An Art Nouveau Inkwell


When I bought this wonderful inkwell, it was described by the seller as “an art nouveau/art deco inkwell”. To my eye, it’s completely art nouveau and I see no sign whatsoever of the art deco style. Both in shape and decoration, it conforms completely to the natural forms associated with that style. It has those “sudden violent curves generated by the crack of a whip” that reminded me of Beardsley’s illustrations or the tresses of a Mucha maiden.
It’s a large piece, 8 1/2 inches across, in brass and enamel. Unless it’s a later revival – which seems unlikely given its purpose – it dates somewhere in the period 1885 to 1920. I’m sure Oscar Wilde would have had one of these…

Back At Last!

My apologies for the length of time this blog has gone without updating. Illness descended upon this house like a black pall, and having arrived refused to leave. Finally, there is improvement which will allow me to concentrate on other things like the blog and pen sales at long last.

I’ll have quite a few interesting things to write about.

Thanks to all those of you who so kindly enquired about the reason for this long caesura.

Wyvern No 7S

Wyvern remains the red-headed stepchild among British pens.  Conway Stewart has an excellent website and a very informative book.  Langs pens are very well covered in a website.  Mabie Todd has an increasingly well-recorded and illustrated website.  Poor old Wyvern, despite being an old established and prolific company, has nothing.
Sharon Cordwell brought this pen to my attention.  I hadn’t seen one like it before and I searched the Internet and my various reference books without coming upon anything related to it.  Because I am an idiot I had forgotten Stephen Hull’s masterly The English Fountain Pen Industry 1875 – 1975 in my search.  I searched out the section on Wyvern and there it was: the No 7 was introduced in 1930 at a time of factory expansion in Leicester.  Mottled hard rubber was still commonly used at that date, not quite having been replaced by celluloid.
It’s a delightful small pen, kitted out for a chain or ribbon to be hung ready for use by the Lady of the House.  Such pens had been popular for 30 years by this date though thereafter they would become less and less common.  Unfortunately the pen does not bear the heraldic Wyvern, a fire-breathing critter and the logo of the company, which they borrowed from the arms of Leicester where the factory was situated.  It’s interesting to note that the barrel imprint carries a legend “Wyvern Pen Co London”.  The company had an office and showroom there.
My gratitude to Sharon for permission to write about her pen, and for the photographs which I use here.

This and That

Google is a picky sort of beast.  It appears that unless you constantly update your website, it gets bored and goes away and looks at something else, with the result that your website falls down the ratings and quietly disappears.  I am grateful to dear Martin Holloway for making me aware of this.  Thanks once again, Martin!   In my case, adding a few pens now and again won’t do to satisfy Google.  It’s text that Google wants.  One way or another, I write enough text in the course of a day and I don’t want to be writing any more.  The way around this is to attach my blog to my sales site using an RSS feed.  This will give an adequacy of new text to keep Google well-fed and thereby save our ratings.  Many thanks, as ever, to the very talented Brenda, who has helped immeasurably to improve the sales site.

You may remember that some time ago I announced that I had shellac for sale.  As the sales site was at that time I couldn’t include the shellac, but now Brenda has made some alterations that allow me to include it among the “Odds and Ends” section.  I still can’t sell it directly from the site but if you are in the UK and care to contact me using the email address there, I’ll be pleased to deal with your order.   shellac2

Finally, I was contacted by a gentleman who had some pens to sell.  In truth, he has a cornucopia of things to sell.  His web page is well worth a look and it may be that you’ll find a pen that you want there.

