The Conway Stewart Universal 476 (Among Others!)

If you want to really mangle your head, spend a morning trying to make sense of Conway Stewart Universals. The one we all know and love is the 479, usually presented in black with some of the best engine-chasing on celluloid there is. Beyond that, though, there’s (at my last rather shaky count and in no order except how I found ’em) the 476, the 467, the 466, the 480, the 486, the 464, the 470, the 466M, the 470M, the 479M, and, in a whole other range of numbers, the 356. Phew!

They’re all in the lower to middle price range for a full size pen. Some have cap rings, some don’t. Some of these were earlier pens that died out by the end of the thirties but a confusing variety still remained. At that time they cost five shillings and sixpence or more, a substantial amount. I wonder if even the clued-up buyer ever had any idea of what the full Conway Stewart range on offer to him was. How did one decide between, say, a Universal 479, with its wide array of colours and a Universal 356, with a different selection of colours that were unique to that pen alone?

Well, what you did was bought a Universal 476 instead. At least that’s what one discerning buyer did somewhere between 1935 and 1938. Then he took it home, placed it carefully in a drawer and never disturbed it again, judging by the freshness of its condition today:

The gold plating is absolutely perfect and the barrel imprint is about the sharpest I’ve ever seen on an old pen. The only fault is a scratch or two on the clip screw, otherwise the pen’s as new.

This blue marble is a wonderful pattern. Jonathan Donahaye assigned names to the various patterns. They have no authority; they’re not what Conway Stewart called the patterns on the rare occasions that they called them anything at all. Nonetheless, Jonathan’s pattern names are perfect. He called this one Marbled Slate-Grey Blue and that’s what it is. Exactly.


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