The De La Rue Pen No 1332


Remember this little guy: ?  Well, here’s its close relative.  The last one I had was without identifying numbers; this ones a 1332, which makes it mid to late thirties.
That’s the same nib as some of the Onotos, so you know it has to write well.  And so it does.  I tried it and it writes beautifully, a semi-flexible medium.  If you were rigidly practical, that’s all you need to know – that the pen writes well.  But of course none of us are entirely practical or we wouldn’t be deep into the world of fountain pens.  So it doesn’t hurt that it’s beautiful, that the blue latticework throws the light back at you with an almost metallic shine, that the mottled hard rubber finds some kind of absolutely right harmony with the latticework and the overall design of the pen is that of an object intended to work, but also to please.
As pen makers, De La Rue were early in the field and could have chosen any logo that they wanted.  What did they choose?  A sunburst, a very common image.  Many years later this caused confusion because jobbing parts makers turned out levers with sunbursts on, just to convince puzzled pen collectors that all sorts of cheap pens were made by the prestigious De La Rue.
Anyway, the pen’s the important thing.  Isn’t it a beauty?


The Swan SM2/58


Here’s yet another of those colourful 1930s Swan Minors. This one’s slightly larger than the last, as it has the No 2 size nib and the whole pen is larger proportionately. The colour code is 58 which doesn’t appear in the FPN list, but I would describe it as green/gold/black. I think it’s quite a rarity – at least I haven’t been aware of it before now.



As ever with these outstanding pens, it will be sold on the website (though not immediately – I have a little work to do on it). I can’t sell it privately. Previously, with pens of this quality several people have wanted it and I have no fair way of deciding who should get it.
I showed it to my assistant but she wasn’t very impressed. “Come back,” she said, “When you have a calico one…”

Burnham 51

Burnhams haven’t appeared here often.  I avoid them because so many, especially the post-war ones, have not survived well.  Some models tend to lose clips and many of the casein ones suffer from crazing.  They look fine in a photograph, but when you have the pen in your hand the beauty of the pattern is lost in a spider-web of tiny cracks.  I’ve yet to hear why casein Burnhams are worse than other pens using this material.  Perhaps the material was not aged or cured correctly, or maybe they were unfortunate in their supplier.

Still, I pick up a few in lots of other pens and occasionally I break my own rules (it’s OK for me to do it, but don’t try it at home) and buy an especially attractive one.
This Burnham No 51 is an example of the latter.  The seller’s photographs were good and it appeared to be free of the pernicious crazing.  The green and grey with amber veins made a wonderful pattern.  To cut a short story even shorter I bought it and I was not disappointed when it arrived.  Though it’s quite a small pen (11.8cm capped) it’s a good quality one.  The cheaper versions have screw-in nibs but this one has a proper 14ct gold nib and ladder feed, held by a robust section. Unlike later Burnhams this example has a low, rounded clip screw which gives the cap a pleasing design.  Burnham’s Achilles’ Heel is poor gold plating and this pen is no exception.  The gold wash clings to the lever and cap ring but is largely gone from the clip.  It doesn’t spoil it, really, because the base metal of the clip cleans up to an impressive shine.
The Burnham nib is small.  This pen was aimed at those with a limited amount of spare cash in their pockets, and savings that didn’t affect the functionality of the pen were essential to keep prices competitive against Wyvern, Mentmore and the like who were producing for the same slender, highly competitive slice of the market.  When all is said and done, though, the only part of the nib you write with is that rounded spot on the end.  Where nibs are concerned size doesn’t matter, at least not from a purely practical viewpoint (the rest is aesthetics) and it’s a great writer.  Burnham made good nibs.
The trouble they have with the casein crazing is a real pity because Burnham turned out some of the most delightfully colourful pens ever made.  Just having one on your desk to enjoy must have cheered even the most dreary Monday.