Aurora EO8 Style


This is one of the rather more inexpensive Auroras.  I didn’t think there was such a thing.  I thought they were all expensive.  I got it for £48.26 with free postage, which I think was a bit of a deal as I generally see EO8 a little more highly priced.
It’s a very beautiful pen.  The barrel is a deeply lustrous black which sets off the pinstriped gold-plated cap.  There’s also a black insert on top of the cap and the plain clip is nicely sprung and will hold on well.  The cap clicks in place firmly.  The plated Aurora nib is firm and it’s a medium.  My preference is always for a fine nib, but the medium seemed to be all that was available at the time that I bought it.  The Aurora takes the standard Parker cartridge, which is good to know.
It’s a high quality pen for the money but is it outstanding in any way?  Aesthetically it is but in terms of its writing ability, it’s just another firm nibbed pen with good ink flow.  There is nothing to criticise about it but it’s indistinguishable in use from, say, a 1950s English Parker Duofold.  Apart from the fact that it is a cartridge filler it seems to me to be a backward-looking, very traditional fountain pen.  Not that that’s a bad thing!
Had it not been for the medium nib, this would have been a keeper for me – beautifully balanced, light and faultless but it’s just too thick a point for me.  However, it is the prettiest pen I’ve seen in quite a while and, as someone remarked to me, it’s the day for Italian things, what with Ferrari winning the Hungarian Grand Prix and all…


A Late Lamented Conway Stewart 150

An unexpected package arrived in the post today.  On examination, it proved to be a Conway Stewart 150 which the owner wanted me to repair.  If he had emailed me in advance I could have advised him that I’m not a general pen repairer.  I restore pens for my own sales website and I might do the occasional repair for a customer but that’s all.  Furthermore, I could have told him that I didn’t have any spares for this pen.  It’s one of Conway Stewart’s less desirable late offerings and I tend to avoid them as they are troublesome to repair and there isn’t much demand for them.
You know those television programmes where the experts are called in to put things right after some DIY disaster?  Well, that’s pretty much what this is.
Much chewed with pliers!
What can I say?  There’s about an entire tube of superglue on there!
More glue here too!

The only parts of this pen that can be used again are the barrel, cap and nib.  I think there are two lessons to be learned from this experience.  First, contact your proposed repairer before sending a pen and secondly, take that tube of superglue and throw it as far away as you can.

Sadly, I could do nothing with the pen and had to send it back to its owner with some advice.  I suspect that if he must have a Conway Stewart 150 he’d be cheaper buying one in eBay than having the present sad case repaired.

Sheaffer Statesman Snorkel


When the ballpoint began to gain ever-increasing market share, the fountain pen industry responded by making pens that were cleaner and easier to fill.  Parker made their famous 61 which filled by capillary action and Sheaffer’s response was the Snorkel.  Undoubtedly the most technically complex pen ever made, the Snorkel extended a filling tube beyond the tip of the nib, thereby enabling the pen to be filled with no need for subsequent wiping.
It is said that it was placed to compete against the very popular Parker 51 and outsold it.  Whether or not that is correct, the Snorkel sold in huge numbers judging by how many appear for sale today, some 55 years after it went out of production.  It was similar in appearance to the “Thin Model Touchdown” and was issued in no less than 13 models.  This is the Statesman, identified by its white dot and Palladium Silver wraparound nib.
It is a fine example of the innovation which Americans have loved in their fountain pens.  Evidently, it filled a need sufficiently well to keep the ball point at bay for several years.  Is it a good fountain pen or is it an example of clever technology for its own sake?  There are a lot of bits and pieces inside that barrel to make the pen draw ink and to make the snorkel extend and withdraw.  The result is that it holds a small quantity of ink when compared with other fountain pens, e.g. the Snorkel holds 0.64 ml against the Balance 350 Lady at 1.42 ml.  This doesn’t matter so much when it is fitted with a fine nib but these pens offered the full range of nibs including broad and stub.  One would imagine that these returned to the ink bottle pretty frequently.
My one is a fine.  It appears more like a fine/medium to me but perhaps I’m too used to pens from the Orient.  It will be interesting to see how long a fill of ink lasts.  It’s a beautiful pen made with the attention to detail for which Sheaffer was famous.  This version has a broad cap band and no writing on the clip.  The nib, especially, is a work of art with its beautiful cursive writing.
I think, for me, this is an example of the thinking that imagined that in the future our cars would fly, we would be served by robots and we would ingest a full meal in a pill.  And, of course, we would write with a Snorkel.  I am disappointed about the lack of flying cars and robots but at least we have this amazing pen, clearly invented by a mad scientist!



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