Pope’s Pen Corner

It’s amazing how few ripples are left in the pond of the Web a few years after a large company has sunk.

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This is the reverse of a guarantee issued in 1934 for a Waterman pen by H. P. Pope Ltd., showing their premises at Pope’s Pen Corner, at the junction of New Street and Lower Temple Street, Birmingham. My apologies for the quality of the reproduction. It’s just a quick snap taken on the bench without additional light.

They were stationers, printers, suppliers of office furniture and typewriters, among many other things. Banners in the windows show advertisements for Swan, Onoto, Eversharp, Waterman and Koh-I-Noor. There are others but they’re too small to read. The post-box near the entrance reads “Onoto The Pen”. We know from Donahaye’s list that they had Conway Stewart make pens for them, including the 100 ink pencil, the 466, the MHR 300M and the MHR 266

The pen that this came with is a black hard rubber Waterman 32 1/2. It seems rather an old pen to have been sold in 1934 but who knows? The guarantee certainly relates to a Waterman. L.G. Sloan of London remained the sole European representatives for Waterman and H. P. Pope acted as a local distributor, giving additional warranty on top of that supplied by Sloan.

The few references I was able to find to Pope’s Pen Corner online included the winding up of the company in 1975. It has been gone for quite a while but it’s still well within living memory. I wonder if anyone reading this remembers it.

If it were possible to journey back in time (and that’s bound to come soon, along with our flying cars, meals-in-a-pill, shiny all-in-one suits and laser guns) I wouldn’t mind spending an afternoon browsing the pen displays in Pope’s Pen Corner in 1934.

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The Mentmore 46 X 2

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Here’s a fine pair of Mentmore 46 pens, probably made a few years apart as there are notable differences between them. 46s came in three versions, gold-filled, sterling silver and what Mentmore calls Permobrite, which seems to be rhodium plating over I know not what – probably a nickel layer and brass, I should think. These two are Permobrite ones and they look pretty good.

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I think the plating may be suffering a little loss on the grey one but the black one still looks perfect. The differences I spoke of are evident here. The barrel end is more blunt on the grey pen and the clip is a different shape. The black one is slightly longer, too, but that may not be a design change. Many older pens weren’t made quite identical, particularly where length is concerned.

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Permobrite probably doesn’t really mean anything, in the sense of being a patented alloy or plating method. Other companies don’t use the term so it was probably a Mentmore trade name. The only other mention of it I can find is in the description of the cap of a Platignum ballpoint pen. It certainly looks good, with that bluish-white shine that you see on rhodium-plated white-gold jewellery. Even the lowest-priced 46, then, was quite a luxurious writing instrument by today’s standards. Goodness knows what a pen of this quality made from these materials would cost nowadays.

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As a great admirer of the 46, I keep threatening to add one to my small collection of keeper pens. That black one is looking especially attractive…

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A Brace Of Flexible Mabie Todds

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These two pens caught my attention when I was doing repairs at the weekend. They’re not outstanding examples of their kind in terms of quality (though the Blackbird’s pretty good) but they both seemed to have a bit of flex in the nib.

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They’re pre-war or wartime pens and I suspect the Blackbird – that’s the blue one – is a few years newer. The Blackbird’s a 5242 – the 42 being simply blue marble. The Swan is a 6145. I confess that the significance of the ‘6’ continues to elude me. I have no idea what it means, but I have a suspicion that it dates the pen to wartime. The 1 is the nib size and 45 indicates pearl grey. It looks a little greenish to me but that may be discolouration. Or it may be that it’s perfectly grey and I suffer from a tad of the colour blind where some shades of green, blue and grey approach each other.

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Anyway, it wasn’t until today that I got the chance to write-test them and they lived up to their promise. These aren’t wet noodles (what a ridiculous term!) but they’re pens that have a lot of easily induced flexibility and snappy return. For the past few months I’ve been using and enjoying stiff-nibbed Sheaffer Imperials, but I think that these pens may draw me back into the flex camp – especially the Swan.

Today’s Uploads to the Sales Site

Just finished new uploads to the website! Interesting new pens in each section including, among others. a “Forward” and a Jewel “Oma”, a Waterman, some Parkers and a Conway Stewart as well as a handful of new additions to the Mabie Todd section, my favourite among them this week being this fabulous Calligraph with its flexible italic nib.

