August 11, 2015

‘His Nibs’ Philip Poole


[Posted on L&P on Sept 9-12, 2008.]
        I hope everyone here is familiar with Philip Poole.  He was already mentioned further up in this blog a few times.  As well as his other achievements, he also reprinted some very early articles on pens that he found.  One of those reprints was an article from The Engineer’s And Mechanic’s Encyclopaedia titled
simply Pens.  It originally appeared in 1843, and he reprinted it circa 1979.  The other reprint was a series of articles from The Saturday Magazine that was reprinted circa 1977, but this one appeared with an old-fashioned, mile-long title, in the style of the titles from the 1800s, A Series of Articles On Writing Materials from the Saturday Magazine by an author, regrettably anonymous, & originally published in the years 1838-39 & 1834 by John William Parker, West Strand in weekly numbers price One Penny & in monthly parts price Sixpence, and Humbly Reprinted by His Nibs Philip Poole of number 182 Drury Lane in the County of London for the Edification of the Public’s Artistic taste & general Knowledge.
        I didn’t have actual copies of those reprints, but a while ago I found some of those articles on Google Books.  This is what John Chapman was talking about above when he wrote about “a critical change in the information on the web”, and a “wealth of information [and] primary source material made available on the web”.  These old print sources were always available in hardcopy in the libraries around the world, but there is a crucial difference now that they have been digitized.  Before, someone had to stumble upon these finds while looking for something else, and then he or she had to read the lengthy article for pertinent quotes and passages.  Now, they are completely word-searchable in an instant!  When you find one of these online repositories full of digitized reprints, just search for the words “pen” and “pens”, and you will find a lot of metaphoric uses of the words such as “from the pen of” and “to pen the story” and “created with pen and ink” and “to dandle a pen”, but also mundane uses such as “pig pen” and “animal pen” and “play pen” and “penfold”.  And do you know what a “penfold” is?  Don’t get your hopes up.  It’s just an animal pen.  And in The Prospectus of the American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge you’ll find the statement, “And any individual who will employ the pen or the press in extending the influence of knowledge and virtue, will find in this institution a friend and ally”. You could change that last bit to “pen knowledge and objects of virtue”.  But amongst all those irrelevant articles and those uses of tropes, you will also find some books and articles that actually document the history of writing instruments, and ones that were written at the time the instruments were originally invented and created and used.
        Seeing as John Chapman has already quoted me on this, let me repeat myself and revise it slightly.  We are living in a golden age of online pen research.  We’re not “quickly becoming” part of it, and we’re not “approaching” it.  We are there!

        Pavlo Shevelo wrote, “As just a bit of ‘online research’, here is another
His Nibs.  Everything is changing in Pendom”.

        And I wrote, “Pavlo, that’s a relatively new use of the name.  Here’s the real
“His Nibs”, memorialized on the site owned by John Gwin, “NIBsite”, and “Spectacular NIBS”.  Here’s the website of his son and daughter-in-law, “Quills-et-al”, and an earlier version on Wayback.  And here are a few lines and a photo from the WES webpage “About the WES”, and a story on Pentrace about the opening of “The Philip Poole Room” in the Pen Room museum in Birmingham.  He is also not to be confused with this label from a wooden vegetable crate.  Use your Google wisely”.

        David Nishimura wrote, “Indeed, this might be cited as another instance of a failure to pass the torch.  Although Philip Poole was not as well-known on this side of the Atlantic, especially among those more interested in fountain pens than in other, older writing instruments, I don’t think this appropriation of his sobriquet would have passed uncommented-upon had the collective memory of the pen collecting community remained intact

        And I wrote, “And by the way, Pavlo, as for “appropriation”, “His Nibs” was more than just Philip Poole’s nickname.  It was also the name of his shop on Drury Lane since the 1940s, and its later incarnation at the back of the art materials shop, Cornelissen, in the 1990s.
        “In Norman Haase’s defense, he didn’t start using “His Nibs” as the name of his website until 1999 after Philip Poole had passed away.  But it’s up to him to say whether he was actually aware of the first “His Nibs” at the time he also chose to use that name.  Sure, everything is changing in pen collecting and pen research, but not so much that we should be oblivious to those who came before us, and not so much that I will start using the term
“Pendom”.  By the way, do you know where that neologism originated?  No, not where you thought it came from.  It came from a 1940 Parker Vacumatic pen ad that used the ad line, “Jewels of Pendom”, and other earlier instances.”

        Pavlo Shevelo wrote, “I questioned Norman, and I place his explanation here in the sincere hope that it will help”.
        Quote from an email by Norman Haase, Sept 12, 2008.  “After a brief scan of the discussion, the question seems to be whether I knew of Mr. Poole in England prior to naming my company last century.  I’m afraid not.  At that time, I only did a search for use of the name for business purposes, and did not extend it internationally.  There wouldn’t have been any reason to do so.  I’ve been aware of the phrase most of my life for its usual usage, and must plead guilty to thinking I was having an original thought when I chose it ;-)—enjoying the slight play on words and the aspect of making fun of my own pomposity.  I’d been nicknamed ‘His Nibs’ and alternately ‘the Professor’ while still an adolescent, long before my interest in fountain pens surfaced.  I actually had a naming contest amongst my customers back in ’98 or ’99 and ‘His Nibs’ was the one I was pulling for!  At some point in the past decade I became aware of Mr. Poole in England (perhaps a customer first mentioned him to me, I don’t recall) and I read about him with great interest.  My only regret is that I never had the opportunity to meet him.”

George Kovalenko.