Pen Books – Paul Erano: Fountain Pens Past & Present

This book was issued in 1999. I don’t remember what it cost me then, but it wasn’t expensive for a fountain pen book. You can buy now it at Amazon UK for £48.34 new or £33.12 used. A new edition was produced in 2004, and it is offered at £48.92. As always with these books, it appears from time to time in eBay and may well be purchased more cheaply there. It is the 1999 edition that I will be discussing here.

As fountain pen books go, this one has its good and bad points. In fairness, it should be said that most of the bad points can’t be laid at Mr Erano’s door, but arise from the nature of the book itself. It’s one of a large series of Collector Books by Schroeder Publishing, and it conforms to the format of the series. The most egregious fault is the lack of an index. Subtitled Identification & Value Guide, one would expect to be able to turn quickly to the pen of current interest, but without an index this isn’t possible. Secondly, British and European readers should be aware that this book is intended for the American market, and the pens covered in the historical chapters are almost all American. Finally, the pricing element is at best misleading. The prices are 1999 ones, of course, but even for that date they seem a little fanciful. I was an avid pen buyer in 1999 and I certainly wasn’t paying these prices! Mr. Erano doesn’t explain quite how he has arrived at these values. Certainly, eBay was not the mature market and arbiter of value then that it is now, so perhaps these prices were those set by retailers of restored pens.

The book begins with a chapter on the development of the fountain pen, and continues with advice on collecting. Though some of this shows its age a little now, it’s informative and well-written. Major (American) manufacturers are introduced. The historical chapters cover Early Fountain Pens, The Golden Age and The Modern Age. The final chapter is on contemporary fountain pens.

The pen photography is good and the book is profusely illustrated. Mr. Erano has used contemporary advertisements well. These are always welcome, as they’re a good source of information. A few have no indication of the date they were issued, which rather devalues them. Approximate production dates are assigned to the pens illustrated, and these are accurate, so far as I can judge.

In conclusion, I would say that though this book isn’t really a “must” for every pen collector’s bookshelf, it is, with all its limitations, an interesting and informative read. The biggest failing, as I have already noted, is the lack of an index in a book which is presented as a guide, which would lead you to expect it to be a reference. The structure goes some way to address this fault – all the Watermans of a period, for instance, are listed together, but it isn’t enough. This is more the kind of book you will read through when you first get it, and perhaps return to from time to time.

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