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Memories of Fountain pens.

Rubysasha has written about fountain pens here and asks what your memories of fountain pens are. I’ve written about fountain pens here before and elsewhere.

But I decided to write a little more about them here.

I got my first fountain pen when I was in third class. It was red. I distinctly remember it was red and it had an old fashioned ink sac. I think they called them vacuum sacs now. ¬†You got fountain pens after many years of writing with a pencil and ball points were just not allowed. Once your writing was reasonably tidy, theoretically you could move to the fountain pen then. We used to fill them out of a bottle of blue Quink ink. Apparently this was tidier and less messy than using cartridges. I remember the cartridges in question; they were round cylinders of blue and you had to stick a pin in them and then shove them into the relevant pen. I can sort of understand why people thought they were messy. We didn’t have international cartridges at the time. About the best you could hope for was a Parker fountain pen which took Parker cartridges the top of which got pushed down into the cartridge when you pushed it into the pen. That was stylish.

But initially, it was this red pen which I no longer have but which has some sort of a goldie nib as far as I remember. I wrote with it until it scratched beyond possible and then I got a Parker. I think I was about 10 or 11 at that stage. The beauty about going to secondary school – eventually – was being allowed to use Bic ballpoints.

The whole thing with pens that had international cartridges really only happened when I was about 15, when I was in France. I found a couple of pens that were about three quid each, that took international cartridges and which had the pattern of piano keys painted on the outside. I loved them. So did my sister. She swapped me for one, so that I only had one piano pen, but its replacement was a shiny Papermate.

When I was cleaning out pens a few months ago I realised I still had one of the piano pens but it was completely unusable so, with some regrets. Basically, it has a converter in it, stuck. I can’t get it out despite much soaking. I still have it hear beside me, with the sellotape I used at age 15 to label every one of my pens. I still have the Papermate which I cleaned the sellotape from only this year. You’ll get one on Ebay for about ten quid now, and I don’t think Papermate still make fountain pens (although they still make great, great ball points). Mine has a cartridge of J.Herbin Ambre de Birmaine; it writes beautifully.

In addition to it, I own quite a few Lamy fountain pens, the first of which was a present, given to me in 1993. So I have it 20 years. It’s a white one, with a broad nib. I love it. I’ve acquired other Lamy’s over the year, kept some, given others away. I own several Safaris and two AL-Stars. Three of the Safaris are limited edition colours, 2011, 2012 and now, the neon coloured 2013. The others are the afore mentioned white, one black, one yellow, one blue. And I have a Vista. I used to have a red one as well which I remember buying in Vannes but I believe I gave it to someone at some stage who coveted. I have converters in most of them and so, I have a rather worrying collection of bottled ink as well. I have four bottles of Mont Blanc in various colours – midnight blue, burgundy red, oyster grey and lavender purple. More interestingly, I have six bottles of Pelikan Edelstein, all of which are in at least one pen and in some cases, two.

Of all of them, the one I am most inclined to write with is any pen which has Edelstein Onyx in it.

Most of my Lamy pens have medium nibs in them. The two exceptions are the two oldest of the collection, the white which has a broad nib and one of the AL-Stars which has a fine nib on it. Actually, come to think of it, I think the black one may have a fine nib as well.

I tend to favour the medium nib for day to day work. I also own a Lamy Friendship which I switch 1.1 and 2mm nibs in and out of from time to time.

I have a bunch of other pens which take international catrdiges, a few which are I think Stypen and bought in France for comparatively little money. One, which I think is called Le Style, which has J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen in it was bought in the Virgin Megastore in the Louvre, now closed. Others I have picked up in tourist shops in Finland and stationery shops in Belgium over the years. I am pretty sure there is at least one more piano, bought separately to the ones mentioned above, knocking around my life somewhere.

I also own a Caran D’Ache fountain pen, an Ecridor. I’ve wanted one for years, and I love it. It currently has Mont Blanc Burgundy red in it.

I have a pinterest board of pens I like the look of and if I have a shopping list of a pen I really can’t afford but covet right now, it would be an S.T.Dupont. Many of the others are special editions which look beautiful. Caran D’Ache have some gorgeous but horrendously expensive and way out of my budget pens.

I like mechanical pencils too, by the way.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Niall | 14/06/2013 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    This is wonderful. I have an old Parker which I was given in 1962. I have happy memories of discussing pens with friends at school. Although, we might have been better off if we had used them rather than talk about them.

    My grandfather (born 1870) trained as a scrivener and was able to produce some beautiful copperplate script. I have an example in that he wrote some family tree information in a little notebook that survived.

    Alas working as a scrivener seems not to have suited him. When he was 21 he entered into a five year apprenticeship as a baker thus becoming the next generation in the family trade.

    I love looking at old writing instruments and printing equipment.

  2. windsandbreezes | 19/06/2013 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Given the times, Niall, that strikes me as a huge decision to make. I remember you were interested in printing equipment.

    I must confess I am finding myself spending a lot of time looking at old fountain pens on eBay and pinterest lately.

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