Manuscript ML1856 fountain pen meta-review

A little bit of history  Manuscript is a British company which has been around for over 160 years – since 1856, in fact, which is where this pen gets its name. As with our Silvine samples recently we found ourselves reminiscing about Manuscript products of the past. Thankfully, the ML1856 is a big step up from the cheap shrink-wrapped products that we’re used to seeing in high-street shops here in the UK.

How it looks  Hotttttttttttttttttttt. Mateusz’s design is the ‘Molten Lava’., as you can see below – but we think these these pens look hotter than molten lava. Manuscript pulled the boat out when designing these. In John’s review he observes that the designs can be a little bit different every time due to the setting process, which gives every pen its own individual personality.  We have been fortunate enough to review the Purple Mist, Molten Lava, Turquoise Ocean & Northern Lights pens. In addition to this, there are three other colour-ways available: Red Storm, Oyster Mist and Midnight.

However, not every aspect of the aesthetic was loved.  The clip has two circles, echoing the dual crown of the cap’s top (which is a reminder that Manuscript has been going so long that they used to supply the kings of both Spain and Portugal), but the shape of the clip itself seemed a little gimmicky.  As Laura puts it, “don’t dress a model in Primark clothes.”

How it feels  Across the Inkdom we all agreed that the pen was lightweight but strong. While being made of the Italian resin, we felt confident that the pen would hold up. However, John did comment on the threads when screwing the barrel onto the section, and had concerns about breaking or otherwise damaging the pen – which he said was out of character for the otherwise strong feel. Daniel with his “weird grip” was still able to use the pen, despite his fingers touching the threads; thankfully they’re not sharp and are comfortable (as far as threads go). However, some concerns remained as regards the clip which seems rather stiff, albeit usable. The pen sits in the hand very well; posting is just about possible, but awkward, and doing so will make the pen too long for most tastes. The size of the pen allows Manuscript to appeal to most writers as it isn’t too large, but it isn’t a pocket pen either.

Right from the get-go with the packaging of the pen you get the impression of a ‘premium product’. It’s not a conventional pen box, with the pen standing up as opposed to laying flat, but still wonderfully presented.

How it fills  Cartridge/converter. This makes it easy for the user to change inks if need be, but it’s also not difficult to refill every so often (though does make it a little bit more tedious than, say, a piston for constant ink usage, but easier for maintenance and cleaning). Daniel did question the possibility of it being converted into an eyedropper as he tested the pen with water and it seemed to be sealed, but we’re not advocating this unless Manuscript advise it!

Crucially, how it writes…  There are both flat and round nib options for the Manuscript 1856: two stubs (1.1mm & 1.5mm) and a handwriting nib. All nibs are steel and are from JoWo in Germany.Laura, Daniel & John all thought that their nibs wrote fantastically – Laura put it the best when she said that her 1.1mm nib wrote “wetter than England in autumn.” Mateusz however, felt that his nib was a little dry for his liking, although the flow improved over time. Overall, the writing experience was rated as pleasant by the reviewing team. The only thing that the stub nibs aren’t great for are reverse writing, as Daniel discovered. The nibs write wet and the feeds keep up well, which is what makes it great for the purpose of the pen.Pen! What is it good for?  Manuscript seems to be, as a brand, synonymous with calligraphy, certainly for beginners here in the UK anyway. The 1.1mm and 1.5mm stub nibs means that you can get a little calligraphic with your writing, particularly when considering scripts such as gothic.

Of course, if calligraphy isn’t your thing then you can always opt for the ‘handwriting’ nib which will give you the writing experience of nibs you might be more used to. The handwriting nib won’t be as thick and perhaps a little more conventional for everyday writing.

VFM   While the majority of our findings are quite positive, we do have concerns here; simply put, this is a good a pen, but it isn’t £125 good. As Daniel pointed out, his custom John Twiss pen was only £10 more expensive than this. Laura notes that the Edison Collier and Pearlette are similar in design, similar in price but better as regards value for money. Twiss and Edison alternatives also use JoWo nibs, so there is serious competition.

Bottom-top: Laban Mento, Manuscript ML1856 & John Twiss custom pen

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…   The Edison Pearlette and Collier are similar in both aesthetic and price. Another option might be a Laban pen; these pop up at pen shows (here in the UK at least) with a similar design but run to about £60; less than half the price.  As John points out, for £125 you could also get a Platinum #3776, and while these lack the hand-made aesthetic the gold nib goes a long way to make up for it. Mr Pen’s English Curate, which we reviewed last year, is made in the same workshop (formerly of Sigma fame) but a lot more reasonably priced.Our overall recommendation  While we loved using the pen, the price point just doesn’t justify it for us, unfortunately. There are too many alternatives which are similar to the ML1856 but better quality/feel for the same price or others that might sacrifice ever so slightly on the feel but are much more affordable. We like the direction Manuscript is heading in, but our recommendation would be to wait until the value issue has been rectified before pulling the trigger; to put it politely, it looks to us as if the RRP is rather too ambitious at present.