PLEASE NOTE: there is currently a problem with the “click to zoom” feature on the images on the website. I have informed the web developer of this and hope it will be fixed soon. For now, in order to get back to the page you were viewing, please use the ‘back’ button on your browser to navigate away from the enlarged image. I apologise for the inconvenience, I only noticed this issue Friday evening.

Edited to add:-

The Calligraph went in minutes but you can use this link now.

Waterman W5

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Probably because of its similarity to pens like the 502 and 515, the Waterman W5 is almost always referred to as a nineteen forties pen but it’s actually a product of a second revamp of the post-war range in 1955, along with the W2 and W3.

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It’s an understandable mistake because the differences are slight. As a replacement for the 515, it has exactly the same clip and lever. The size is pretty much the same and the main differences are that the 515’s single broad band has been replaced with a narrow/medium/narrow arrangement and the No 5 nib has now become the W5, with a slightly different profile. Though it may be subjective as I don’t have both models here to compare, I believe the W5 is a little lighter in the hand.

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These pens appear to be the flagships of the English range, and this example is in a most attractive iridescent striated blue pattern. The still photo doesn’t show the oil-on-water effect of these changing colours as the pen is moved in sunlight. It’s a stunning pen visually and like all Watermans it has a delightful nib, smooth and with a hint of line variation.

The Swan Calligraph Revisited

1949, 1951 and 1952 were important years for Swan, and not all of them in a good way. 1949 was certainly good as it ushered in the long-awaited series of cigar-shaped pens. 1951 brought the Calligraph and the redesigned Leverless to the market, both very good ideas, just perhaps not as well implemented as previous designs. And, of course, in 1952, Biro took over Mabie Todd. There were not many years left for the company, and the years that remained were not of their best.
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It’s the Calligraph I want to look at today. This example is, I think, an early one. The reason I say so is that it’s an italic with flex, a decided nod in the direction of producing calligraphy with a fountain pen. In fact, this nib was advertised as being perfect for Chancery Script. This is, I have to say, only the third Calligraph I have handled with an italic nib. Most Calligraphs seem to have had perfectly ordinary fine or medium nibs. Broad, stub and italics appear to be very much in the minority.
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This happened, I believe, because demand was low for real calligraphers’ pens, and the company made a school pen of the Calligraph. I say that because so many of those that arrive on my bench have been chewed and mishandled. They belonged to kids, those pens. They have thinner gold plating that the other models of the time, and seem to have been placed a little lower in the market from the outset. There’s a hint of flimsiness about the Calligraph which I think increases with time. The later, leverless Calligraphs seem more poorly made, to me. Some of those have disappointing nibs and whatever the faults of the earlier ones might have been, their nibs – like this one – are superb.

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So whenever a Calligraph arrives, I get out the heat gun and the abrasives to remove the worst of the chomping and the scraping. If I’m unlucky, I have a so-so pen with an adequate nib, but if fortune smiles on me, I have a pen with a nib like this. Who cares about worn plating or a few scratches when the pen has a nib like this one?

That said, italics don’t sit well in my hand, as I’m sure you can see from this writing sample. I prefer a more rounded stub, myself.

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I’ve written about Calligraphs on a couple of previous occasions. ┬áThe search facility will find them for you if you’re interested.

The Mabie Todd Blackbird BB20/61 Eyedropper Filler.

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I like MHR in a wood grain pattern, and I especially like it when it comes in the form of something unusual. This is a Blackbird BB20/61 Fountpen. The BB means Blackbird, the 20 means a No 2 size nib and no bands, and the 61 is for wood grain. This is an eyedropper filler. It’s pre-screw-cap but post over-and-under feed. It has a slip cap and a spoon type of feed. So what date does that indicate? Actually, it’s surprisingly late. This version of the Fountpen was introduced in 1921, so it’s a mere youngster of 92 years.

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These long, slender, elegant pens are quite uncommon. It may be that the public wanted self-filling pens by 1921 and so the Fountpen never took off. The black hard rubber version, the BB20/60, is marginally more common but I’ve seen only a couple of them in the last five years. This is the first mottled hard rubber Fountpen that has come my way.

It survived the first ninety or so years in perfect condition. Recently, some cretin had difficulty opening it and resorted to his pliers. I’m not a violent woman but I could think of some uses for those pliers that would make the thickhead think twice before he dug them into the section of a fountain pen again.

By dint of incantations and sacrificing a chicken I’ve been able to reduce the scratch to a less offensively obtrusive level. ‘Scuse me, I’ve got to go now and make gravy for the chicken.