Pen Books – Glen Bowen: Collectible Fountain Pens

First published in 1982, this is one of the pioneers of publishing on fountain pens. Quite a large book, it’s a mixture of historical text, advertisements and illustrations of pens, many as black and white photographs, some as drawings and others in full colour photography. It is subtitled “Parker, Sheaffer, Wahl-Eversharp and Many More” but really there is no “Many More”. This is a book about the American Big Four.

As in any other field, research has moved the narrative along since 1982, and the potted histories of the companies show their age. There’s quite a bit of “pen folklore” in here, and you’ll find better histories elsewhere. Other than that, to my mind, this is still a great book. It has attracted some criticism because the paper and printing are somewhat low in quality, compared with the glossy coffee-table volumes we’re more used to now, but many of the adverts reproduced here would have been black and white in the magazines in which they originally appeared. I find them a useful resource. Similarly, the black and white photos of pens seem quite adequate for identification purposes to me. It is also said that this book isn’t comprehensive, and that’s true – there are gaps in the lists of models. It’s a strange criticism, though, because none of the more modern books are comprehensive either – and many are much poorer than this one.

Despite its acknowledged faults, this is my first go-to reference for Big Four American pens of the period I deal with. I refer to it weekly, if not daily, and it doesn’t often let me down. Though some may regard this book as outdated, I think it’s still a must for the pen enthusiast’s bookshelf.

Never an expensive book, it’s offered in Amazon for £47.61 new or £13.43 used. It not infrequently appears second-hand in eBay, which is where I got mine a few years ago. I don’t remember what I paid, but I know the postage was more than the price, so there are bargains to be had!


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