John Brindle’s Mabie Todd Pens Lists

In 2013, when there was little information available on Mabie Todd pens, John Brindle spent weeks gathering information on every one of their pens that he could find. Someone else created the website and several of us added photographs of the pens. At the time it was a tremendous reference. It’s perhaps less important now because Stephen Hull’s The Swan Pen is so informative about the company and their pens. However, I think the listing still has a purpose as a quick, easily available reference.

An enthusiast contacted me a few weeks ago because he had photographs of pens that he wished to add to the list. He had used the site’s contact button but it no longer worked. I found that John’s personal website and his email addresses had gone. I can only conclude that John is no longer with us. He was elderly and clearly frail when he produced the site seven years ago.

Rather than let yet another British fountain pen site slip into abeyance I contacted the gentleman who had put the site together for John. The bad news is that the site was written with software that is no longer supported, so it cannot be updated. The good news is that the site will continue as it is for the moment.

It has been accepted that I will take over responsibility for the Mabie Todd list. As time permits – and time is supplied in small quantity – I will attempt to create another version of the list using WordPress. It will of course include all of John’s work and can be updated as new information and photographs come along. It will always be John Brindle’s Mabie Todd pen list.


12 thoughts on “John Brindle’s Mabie Todd Pens Lists

  1. Such a geat job. Hats off! It is very kind of you to bring it forward. I wish I could do something similar about another, often neglected, British producer: Lang / Curzons / Summit.

      1. Yes, for an organisation that claims to be ‘devoted to the conversation and study of writing instruments and accessories’ they are most uninclined to maintain their data bases which include Jonothan Donahaye’s Conway site and Paul’s Summit site

      2. I agree. This has long been a concern of mine. Not updating those excellent sites is such a waste. Having said that, I’ll have to make sure to make a good job of John’s site!

  2. I don’t think that is entirely fair, Peter! Though I am no longer a WES member for various reasons, I have to defend them in this instance. It is not a straightforward task to continually update a website written many years ago by someone else using software that is now undoubtedly out of date. Deb has indicated as much in her original post.

    1. Of course there are difficulties with a site as old as JD’s but the technology is such that it wouldn’t be a huge problem to convert/create a new, updateable version. It just requires the will to do so and that is what is absent. It’s such a shame that the product of the years of work that Jonathan put in is now a fossil. It’s not a good way to treat his memory, nor is it a kindness to the great many users of that site.

  3. The Brindle and Donohaye sites remain very useful for quick checks and they have the advantage of being free to users. It’s great to hear that Deb will be taking the Brindle site forward and makes very good sense. She deserves our thanks and I wish her all the best with this endeavour. What surprises me is that the magnificent Hull guides were not also issued as updatable web-based versions (as far as I am aware). Many books published these days are also published in electronic form.

    1. I really struggle to understand the naivety of this suggestion. Perhaps take a moment to consider how the financial aspect of such an approach might be worthwhile for the original author, given the costs of creating, hosting and updating such a website, the content of which is freely available? The amount of original research required over nearly 40 years for Steve Hull’s books is massive compared with the efforts of John Brindle and Jonathan Donahaye, which (however worthy) were largely just compiled by viewing and logging online sales. What is more, any new information updating the contents of the Hull books is already made freely available, either on the englishpenbooks website or (for more extensive updates, especially related to FPFTM) within the WES Journal..

      1. I’m sure Nick will have his own response but you and I have discussed freely available online information before. These sites are not to be compared with Stephen Hull’s excellent works. That would be foolish and no-one’s doing that. They have their uses as an instantly available, at-your-fingertips resource. I don’t want to make the effort of taking down a book and hunting through it to find a small detail when I’m researching a pen. One of the problems with creating a book about, say, Mabie Todd or Conway Stewart is the virtual impossibility of creating a good index because of the numeric identifiers of the models. Both of these sites overcome that difficulty. There is information on Jonathan’s site that isn’t available in Stephen’s book, such as which nib goes with which pen. I don’t really like the way you damn those sites with faint praise. They are useful and valuable in their context. They are not competitive with published works.

  4. I willingly confess to boundless naïveté. But there are plenty of reference books in all sorts of subjects (not necessarily lucrative ones like the law) which are published electronically – one of the joys of which is ease of updating. And I see no need to disparage the work of Brindle and Donohaye by comparison with Hull. Donohaye’s work was certainly not a product of mere web-gazing. It is infused with the spirit of the collector and an obvious enjoyment of the hobby. Personally, I always enjoy it when the photo caption states “From my own collection”. When others’ assistance is acknowledged (or photos used) it reminds one of the fun involved in working with other collectors. The Hull books are obviously more systematic and painstaking (and glorious tomes to boot), but they will need revision in due course. That process of revision would have been made easier if their publication had not been limited to book format.

    1. A few thoughts on this matter: I assume you are referring to ebooks. This works well for some books and not for others, due to the size of the standard Kindle, by far the most popular format. I have some of Richard Binder’s books in Kindle format and they work quite well. Neither Stephen’s nor Andy’s books would convert so well, with their large illustrations and the big layout of the pages. Even with one of the larger tablets the work would be too compressed to be comfortably readable. It would take a major change in layout to work and it would be to little benefit for the author. The labourer is worthy of his hire, as they say.

      With regard to Jonathan Donahaye’s list and John Brindle’s, to the latter of which I am freely making a considerable commitment of time and effort, I think that shows the value I place upon them. Less information, of course, but more accessible due to being listed by model number and to being online. JD’s CS site would benefit from correction and updating. That should be done. I am beginning to make some progress with the design of JB’s Mabie Todd site – being given some much-needed kelp.

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