
Sue Massie
Ken Geniza
Hui Jun Chew
Brian Smith
Kristin Glasbergen & Family
Vivienne Cutting
Richard Farmer
Allan Friedman
Kathryn Edgecombe
Jeanne Grosman
Sue Robinson
Graham & Angela Yeates
Andrew Timar
Kimberly Anne Gabriel
David Bidner
Paul Kay
Isabel Zhang
Claire Chiba
Brenda Humby
Marie Cadena-Desrochers
Gordon Moir

Scriptus 2017 Show Map & Directory

With under a week remaining until the show, our team is working hard to ensure that things run smoothly for everyone. We are happy to announce that the Exhibitors Map & Directory is now available for download.

Also worth mentioning: are you overwhelmed by crowds? Highly sensitive? On the spectrum? So are some of us! Last year’s excellent blog post Scriptus & the Introvert, is written by a member of the Scriptus team on the autism spectrum. It provides some excellent strategies for anyone who loves pens & writing, but can’t stand crowds, and we encourage anyone facing these issues to check it out when planning to visit Scriptus 2017.

The countdown is on, and we look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday!

The Last Chapter

We are happy to announce that pre-ordering is now open for the Scriptus Canada 150 pen, commissioned for Scriptus 2017.

The lovely Scriptus Canada 150 show pen, styled after the classic designs of the 1930s. Honouring the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation, this pen has been produced in a limited edition of 150, custom-made for us by the Bexley Pen Company, of Columbus, Ohio.

Made of Japanese-manufactured red ebonite, with a subtle flecked gradation. The classic gold-pated roller clip is attractive, and easy on clothing.

We have opted for an elegant section, longer than usual in modern pens. This ensures that this pen is a joy to hold, for all ages and hands. The section is made of black plastic, to avoid ink staining.

A steel Jowo #6-sized nib is provided with the pen, in either fine, medium, or broad width. This gives each pen owner the future option of swapping in a gold Jowo nib of any available style, if they wish to do so. (Please note: Scriptus does not supply gold nibs, but they are available from a number of pen shops & online vendors.)

We cannot guarantee that any particular serial number is still available, but if you have a preference, please let us know and we will do our best to accommodate your choice.

Can be filled using cartridges, or a converter and bottled ink. Safe for use with super-saturated, or boutique inks!

The price of $275 includes taxes and is in Canadian dollars, of course.

Click here to go to the pre-order page.

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Here, There, and Everywhere

So it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Obviously, with Scriptus being only just over a week away. Following a bit on the last post’s trend, it started with this photo:

Show Pen Caps

David “Caps are good. They look nice, and they are done.”

Philip “They are done. And they do look nice.”

David “What would be great, is if the rest of the pens were done, too.”

Philip “Funny you should say that. Howard says they are finishing up the barrels today, and the barrel engraving tomorrow. He hopes to have them in the mail by the end of the week.”

One good thing is that the USPS is excellent; two days gets pretty much anything anywhere. And in this case, Heinz Dschankilic (, one of the stalwarts of the Cambridge Pen Breakfast, has graciously volunteered the use of his Niagara Falls, NY, shipping address. Being able to negotiate customs ourselves will be a huge time-saver.

And the next day:

Philip “Incoming.” [Our code for ‘check your email, I just sent you something.’] “And pens have shipped.”

Finally, the show pen!

And here is what came in:

Finally, the finished goods!

And sure enough, after the Pen Breakfast on saturday, Philip and Heinz took a trip over the border, and picked up the pens. All 150 of them.

Which is when the worrying stopped, and the work began. Photos? We need better photos! Can we get one out for review? How about measurements? And a web page? We need the pre-sales web page up and running! Do we add a shipping option? No, right, they are just for pick-up at the show. Unless we don’t sell all of them. We’ll sell all of them.

Why are we doing this again? Right. Because it’s for Scriptus, and Scriptus is fun. It really is.

Red Alert

Philip “So, it looks like our pen is red.”