Where to get hold of one  There are few stockists as yet – La Couronne du Comte was the first we know of – but Cult Pens has just started stocking them too.

This meta-review references: 

Northern Lights

Thanks to: Manuscript for providing the pens for review purposes. All views expressed here are our own both within the meta-review and in our own individual reviews that we have provided; the pens were sent to us in exchange for an honest review. Manuscript, to their credit, were completely fine with that, and not withstanding our reservations about some elements of the package are still keen for us to give one away; a great attitude, we think.

Give-away!  Would you like to win one of these test pens?  If your name pops out of the hat, you can – and better still, you get to choose which one it is.  To bag one of these, let us know what you think the crowned heads of the Iberian peninsula would have used an ML1856 for, if they’d been available before the revolution – what sort of correspondence would be flying between Lisbon and Madrid with aid of such serious nibbage?  Answers in the comments box please, by 16 July.  We’ll task the reviewers with deciding which ideas they find the most hilarious, mind-bending or imaginatively splendid, so thinking caps on…


6 thoughts on “Manuscript ML1856 fountain pen meta-review

  1. oh gosh – how glorious! I take on board the price point issues, but GLORIOUS! This is a pen that I could give a name to – the Northern Lights one I would call Vale because it’s almost sort of the colours Valentino Rossi races under and he is, by default, the racer of choice in our house 😀

    What would the crowned heads have written about prior to revolution? Bemoaning the best way that they could possibly get rid of the non-arable land around the coast line. Only for the 70s to come along and bring The Package Beach Holiday To Spain <3 😀

  2. Spain to Portugal: I sent my daughter over there to marry into their royal family and what do I get? – a pen! What would I want a pen for – I have my scribes to do my writing for me. I really thought they’d give Gibraltar back, at the very least!
    Portugal to Spain: You should try trading vino rather than daughters – I make a fortune selling port to them. We’re drowning in the stuff and they pay good money for it. But they did provide me with a Manuscript pen with which to sign our latest export order, and very nice it is to and far more practical than having to carry a wax stick and box of matches!

    1. The United Inkdom team liked your comments best, get in touch with us and we’ll arrange for your choice of the four pens reviewed to be sent on to you. You can reach us here or get in touch with me directly at

  3. Dearest John,
    Suck it, you fool! That Italian maniac you turned down just returned with gold and natives! The westward route to Asia is ours! Who’s going to be more famous for exploration now?

    On a different note… John, do be a dear, won’t you? We may have violated a little treaty, but there’s no need to send a fleet. That seems a bit aggressive, don’t you think?

    Best regards,
    Ferdinand II

  4. Being Portuguese myself, I believe that the letter that the Portuguese monarch would write to the Spanish monarch before the revolution could be something like this:

    Manuel II of Portugal:

    Dear Alfonso XIII,

    They murdered my father Carlos I and my brother Luís Filipe the Regent Prince , regicide my friend and I fear for my life.

    But I must carry on, I must become the King that Portugal needs at this time. I shall be remembered as Manuel II, the patriot. I’ll sack João Franco, the Prime Minister and appoint a government of national unity, presided over by Admiral Francisco Joaquim Ferreira do Amaral. This shall calm the republicans and help stabilise the country.

    Anyway, I’ll stop talking about my problems and I shall ask how are things in Spain, did you enjoy that new Manuscript pen I sent you?

    Kind Regards,
    Manuel Maria Filipe Carlos Amélio Luís Miguel Rafael Gabriel Gonzaga Francisco de Assis Eugénio de Orleães Sabóia e Saxe-Coburgo-Gotha Bragança

    Alfonso XIII of Spain:

    Dear Manuel II,

    Thank you for your letter and the pen you sent me is stunning, I’m using it to reply to you. That turquoise celluloid is one of the nicest I’ve seen. As I write it reminds me of the beaches in the Bay of Biscay.

    My condolences on your father and brother, rest assured that I’ll attend their funeral ceremony and pay my respects as they deserve. Don’t you think that sacking João Franco can be seen as a weakness? I hope that this indeed calm those nasty republicans so your reign can continue without any other incidents.

    May your reign lasts until your last breath.

    Kind regards,
    Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Habsburgo-Lorena

    Manuel II reign only lasted 2 years as the coup d’etat of the Portuguese Revolution was complete, and the Royal Family departed for exile in the United Kingdom.

    Alfonso XIII lost his throne on the 12th of April 1931 when the Second Republic of Spain was proclaimed but he did not officially abdicated living in exile in Rome, Italy.

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