I’m sorry that I’ve been writing so little here recently. Life continues to be hectic and distracting and, to be frank, I struggle to find subjects for discussion when I have no pens passing over the repair bench. Any suggestions will be welcome!
Long ago – in the 80s – remember them? – I was a collector. It was mostly Conway Stewart, Swan and De La Rue. There was a strange notion back then that the best example of each model was a plain, black pen. They tended to be cheaper than the more colourful examples so I had drawers of shiny black pens.
It took quite a while, but it eventually came to me that colours and patterns had greater appeal. Gradually and expensively I began to replace my black pens with patterns, especially among the glorious Conway Stewarts.
I do enjoy the colours and patterns, and so, clearly, do most other users of fountain pens. In the early days it was plain black hard rubber, a machined finish or gold or silver overlay in wonderful finishes that have never been surpassed. Colour came with red or mottled hard rubber and Waterman brought in other colours in their admirable ripple finishes. The rosewood hard rubber that Wahl Eversharp produced was another beautiful pattern.
Celluloid transformed the market, both in the USA and Britain. Throughout the thirties, especially, colours and patterns were produced by particularly Waterman and Conway Stewart that were works of art. Parker’s thrift pens, too, were made in inventive and outstanding patterns. Waterman’s geological celluloids and Conway Stewarts wonderfully inventive patterns like Tiger’s Eye, Cracked Ice and Herringbone were, to my mind, the apex.
Which modern pens are most colourful and inventive? I’m asking because I don’t really know. There are some bright and beautiful acrylics around but I think that material lacks the subtlety and depth of celluloid and casein. I have no doubt that in time modern technology will come up with materials, colours and patterns as good as, or better than, our wonderful historical examples.
A variety of patterns gives the collector something to aim for and it gives the writer an opportunity to find an example that suits his/her taste and personality. There is more to the fountain pen than the practicality of good writing. A pleasing colour pattern warms the heart!