Here is a trio of elegant Onoto pens from different dates and in different styles.

I read recently somewhere that De La Rue discontinued the traditional plunger filler Onoto because the filling system had become outdated.  This is nonsense, of course.  Filling systems don’t become outdated.  If they did, we wouldn’t have modern eyedropper filler and bulb filler pens.  Truth of the matter is that the replacement pen, a lower quality piston filler was much cheaper to manufacture, an essential in those days of severely declining sales The Onoto plunger filler was the first efficient self filling system and it remains the best even today.  Sheaffer borrowed the idea in 1934 though they did not implement it as well as it had been done with the Onoto.  The new Onoto company makes plunger fillers once again, though sadly they are well out of the reach of most pen buyers.

In many respects the Onoto is the ideal fountain pen.  It holds a tremendous amount of ink and the nibs are wonderful.  The filling system can be serviced comparatively easily and at no great expense.  Time between services is very long, and a pen that is regularly used may go for decades between services.  My favourite writer for many years was a slender slip cap 1920s Onoto with a flexible medium oblique nib.  In a moment of madness I sold it a few years ago, a decision I have regretted ever since.  Maybe I’ll find another one, one of these days.


The Savoy Pen

I note that my post of January 3 was full of good intentions.  I managed a post on the fourth, and there’s been nothing after that.  Explanation is that I’ve had the most vicious attack of arthritis, probably down to the awful weather that we’ve had.  Result was that I’ve done nothing for quite some time.  I’m a bit better now and I hope to get back into my stride again.
I last wrote about Savoy pens back on 26 November 2011 – how time flies!  In that article I covered the debate about who makes Savoy pens.  I’m still of the opinion that they are made by Langs.  In every respect these pens look like Langs work to me.  The name, too, follows their usual pattern of calling pens after London street names or districts.
This example has seen a bit of use, and even abuse.  You will note that the lever is bent, though it functions perfectly well.  I’m not entirely sure that the arrow clip is original – but it might be.  I think these clips were used on Langs-made Stephens pens at one time.
The imprint doesn’t help much in deciding who made the pen.  It just says “Savoy British Made Made in England”.  A bit emphatic about the location of manufacture, perhaps!  This is my second coloured one, and very nice the pattern is too, in a sort of rose marble.  I’ve also had a couple of black chased ones, very like 40s Stephens.

So that’s the Savoy.  Tell me who you think made it.

Mabie Todd & Bard Swan Pen


This one’s a bit special!  It’s a Mabie Todd and Bard Swan eyedropper filler.  Bard was dropped from the company name in 1907 so this pen is before that but I don’t know how much before that.  Going on advertising images that I have seen my guess would be somewhere in the late 1890s.  It cost quite a lot but I suspect I got off light and the real price is rather higher at I paid.

It’s a gold filled half overlay and the overlay is printed “The Swan Pen Pat Feb 8 81 Feb 21 82 Mar 6 88 Mabie Todd & Bard New York”.  The pen measures 13.4 cm capped.  The cap bears a Swan imprint.  It’s the most basic of eyedroppers and the nib appears to be a medium.  I suspect that it’s a replacement as the base of the barrel carries the letters “OBL”, signifying that the pen was issued with an oblique nib.
It’s a slender pen, which was what people expected back in those days when they were making the transition from dip pens, almost all of which were very slender.
The hard shelled case has a leather finish and apart from one scuff on the top it is in good condition.  There are some ink stains on the inside.  The original eyedropper is included.  The rubber bulb has hardened with the passage of time, but these can be bought on the Internet.
This pen was issued at a time of comparative peace and plenty.  The two horrific world wars of the 20th century were yet to come.  Though society was ordered in a way that we would reject today, it was stable and wealth was distributed more fairly than it is today.  The economy was sound and unemployment was low.  I wouldn’t want to go back there but at least they didn’t have the daily diet of horrors that comes our way.  It’s interesting to compare the conditions under which people lived in Britain then and now.  I think we’ve seen plenty of progress but little, if any, improvement.

New Year Thoughts

A Happy New Year to you all.  Now that the festivities are over it’s a good time to think about this blog – what I’ve done over the years and where it might go.  Despite the many years that I have had an interest in pens, I remain a generalist.  I don’t have the knowledge about any one manufacturer that the more avid collectors will have.  However I do have quite a wide knowledge of pens and my pen buying always includes the unusual, whenever I can get it, as that provides subjects for discussion in the blog.  It’s nice to get a hold of something rare and old.  With some of these oddities, there’s nothing to refer to on the Internet, and I feel that if I can get at least a basic description of such a pen, it gives buyers something to refer to if they come across another example.

In the last quarter of last year, or so, I was posting less than I had been from the beginning.  That was mostly down to my workload which was pretty intense, and there was some ill-health in there as well.  I hope to do more this year.  It’s certainly not that I’m running out of ideas or pens to write about; there’s plenty more out there to discuss.

When I started this blog I was only interested in old pens.  Though they remain at the core of my interest, new pens have begun to catch my attention.  Some of them are not as bad as I assumed all new pens to be, and in fact the pens on my desk, for the last few weeks, have been a cheap Chinese pen with a very nice fine nib and a Monteverde Invincia Stealth which is a very pleasant writer.  Once the ink runs out they’re likely to be replaced by old pens again, but I think that new – or at least recent – pens will feature here a little more.