Coincidentally there has been an interesting discussion in Fountain Pen Geeks on the subject of fountain pen books. Many are now out of print and are prohibitively expensive second-hand. An example is Lambrou’s book on Japanese pens. I see it advertised for $135 today, but usually it is offered at £300 or upwards. That is beyond the reach of many including me.
A suggestion was made that the out-of-print books be made available in Kindle format. I have no idea of the legal and practical problems to be overcome to achieve that but in any case it seems unsatisfactory. Most fountain pen books depend upon illustrations, clearly visible in the large format of the books themselves but less so on a tiny screen.
The answer, one would think, is to buy the books you need when they are published. The books recently published by Andy Russell and Steve Hull are a case in point. They are still available. Some people may feel that they are rather expensive and they can manage without them. Undoubtedly, they are expensive compared with the average popular novel. Stephen King’s latest will probably cost less than £20 in hardback but considering it will sell a million copies in English alone, the cost of production is negligible.
Fountain pen books are in an entirely different market. Of necessity, they are heavily illustrated and that doesn’t come cheap. They are more likely to sell in hundreds rather than thousands because ours is the smallest of niche markets so there are no benefits of mass production to be gained.
Anyway, how expensive is expensive? My Vanishing Point cost more than Steve Hull’s latest book. It’s a great pen but the benefit I gain from it cannot be compared with the benefit I gain from The Swan Book. Mabie Todd pens have been at the heart of what I do for the last dozen years. In all that time, there have been many unanswered questions about the pens and at last all is made clear. I’ll never be scratching around to date a pen again, or to determine what model a pen is based on its colour and trim. I have all that before me now whenever I need it and the same goes for the earlier volumes on other brands.
I’ve done some limited research on pens in my own way, enough to appreciate the work that these authors have done and the hurdles they have had to cross to obtain the detail presented in these books. That goes double for The Swan Book considering that the company’s premises were destroyed by bombs during World War II taking all the paperwork along with the buildings.
We are very fortunate here in Britain that our hobby – our fascination – our obsession – has been covered so well. If you are hesitating I would advise you to buy such books as are available now. Later they may be very expensive or completely unavailable.