A Mysterious Blackbird

Mabie Todd flourished between the 1890s and the mid 50s, when it was taken over by Biro and began turning out ever-more poor quality pens until Biro closed the company down. That’s the story, isn’t it? Or is it?

This pen turned up a few weeks ago and changed the story, for most of us at least. It’s a button filler of the traditional kind, as you would see on older Parkers or Mentmores. The quality of the workmanship is outstanding. The plastic, probably celluloid, is beautiful and the pattern continues on into the section.

The barrel imprint identifies the pen as a Blackbird and the clip bears a Swan image.

How does it come about that such a beautiful pen is produced in about 1960, when the last pens we saw from Mabie Todd were such poor specimens? The story, so far as I know, is that this pen was made in the Netherlands. Whether it was done under licence or perhaps a company had bought out the rights to the Swan and Blackbird names and images I don’t know, but the Swan barrel imprint on the pen was made by the same stamp that was used on the mid 50s Calligraph.

Stephen Hull has other Blackbird pens, some of them button fillers like this one, others piston fillers that look as if they were made in Germany. Much mystery surrounds these pens. Perhaps when Stephen Hull’s eagerly awaited book on the English branch of Mabie Todd appears, all will be explained!


Edit to add:

Excuse the quality of the photos – done in a hurry!






9 thoughts on “A Mysterious Blackbird

  1. Could we see pictures of the button and section please Deb.
    It had been hoped by me, that Steve would be launching the Swan book at the London Show this year, that draws ever nearer and he hasn’t asked who would want the limited editions yet ?

  2. hope Deb will forgive me for jumping in here – it’s just that I’ve seen comments posted on the FPN by a reliable source that this volume won’t be available until late 2019. Believe the title will be ‘The Swan Pen: Mabie Todd in England 1880-1960’. Should this proposed date change am sure we will hear on the grapevine, but looks like you’re going to have wait a fair bit longer.
    I think it’s going to be a popular tome – more so I’d suggest that the Onoto book – perhaps as popular as the CS volume.

  3. To definitively clear things up, Steve’s Swan book was never promised before LWES2018, and even 2019 is now looking a little unlikely, given how much time will be required to get all the pens and associated ephemera together from various corners of the world for photography before detailed layout can begin. It must be remembered that this is not a full-time enterprise for any of those involved, so the whole project is significantly limited by available time and funds. Any official updates to the timescales will be noted at englishpenbooks.co,uk.

  4. thanks Andy …………. do you know if Steve is interested in seeing pix of Swan/M.T. pens. Am not suggesting we all send him pictures of our entire collections, but if it was thought there might something unusual or interesting in some particular way, might it be worth sending him a photo?

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