You know how some TV shows drop a bomb at the beginning, and then flash back to show you how it all happened? I hate that too. But that is what we are doing for this chapter of The Scriptus Show Pen Saga.

It began, simply enough, with a photo. One of Howard’s update photos. This photo:

It was sent attached to an email, the likes of which was music to our ears:

Dear Philip,

Attached picture shows the top screws being assembled with the brass joiner screw and an assembled cap ready for sanding and polishing.

The caps are in second machining operation now and should be completed by the end of the day.

Still have the barrels to make through two operations and the sections through the second operation. All seems to be running smoothly.

Best Regards,

That is to say, the email was great. The photo rang some alarm bells.

David “You know, those caps look awfully red to me.”

Philip “I’m sure the ripple will come out when they buff them.”


David “So, do you think it might be a good idea to drop him a line, just to make sure there was no confusion, and they used the right rod stock?”

Philip “I’m sure everything will be fine.”


Philip “I’ll call him tomorrow.”

[An hour passes.]

Philip “So, it looks like our pen is red.”

There was some other conversation, covering such diverse and surprising topics as ‘What the heck happened!?’, and ‘Is there time…?’, and ‘What do we do now?’ The details are trifling and, occasionally, frustration seeps through. The argument that trumped it all was Philip’s:

Philip “I can send you the entire email chain if you like, so you can see in hindsight where things went off the rails. This is not tact, but ownership.”

Remember last chapter where, in a stroke of unintentional foreshadowing, we mentioned that careful design can fall apart when faced with the reality of production? And that sometimes designers get surprised with results when it is all too late to change anything?

Well, there comes a point where you just sigh and take ownership of the situation, which is yours, and do what you can to see the best in it. There are only a few weeks left until the show, which is far too little time to make any changes to the show pen.

As the executive partner (in my marriage) put it:

Michele “Red isn’t so bad. Philip wants it to be a Canada 150 pen, right? Well, the mounties wear red serge. And the flag has a red maple leaf, right in the middle. You can’t get more Canadian than red!”

And it’s still hard rubber, which, as we mentioned way back in chapter two, is an excellent material.

We instantly sent out an email to everyone who has committed to buy a show pen (mostly people who regularly attend the pen meet-ups where Philip held his focus groups). And, perhaps surprisingly, of the 18 committments, only four changed their minds. And someone jumped in, because they like red.

Let that be a lesson to all us pessimists out there.

2017 Show Ink: Confederation Brown

Label calligraphy by Salman Khattak ( Line art by Alannah (@iamjoopiter)

We are happy to announce the arrival of hundreds of pounds of ink, in crates, in Philip’s living room!

The Scriptus 2017 ink is Conferedation Brown, again formulated especially for us by KWZ Ink, in Poland. As always, Konrad has created an exciting ink, unlike most of what is available today.

For those who like reviews, you can read an extensive—and favourable—one on the GourmetPens blog

This ink will once again be available only at Scriptus 2017; price will be $16, all-inclusive. We have ordered 480 bottles this year, which is a substantial increase, but we will be limiting purchase quantities to 2 bottles per person in the vain hope that everyone who wants it will get some.

Just what we all needed: another reason to look forward to Scriptus!

We would also like to thank: Salman Khattak ( for his label calligraphy; Alannah (@iamjoopiter) for her label art; and Claudia Astorquiza ( for her creative input.

Reading and Writing

Philip “It’s Canada 150! Who doesn’t want to celebrate Canada 150?”

David “Me?”

Philip “Well, the show pen is going to be a Canada 150 celebration: restrained, elegant, red ripple. And it needs to be on the imprint, too.”

The imprint on a pen is a funny thing. Some people like it, some people don’t. And some people only like it when it is very, very minimal. But imprints on pens are as old as fountain pens themselves.

Early advertising pen: Birk’s Jewellers.

