There’s Gold In Them Thar Nibs: Eberhard Faber No. 506


As the label says, this is a box of Eberhard Faber gold-plated nibs. It’s still sealed too, but not for long.


I don’t know their exact age but working backward from the year the Eberhard Faber Company moved from Brooklyn, they are a minimum of 60 years old (and could be considerably older).


I still have everything to learn about dip pens and nibs, etc., but I’ve always been curious about something…


When pens like these were in their heyday, how long would a nib such as this one be expected to last? And what would be the likely reason it had to be replaced—did the tines eventually become bent and/or separated, or did people misplace or lose them easily?

In other words would the average office desk have a box containing a gross of these, or were they purchased and used more conservatively?



A certain knowledgable, temporary Montevidean has informed me that these are nibs for fountain pens rather than dip pens; they match exactly those found on E. Faber Perma-point pens. While it answers one question it presents another: Is a box like this for the average pen owner, or perhaps something a reseller would be more likely to stock?

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Seven Years


WordPress informs me that Contrapuntalism has turned seven. And as it is with most anniversaries, I’m left wondering where the time has gone.


I started blogging slowly with a site called Pencils and Music, which like a lot of blogs ended up being more of a false start. That blog was rolled into BlackwingPages, which would end up having a much narrower focus.


I found that I missed posting about the historical aspects of pencil-making (and in diminishing frequency) the occasional music-related post, so I started Contrapuntalism.


Over the past seven years this blog has become an outlet for my interest in writing culture, but more specifically the histories of A.W. Faber and the Eberhard Faber Company. I could not have imagined some nine years ago that what started in my office as an online search for some “good” pencils, would eventually result in the privilege of meeting and spending time with both Anton Graf von Faber-Castell and Eberhard Faber IV, much less to have been given the opportunity to pore over the original photos and handwritten documents of their ancestors.


The work continues at a disparate pace, but I’ve taken the first steps toward having the Eberhard Faber Co. documents professionally conserved and collected into a preservation-class digital archive: about 600 pages have been scanned, including the handwritten minutes from the Board of Directors meetings from 1898 to 1911, as well as university documents belonging to Johann Eberhard Faber (1822-1879) dating back to the 1840s. Also, there have been some preliminary discussions concerning university hosting for the collection, which will ultimately result in making it available to the public.


I can’t predict if and when it might all be online, but I’m glad to say that all of this work and research is moving in the right direction.

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A.W. Faber-Castell: 1972 Frankfurt Trade Show

This clip is from UFA (Universum Film) Dabei, 1972. It is a brief look at some products that A.W. Faber-Castell offered at the 1972 Frankfurt Trade Show.

The music is a perfect fit.

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A.W. Faber-Castell: Welt im Film

Beginning in May, 1945, the American and British occupying powers produced a newsreel called Welt im Film. Its purpose was political: to reeducate the German population, and to supplant the ideology of National Socialism with notions of democracy. To that end the effort was initially unsuccessful, for after more than twelve years of relentless propaganda German citizens were wary of any political messages in their media.

The Allied Powers would gradually reduce the policy content in the newsreels and replace it with more examples of human interest stories, as well as showcasing the rebuilding of German industry.

Here are two examples of Welt im Film, from 1946 and 1948 respectively, both of which feature pencil production at A.W. Faber-Castell. I have reformatted the videos for HD, and did some slight corrective work in an effort to improve the quality of the image.

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Keeping the Books


The Eberhard Faber Company suffered a devastating fire in 1872, destroying their first factory which was situated along the East River. At the time it was reported to have been a total loss, but remarkably this ledger book survived.

faber-accounting-book-8Cover of the ledger.

It was begun in 1857 and in it are some of the oldest surviving records of the Eberhard Faber Company, the majority of which detail the goods imported from the parent company A.W. Faber in Stein, Germany.




It also documents an auspicious time in the company’s history: the years leading up to and including the founding of their first factory, in 1861.




This ledger book reminds us of a time when handwriting was of paramount importance, as was the care and concern involved with “keeping the books.”

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Courante Events

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Passing The Barre Exam


The trees are turning in Wilkes-Barre and neighboring Bear Creek, Pennsylvania, where I recently visited for a few days. This is my third trip but I’m no closer to knowing the definitive pronunciation of “Barre.” It was a little easier to know when to switch to Missourah when I was living in Missouri. The funny thing is, of the three different ways “Barre” is often pronounced none reflect (what I presume to be) its French origins.

I was surprised when a little searching revealed that the “Barre” in Wilkes-Barre comes from an Irishman, called Isaac Barré (1726-1802). Nothing Irish about “Barré”, but his father Peter was a Huguenot who eventually settled in Dublin—French after all.

Speaking of French things, if you happen to visit Wilkes-Barre do yourself a favor and try Le Manhattan Bistro downtown.

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Graf von Faber-Castell: Magnum


Graf von Faber-Castell’s new magnum-format Perfect Pencil is as great as its name suggests.


The small linen pouch is always a nice touch; I feel more comfortable placing the pencil in my pocket or book bag if it’s not in my writing case.


Like the current Perfect Pencil, the magnum has a platinum-plated extender/sharpener. I admit that I’m still partial to the silver-plated items that were discontinued some time ago, but the platinum version has a brilliant luster that needs little in terms of polishing.


Compared with the Limited Edition Perfect Pencil (made of stainless steel) you can see that the dimensions are very similar. This is interesting to me because instead of just using the previous mold or model an entirely new part was made, but just a bit bigger.


The difference between the pencils’ diameters shows where the magnum gets its name:


The one thing I was curious about was the lead: it’s much thicker and a 4B. Even though German leads tend to be a little lighter as compared with U.S. leads (and even lighter compared with Japanese leads), the Faber-Castell 9000 3B is about as dark and soft as I like to go when it comes to writing. But this lead doesn’t just seem like a sized-up version of their 4B Castell 9000; it wears much more slowly and it seems to me that it’s quite a bit smoother. In fact, I would say it’s very similar to an older pencil of theirs, the Lay Out 2526it too has a very smooth, large diameter lead.


Even the eraser has been given the magnum treatment, being both longer and thicker than that found on the standard Perfect Pencil:


Several of Faber-Castell’s pencil lines are now available in “jumbo” sizes, so it makes sense that the Perfect Pencil would follow suit (perhaps the classic green plastic version will also be available in a jumbo version). I wonder if this version will appeal to current owners of the Perfect Pencil (it did this owner) or whether there is a target audience who has been waiting for just such an upgrade.

Special thanks to Faber-Castell for their peerless customer service.

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Eberhard Faber: Mongols, etc.


Further escapades in pencil B-roll (no audio this time).

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Oh, Canada

So a friend of mine, who lives in Germany, sent me a book recently. Delivery times vary but I noticed that this parcel was taking a little longer than usual. It finally arrived this past Saturday, complete with an explanation:


What amazes me most is, this happens frequently enough that a bespoke stamp had to be made. Who knows, maybe there’s an entire set…

Note to self: Don’t forget to write “Please Don’t Send To Canada” on all mail from now on that’s going to Europe and Japan, etc.

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