September 5, 2014 4 Comments
Here’s a pen I haven’t written about before: the Altura. Despite this slightly foreign-sounding name, it’s a British company, one of the oldest ones and one that produced a great many pens. So why haven’t you heard of it?
The Altura Pen and Pencil Company Ltd was established soon after the First World War and though it usually had a pen or two for sale under its own name, most of its production was for other manufacturers and own-brand wholesalers. You may well have handled and used an Altura pen without realising it. Certainly, if you have written with 1930s English-made Waterman pens, you’ve written with an Altura-made pen. Though they remained independent during world War two they were coming ever closer in a relationship with Waterman, and in 1946 Waterman acquired Altura. For a couple of years they continued to make a few of their own pens but after 1948 they were heard of no more.
This black hard rubber example is the Altura 752, probably dating from the 1930s but possibly earlier. The most obvious thing about it is the mid-cap clip, something that had a spell of fashionability in De La Rue in the 1920s. The pen measures 12.8 cm when capped but becomes a long 16.2 cm when posted. The nib is warranted. There is a tiny “RG” at the top of the clip. I don’t know what that stands for. On the barrel, very discreetly, is a tiny “Altura 752”. Much more prominent is “Dinsdale’s Ltd., Leeds 1” which probably refers to Dinsdale’s the stationer and art supplier, though it’s hard to be certain as there are many businesses in Leeds of that name.
Many of the unbranded pens from the pre-war period that we see were probably made by Altura, though it is impossible to say which ones as, like most pen manufacturers, they could turn out a pen in any style. Certainly, they made pencils for De La Rue and they may have made at least some versions of the De La Rue pen. Their own pens, though not outstanding, are decent writing instruments, not without a style of their own. It is a pity that the company not only disappeared in 1948, but has since sunk into such obscurity that its name is no longer known by most pen fanciers.