When I began this blog, a large part of my intention was to get some information about British pen brands out onto the Web. Our American colleagues have been much more successful in making brand information available online than we have on this side of the Atlantic. All the US major brands are very well covered and there are many sites devoted to lesser manufacturers. If you want to know about a Wearever, you can find quite a bit of information. If your interest is in a Nova, you can pretty well forget it. Sadly, for the Nova, I can’t add a thing to the sum total of human knowledge; it’s a total mystery to me, but I have managed to at least put together a few words about some of the other minor brands.
It is a sad fact that for British pens we only have two authoritative sites. For Conway Stewart there is the late lamented Jonathan Donahaye’s superb list: http://jonathandonahaye.conwaystewart.info/
The Parker pens made at Newhaven are well covered in Tony Fischier’s wonderful Parker site:
That’s more or less it. If you want comprehensive web-based information on such industry giants as De La Rue, Mabie Todd, Burnham or Mentmore – never mind the host of smaller firms – you won’t find it. Why should that be? Why are we so far behind in celebrating our great fountain pen industry online?
I’m sure there are many reasons. It’s not that the information isn’t available. It is, but it’s locked up in an earlier paradigm of hobby activity: the magazine. I hesitate to be critical of The Writing Equipment Society, an estimable organisation much loved by a large and wide membership. The best British research and writing on pens goes into their magazine, and there it sits, in dead print. The only way to access the wealth of knowledge that the WES has accrued over the years would be to buy all the back issues, an impossibly expensive exercise. How much better served would we all be if that treasure-house of knowledge was web-based!
I cannot compete with the historical rigour of Donahaye or Fischier, nor with the breadth and depth of scholarship in the WES Journal, but I am not discouraged. I am no historian but I have maintained an interest in fountain pens for several decades. It would be nice if I could cite sound sources for every statement I make, but usually I can’t. The snippets of information I string together about the various pen manufacturers come in part from my reading, but much more from the pens themselves and from discussions with other collectors and repairers. I try to be accurate but sometimes I have to speculate, though I try to do so responsibly. In the end, if what I have written here will give someone a clue about their recently-acquired old pen I am satisfied. If my statements give rise to discussion that furthers our knowledge, I will be delighted.