In the early days, pens (or “pen holders”, as they were called) were often used as advertising, much as they are today. In those days, a stamp was made with the manufacturer’s (or the sponsoring business’) name on it. The stamp was heated, and the design was pressed into the hard rubber body of the pen.

As the idea of branding took hold, pen imprints became more complicated. There are dozens of Parker imprints for the Duofold alone, and they changed so often that they are often used to identify the date of a pen’s manufacture.

But, when it comes to printing, and branding, typography can be a slippery slope. The way people take in information changes over time, and that includes what, and the way, they read.

An example of “American Artistic” printing, from the late 1800s.

Victorian printing was a busy, busy place. People read long, flowery prose, and they expected their advertising copy to be similar.

A sample from the American Type Founders 1923 catalog.

As time went on, tastes changed. With the “Arts & Crafts” movement of the early 1900s, simplicity became popular. Printing, tied up as it is in advertising, tends to move slowly. But printing was also a big part of the new artistic movement. So thanks to such influencers as William Morris and Elbert Hubbard, printing was grabbed by the scruff of the neck and propelled into simple elegance. And it never really recovered. Today, people are used to logos, and tend to read quick snippets of text.

What does this printing history have to do with our pen?

Just like decisions about typography in the past, there are quite a few considerations when it comes to what we put on the Scriptus pen:

  • Is the imprint simply informational, or should it have an artistic purpose?
  • Is it advertising? If so, what brand do we want to identify when people look at it? Do we have an exact logo to reproduce?
  • How much space is there on the ‘canvas’?
  • What do people expect to see on a pen?
  • What typographic rules, if any, do we follow?

Another issue is one of trademark law. When it comes to font design, the work is covered by trademark, not copyright. So if we want to use a particular font, we have to be careful to use one we have permission to use: either overt permission from the designer, or a purchased copy with such rights attached to the license.

So, we have a few design choices. (And by “few, I mean: a ton.)

Fortunately, modern reading habits work well on a pen, and the Scriptus logo is more the italic-set name than a graphic.

Philip wants something with a swashy feel to it. “A nice script” is how he put it. And it needs to include “Scriptus”, “Canada 150”, and the edition number “xx/150”.

When designing print for something small, there is no point making it computer-screen-big; it will look completely different when pen-barrel-small. So, here is what he had to browse:

The font style of the last one was chosen (Zapfino, a font by one of the most talented designers of the 20th century, Hermann Zapf. I approve.)

But the imprint will best if it matches the long, slim profile of the pen itself. Oh, and Howard doesn’t have Zapfino, so he will just substitute something else similar.

It’s the curse of the designer: you plan, and design, according to someone else’s aesthetics. The manufacturer receives the design. It falls apart when it hits the reality of the factory floor. You wait, and wait, and wait. And then you get to see the finished product on the same day as everyone else, when it’s too late to change anything.

Just think, there are some people who do this for a living.

Scriptus 2017 Call For Volunteers

Six weeks. Six weeks? Six Weeks!!

With only six weeks to go until Scriptus 2017, we are in need of our faithful army of volunteers. Could you help out, even for just an hour? Because the show is non-profit in nature, volunteers are vital for it’s smooth functioning.

Our volunteer information page (and application form) are at:

Some of the volunteer tasks this year include:

  1. Load-In Volunteers: Helping our vendors in from the loading area and finding their tables is the first, important job of the morning of the show. Volunteers doing this will assist our vendors with their materials and distribute vendor packets that contain information as well as their identification badges. The vendors must have these badges in order to access the showroom prior to the opening of the show. We’ve had problems with customers getting in before the show officially opens and we’d like to have some control over this and allow the vendors ample time to set up.
  2. Welcome and Floating Volunteers: These volunteers will welcome, direct and answer questions from customers. We will have a table of maps to ATMs, maps to vendors, etc.
  3. Raffle Table Volunteers: Our central event of the show is our raffle. It’s how we keep the show free to attend and pay for the space. We have a fantastic lineup of items this year, including a generously-donated MontBlanc fountain pen. Volunteers will sell raffle tickets and for the draw at the end of the day – 1 ticket for $5, 3 tickets for $10 (cash only—money box and cash float will be provided). If you don’t know much about specific pens, not to worry! I will provide cards with information on the items for you to consult.
  4. Show Ink Volunteers: We have an ink that is made specifically for our show by KWZ. This will be our third year selling our show ink and if our previous years have been an indication, the ink is extremely popular and sells quickly! These sales are cash only and a money box and cash float will be provided.
  5. Show Pen Volunteers: If you’ve been following the Scriptus blog, you’ll know that Bexley is making a pen for us this year. There will be 150 of them and Square will be provided for credit card sales.