Going back more years than I care to admit, I’ve always had at least one Onoto in my stable of thoroughbreds.  For many years my everyday user was a long black hard rubber Onoto from around 1915 and since then I’ve had a 4601 long enough to have it resealed twice, the last time by the estimable Eric Wilson.  They vie with Swans for being my favourite pens of all.  Purely in terms of quality the pre-war Onoto exceeds any other pen that I’m aware of.  The venerable plunger filler is superior to any other filling system and Onoto and all De La Rue nibs are quite wonderful.  Having said all that, I remain woefully ignorant about their history and the sequence of models.
This seems to be the De La Rue week for me.  I picked up these fine examples and there’s another one in the post.  The top pen is, obviously, a plunger filler, probably from the late thirties.  As so often with Onotos, this one doesn’t have a number.  Strangely, it seems to have been the practice to imprint the number on the turn-button before it was drilled to pin the shaft.  Thus the number is often obliterated.

Below that is a charming blue pearl De La Rue Junior with a superb Onoto 22 nib.  Late fifties, I’m guessing, though it could go a few years either side. These pens share so many of the characteristics of the Onoto that you couldn’t put a razor blade between them.

The next one down, looking large and solid, is a lever filling Onoto of the same period.  It has a semi-flexible medium Onoto 33 nib.  I confess to being more than a little tempted by this pen.  I don’t really need it but, well…  look at it!

Last, in its olive green box is another De La Rue Junior with a De La Rue 22 nib, still with its “M” for medium sticker.  The last three of these pens are pristine and would be regarded as New Old Stock had they not been re-sacced.   That’s no bad thing, though, as these pens were meant to be used.  As it says on the side of the box, “the pen that’s sure to suit your hand!”

While we’re on the subject of De La Rue Pens, some of you may remember this post: where there was some doubt as to whether the woodgrain section was original.  Having since seen a couple of other examples, I can confirm that it is original.

This And That


Looking at the number of twists in that sac, I’d say that not much writing was done with this Duofold after the last “repair”.

Non-pen demands on my time have been severe recently, so I’m getting little time at either the workbench or here at the PC.  Hence the lack of entertainment in here and the paucity of uploads to the sales site, matters which I hope to put right soon.  Anyway, here’s a pen joke:

Pat finds a pen in the street one day and he shows it to his pal Mick, and asks him if it’s his pen.

“Give us it here till I see,” says Mick, and pulling a scrap of paper from his pocket, writes on it.

“Sure, and ’tis my pen right enough,” says Mick.

“How do you know?” asks Pat,

“Cause it’s my handwriting,” says the bold Mick…

A Mabie Todd Forum

John Brindle’s Mabie Todd List is coming along by leaps and bounds.  More models are appearing week by week and quite a few are illustrated now.  There’s a new drop-down tab too, entitled Mabie Todd Information Gathering.  This leads to a forum where discussions can take place on any Mabie Todd-related issues you care to raise.  Come along and register and take part!  I know there’s a lot of knowledge out there that we can record for the benefit of all those who love Swan, Blackbird and Jackdaw pens.

How Not To Archive!

A number of years ago, I began consciously creating a photo archive of the pens that passed through my hands.  Sadly, at first I ignored the day-to-day bread and butter pens and only retained photos of the more unusual ones.  Four years ago or so, I came to my senses.  Given the huge disks and vast acreages of backup media we now had there was no reason not to keep everything from the gold-plated Swan to the lowest cartridge-fill Platignum.  And so I did.  I didn’t really know why.  I had no project in mind but I knew they would come in useful one day.  Such appropriate photos as I have are going to illustrate John Brindle’s Mabie Todd pen list.

However, I hadn’t sat down and planned a photo archive.  I just chucked stuff onto a backup disc. My backup is like the neglected attic of my PC.   You know the kind of thing.  That trunk there contains Great-Uncle Murgatroyd’s naval uniform and his wooden leg, and yonder woodworm-eaten wardrobe over there is the actual cupboard that contains the family skeletons.  Of which there are more than a few, believe me.  Really, it’s not quite that bad.  But it’s bad enough.  I backed up everything.  When I remembered.  So one directory will contain the image and data files for March 2009.  Another one contains six months of absolutely everything from November 2008 to February 2009.  It’s a little like if you ran around the library tipping the shelves and throwing the books on the floor.  You know the good stuff’s in there but you’re going to have to dig through a lot of rubbish to get to it.

In 2010 I got some sense at last and began taking a set series of images for each pen, and those were used for sales purposes as well as archiving.  Each set was accompanied by a writing sample which identified the pen.  Those ones can be raced through.  The others – well, it’s hardly efficient but it’s entertaining, just like the neglected attic would be.  Now, where did I put Murgatroyd’s leg?