A Mentmore Diploma

We all know what Mentmores are like, don’t we? The Diplomas are rather staid and old-fashioned, well-made but with nail-like nibs. They’re the Morris Miners of the British pen world.

Except that’s not always true. Take this beauty. The only other pen I can remember wearing this livery is the Watermans of the 1930s and it was known as Steel Quartz. Beautiful as it is, that’s not the best thing about this pen. It has a delightfully flexible nib. It needs no pressure at all to induce considerable line variation. It’s an unexpected treasure.

More generally, I think it’s fair to say that Mentmores are both underestimated and undervalued. They have the odd problem. Several models have poor gold plating. Others can have a tendency to slight shrinkage in the caps. It’s usually not enough to affect how the cap screws on but it can leave the cap ring loose. Not the worst fault in the world, but annoying.

That aside, Mentmore has much to be admired. If you like inflexible nibs – and many do – then the Mentmore is up there with Parker in nib quality. Given the large amount of tipping material that Mentmore applied to its nibs, it may be even better, in the sense that it is even more durable. Mentmore was not parsimonious with the gold and made big, sturdy nibs. As is the case with Parker, it’s rare to find a cracked Mentmore nib. Especially in the pre-war years Mentmore experimented with filling systems and in this regard they were the most adventurous British pen manufacturer.

After World War II, when fountain pen sales were beginning to fail in the face of the increasing reliability and popularity of the ballpoint, Mentmore didn’t lose their nerve. They brought out several new models that reflected the changing shape of fountain pens. They produced ballpoints of their own and innovated there as well.

I think that the better quality Mentmores are of the sleepers of the British fountain pen market. Their day will come.


12 thoughts on “A Mentmore Diploma

  1. Mentmore Diploma in my top pocket as a daily user, on my way to the Lichfield pen show 🙂

  2. I’m a big fan too – think I have something like forty now. I’ve two in this colourway – an Ink Lock, and a Diploma with semi-transparent sort of demonstrator barrel, although sadly neither nib is flexible – yours looks a cracker.

    Thanks for the suggestion of colour name – have to say I’d not been aware of that – did the Waterman pens have the occasional small red vein like these Mentmore’s? I’ve dropped collecting Mentmore of late – virtually all that I have came from on line auction sites – I see all manner of makes in the wild and at fairs etc., but Mentmore pens for some reason seem scarce.
    I think we should quietly hoard these models – I agree they are sleepers:)
    One possible reason for their collectability, imho, is their diversity of filling systems – makes for much interest.

    I did have a Morris Minor once – one of the Traveller models, or ‘Woodies’ as we used to say.

    1. In addition, Paul, I would like to hear about your bookbinding. It’s rather beyond me but it’s something that interests me. I have a 19th century multivolume dictionary which I had considered having rebound until I found out that the best offer I could get was in excess of £400. It doesn’t matter. I still find out what all those long-disused words mean. It would have been nice to have them gleaming in the bookcase, though.

  3. I had an Ink Lock. It was a bit beyond me but it was Eric, I think, repaired for it me. They had several designs of bulb filler, all of which I’ve been able to repair but some of them weren’t easy. Those which use a mechanical means to depress the bulb are fully the equivalent of the Parker Vac.

    The Waterman celluloid was the same with the occasional red inclusion which pretty much made the pattern.

    I’m sorry to say that all the older pens are becoming scarce. Grab ’em while you can. EBay seems increasingly devoted to 60s and later Parkers. Not that there’s anything wrong with them – I love them all up until about 1980, but other brands are becoming thin on the ground.

    Mentmore were great innovators. Though argument continues about this I contend that the Spot pen, made by Mentmore, had the white dot before Sheaffer did. They also invented the clicky ballpoint.

    My husband used to drive a Morris Minor while he was still at school. It didn’t belong to him but he drove the pre-apprentice students to college twice a week. He said that you could get a startling amount of excitement out of a Morris Minor particularly after a few drams.

    1. I think it might be digressing a tad too much Deb if I started banging on here about bookbinding – once I get going difficult to stop – that is unless you really did want some words posted here.
      If it’s of interest to you, I can drop you a PM some time in the next 2/3 days – do let me know please:)

    1. I could be wrong but as we can’t see a lever, and the pen does appear to have a blind cap, then quite likely this is a button fill pen.

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