Just to redress the balance after a couple of days of grouching about an eBay seller (with whom I am now in dispute) I want to say that most eBay sellers are good, some are excellent, and many exceed all expectations. Ebay comes in for a lot of stick on boards like FPN, mostly from people who clearly should not be allowed out by themselves. Ebay’s like anything else: if you don’t research it before you get involved, and if you don’t strain your teaspoonful of firing synapses to grasp how the thing works, you won’t do well with it. It’s a bit like trying to drive a car without ever having seen or heard of one before – it’s likely to end badly and you have no-one to blame but yourself. Soon after it began, I used eBay intermittently for the odd purchase. It wasn’t long before I began to get the idea that eBay could be a large part of a small but sufficient business for me. It took a few years before I was in a position to take advantage of it but now my use of eBay is intense. I don’t sell there as much as I once did, but procurement of stock would be impossible without eBay. There are many sellers that I buy from week after week, confident in the honesty of their descriptions and their dealing.
I wrote about the Mentmore 46 in October last year (http://wp.me/p17T6K-c) but it’s such an exceptional pen that it’s worth writing about again. The 46 was first issued around 1946 (strangely enough), a truly hopeful time for pen manufacturers. The war was over, labour and materials were being liberated up and it was back to business as usual. Swan was planning its torpedo-shaped range, Conway Stewart was moving from its very traditional pre-war pen shapes on to a new, more streamlined range. There was an air of cautious optimism. It was time for something new, the pen manufacturers thought, but not too new. A little refinement here and there, some rounding of the general pen shapes. In other words, some limited novelty but let’s not startle the horses.
Mentmore didn’t agree with that timid advance. Instead, they made this:
Clearly, they had taken a look at Parker’s 51 and decided that they had something there, but they would do it better and spare no expense on the way. In its own way, the 46 is as well made a pen as the Parker 51 – though it’s by no means as innovative, despite appearances. Under the hood (and what a piece of sculpture that is) the 46 is a completely traditional button filler with a normal nib. All the effort has been put into futuristic looks and style.
The style, one must say, is not entirely to everyone’s taste, then as now. Doubtless Mentmore expected this high-prestige pen with its gold-filled or sterling silver cap to be a winner. It wasn’t. Judging by how many are around today, it sold steadily but was vastly outsold by the traditional – dare I say dull – Autoflow.
We’re left with one of the best made of all British pens, solid, quite opulent but a little eccentric. Perhaps if we were not so accustomed to think of the smooth lines of the Parker 51 as the norm for a hooded-nib pen we might appreciate the geometry of the the 46 more. I don’t know, but I do know that they grow on you. I’ve repaired and sold several of these and I’m always on the look-out for more. I might just keep the next one I find. Quality is quality, in whatever unexpected place you find it.