Every country has its mystery pens, the ones no one seems to know anything about. Britain has a few but the one buried deepest in mystery, to my mind, is the Nova. Try searching it in Google and once you’ve eliminated all the other pens that have “Nova” in their title you’re left with – nothing! People in the various pen discussion boards have asked about the Nova but no one seems to know anything about the company which made the pens, where they were based, who were their directors, or which years they were in business. And I’m no different. I don’t know anything about the Nova.
I’m aware of two models, this traditional open-nib model and another, perhaps later, with a long section and nib that appears semi-hooded. These are all the Nova pens I know about. I have no way of telling when they were made though my guess would be that they’re post-war. I have a vague memory that I’ve seen a larger version of this open-nib pen so perhaps there is a third model. Also, I believe that some pens have steel nibs whereas this one has a very nice warranted 14 carat gold one. It may not be original, of course.
This is quite a small pen at 123 mm capped. The gold plating has lasted well throughout. Cap and barrel are slightly tapered. Unusually, the clip screw is in the same rose/black patterned material as the cap and barrel. The stepped clip curls at the end. The black section is gently tapered with a “stop” to prevent fingers slipping onto the nib. The feed is simple and quite old-fashioned.
The later pen measures 125 mm capped and is not all that dissimilar apart from the long section and the partially covered traditional nib. It has a more modern comb feed. The nib is gold plated and writes very smoothly. Unfortunately it is in less good condition with considerable plating loss to the clip and cap band. The yellow box reminds us that the “Nova” pen will ‘suit all hands’ and is ‘for satin smooth style’.
So that’s the Nova – just about all I know about it. As there doesn’t seem to be any earlier or later models I would guess the company wasn’t around long, perhaps as short a time as a couple of years, but it seems to have sold a lot of pens in that time. It has the appearance of an inexpensive pen and perhaps that was why so many were sold, aimed perhaps at the school market.
It’s a less popular pen now though I can’t see any particular reason why. It’s on a par with Burnhams, I would say, quite robust and a good writer despite that primitive-looking feed. As always, I have a soft spot for the underdog and I rather like the mysterious Nova. I’d like to know more about it and maybe someday I will.
Thanks to Paul L for information and photos of the later Nova and its box.
16 thoughts on “The Nova Pen”
I’ve an identical clip with this stepped design on both a ‘UNIQUE’ – which I’m told is a cheap pen though it looks o.k. – and a WYVERN No. 81, but not 100% sure it’s the original WYVERN clip.
So someone was knocking out this pattern of clip in some numbers – though not a clue who ………. so regret this similarity of no help, and vast amounts of patience still needed:-)
Have to say I’m a big fan of rose/black – Parker used it commonly on their much older b/f Duofolds. and I’ve a beautiful Mentmore ‘Major’ in something very similar – though expect most manufacturers offered it.
That longish un-stepped section on the grey pen fairly similar to sections on Mentmore’s final version of their DIPLOMA.
I’ve seen that clip on Uniques too, but not on a Wyvern. I wish I could say with certainty that it was a bought-in part but at this remove from the time that these pens were manufactured it’s all getting a bit difficult! Who is to say that these clips were not replacement parts.
I know the early English rose/black Duofold patterns that you mean. Very attractive.
As regards the long sections, they were all at that game of pretended modernisation. Of course, inside that long section is a perfectly normal nib and feed.
I’ve also wondered if there was a commercial link between Unique and Nova during the 1940’s due to the similarity of the pens, including the partially covered nib pen. As they produced the same basic design for other third parties it is quite possible. Equally I’m sure Unique out sourced production when it suited them. If she is still alive Barbara might be able to help as she would have been at Unique’s at the time.
Yes, that’s a good point, Peter. There’s a similarity in design and patterned celluloid. Both pens use the same clip too. It’s very interesting. I don’t know who Barbara is.
Barbara Epstein, the wife of the owner during the 1950/60/70’s. She contacted you a few years ago.
Oh! My memory! It’s early onset dementia, I swear.
I’ve been thinking about Unique pens for four or so years. You have had slightly more important issues to occupy your thought, Deborah
True. Things have not been all sweetness and light, Peter, but things do fly in and out of my head with great rapidity.
I have one the same as the boxed one above but in mottled green without the box. Not in very good condition I’m afraid. Lever doesn’t function but it appears to be all there. How common they are today I am not sure and probably only of value to a collector. It’s free to anyone who wants it.
Not the most popular old pen, I agree, but they make decent writers.
Hi I’ve just put Nova into google and found this blog, I’ve got a Nova like the green one but with a different nib. I think it was my mother’s and I used to use it at school. I used to love it, I haven’t used it for years but was going through my pens and curiosity got the better of me…….
Novas are not so well known as some of the other British pens but they’re nice writers and good pens.
I have a version similar to the grey one pictured. What strikes me is the extensive use of plastics. The feed and section are (injection molded) and I think the body also (reacts to acetone). I’m guessing that puts it as early fifties. The nib is steel and prone to rust and the gold plate disappears at the slightest wiff of metal polish. A fun pen marketed for the proletariat or as said school kids.
I agree with your comments. Unfortunately I know no more about the Nova than I did when I wrote the article.
NOVA is AVON backwards.
Apparently these pens were made in Fordingbridge in Hampshire which is on the river Avon in the early 1960s.
Apparently they supplied them to Woolworths.
Many thanks, James. I’ve mad this a short article so that more people will see it.