Our volunteer information page (and application form) are at:

If you have any questions or concerns about volunteering, please feel free to contact our volunteer co-ordinator, Lisa, at

All That Glitters…

“Say, how do like your new pen?”

It seems like a strightforward question, doesn’t it? But the answer you might get depends entirely on when you ask. Or, rather, in what era you asked.

Today, the answer might include details about the model, the colour, or the materials of which said pen is made. The proud owner might wax on about it’s rarity, heft, or it’s writing qualities.

But if you had asked that question 125 years ago, the answer would have been much, much different.

Gold pens=nibs, circa 1925.

Back in the early days of writing equipment, your “pen” meant only one thing: the nib. All else was just details; a means of holding the “pen”. In fact, early fountain pens were actually called “pen holders”, because that is all they were considered to be. And in many ways, that nib-centric way of viewing the world isn’t a bad one at all.

The nib is the most vital part of a pen. It is the interface between the user and the paper that will receive the message. A scratchy nib is a recipe for distraction. A nib which is damaged renders a pen useless, in a way that other repair issues may not. And opinions about nib sizes and qualities are the cause of many a heated debate in the fountain pen community.

So when it comes to our show pen, the nib is a big, big decision.

Philip “We can’t.”

David “What do you mean ‘we can’t’?”

Philip “It’s just too expensive. We can sell a pen for $275, but I just can’t see $600 going over too well. And that’s where we would have to be.”

David “But…it’s not a real pen if it’s not gold!”

Philip “I know. but there are some good steel nibs available. And Cyn suggested that, if we go with Jowo, people could just upgrade on their own.”

Nibs have always been important in pen manufacture; making one’s own nibs was often considered to be a graduation into serious business. The best pen makers were referred to as “first tier”, and they all made their own nibs, in-house.

So-called ‘nib meisters’ today are viewed as modern-day magicians, with mystique and arcane lore unknown by others. Similarly, the nib departments in the past were often viewed as being the most skilled of the entire work force. And for good reason.

Nib making combined the skill of jewellers with the knowledge of engineers and the tools of watch-makers. The materials were (and are) worth thousands of dollars for even small quantities. and even the smallest of mistakes could render a day’s work useless. Rolling out gold sheets; welding on tipping material; stamping, polishing and shaping the finished product: it was all done by hand. Expert hands.

History of Foleys Gold Pens: illustrated details of mid-1800s nib manufacture.

(“History of Foleys Gold Pens” is a lovely (and public domain) combination of catalogue and simple textbook, with fabulous illustrations of 19th century nib-making techniques and technology. Click on the blue book at left for a free pdf copy. It’s a lovely read.)

Today, almost all of the nibs in the world are made by just a handful of specialist companies. The best, by just two venerable German companies: Bock, and Jowo. And, much as it would be best to have a gold nib, if you have to settle for a steel one, you may as well get one from a firm which has been making them since the 1850s.

And, as Cyn (a long-standing and enthusiastic member of the Toronto pen community) suggested, you can easily swap out a steel Jowo nib for a gold one. You just pull out the old one, and stick in the new one. The repairman in me both cringes, and cheers.

And, a good steel nib writes very well. Especially if it has proper tipping material welded on the end.

So, steel it is. It kind of glitters, when the light hits at just the right angle.