(*Image and Bio provided by Malissa Stockbridge, Director and Company Secretary, Manuscript Pen Company Ltd)

Arthur A. S. Charles

(1914 - 2001)

Arthur Charles, author of "The Steel Pen Trade" was born in Worcestershire, England on 16th August 1914.   His introduction to the world of nib manufacturing started at the early age of sixteen, as his family owned one of the smaller Birmingham nib makers, T. Hessin & Co.  Apart from the years he spent in the army during the Second World War, his adult life was constantly involved with the production and sale of pen nibs.  He developed worldwide contacts and his specialist knowledge of pen nib manufacture was extensive.

He spent 3 years on Java as a Japanese prisoner of war during World War II and he wrote a book called “Sheer Profit” about his first hand experiences during this terrible time.  His indomitable optimism is demonstrated in the title. Having survived this terrible ordeal, he considered everything that followed to be sheer profit. 

After his return from the war he started manufacturing nibs again in the village of Highley in Shropshire. He chose Highley as it was a mining village, which could provide him with a workforce. He established Highley Pens as a small workshop specializing in pen nib manufacture for the larger nib makers in Birmingham, who had orders to fulfill but no means of making the nibs. In 1949 he took over D Leonardt & Co, one of the Birmingham steel pen producers, who were first established in 1856.  He moved D. Leonardt & Co to Highley and merged it with his existing business to form D. Leonardt & Co (Highley Pens) Ltd.

He was an entrepreneur of enormous energy, enthusiasm, and determination and he retained an active interest in the business all his life.  With the help of his wife, daughter and son-in-law, he had the satisfaction of seeing it prosper and grow into a small group of companies.  In 1990 his son-in-law established a new group company, Manuscript Pen Company Ltd, specifically to concentrate on the specialist calligraphy market.  

He was married for 55 years and he was devoted to his wife, two children and five grandchildren.  His daughter and son–in-law still work in the family business.

D Leonardt & Co’s range of nibs, to which was recently added the new E.F. Principal nib (see image below), are still produced in Highley by Manuscript Pen Company Ltd. It continues to be run by Arthur Charles’s son-in-law, Nick Stockbridge, the Chairman and Managing Director.

The E.F. Principal nib:


The Steel Pen Trade

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