• J. J. Sedelmaier

The Vintage Speedball Textbook

I once found a set of Speedball pen nibs as a kid. I was familiar with conventional pen and ink usage, but had never seen nibs like this before. It wasn’t until taking a calligraphy course in college (with Professor Don Anderson, author of “The Art Of Written Forms”) that I ran across them again and had a chance to try them out. The times have evolved a lot since then and so much of the calligraphic art is becoming lost to digital convenience, but leafing through some vintage ephemera turned up this tasty reminder of how much type production was once done by hand.


The Speedball Steel Brushes product are almost a century old and are still used and available, but from the 1920s through the 1940s, their more extensive presence in art production justified publishing a semi-annual “Speedball Text Book” booklet written by Ross F.George. This stapled, paperbound periodical presented type styles that were current and gave a step-by-step process of how they could be recreated with the use of the Speedball pen nibs. These manuals are wonderful testaments to the lettering styles and production techniques of the day.


14th Edition of the “Speedball Text Book” – 1941.


A vintage set of Speedball pen nibs.



Poster Block font and instructions as to how to prepare and produce the typeface.



Basic intro and instructions.



Basic lettering styles.



Balanced layout structure.



How to use the Speedball pens to do Roman Caps.



How lettering styles evolved …



Use of the brush nib.


The following are style examples:










How to space your lettering.




Generic advert layout examples.



Poster layout examples.



More posters.



How to plan an effective poster design.



The effect of type design on your message.



Remember “Engrossing” ? (Can’t say I do. . .)



Now that’s calligraphy!



Newspaper ad layout examples.



Price tix.



Index to the 14th edition.


The following covers show examples of other editions of the “Speedball Text Book.”


12th Edition



13th Edition



15th Edition



16th Edition



17th Edition


Add to Your Arsenal of Design Tools


#Speedballpen #RossFGeorge #Speedball #SpeedballSteelBrushes #engrossing #SpeedballTextBook #pennibs

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