Another Rambling Post

Anyone reading this blog is involved with vintage pens in some way: collecting, restoring, writing with them or reading and thinking about them. What is it that we’re doing and does it matter in the grand scheme of things?

It’s true that many things are not allowed to sink into oblivion after their time appears to have passed. There are many more reasons than one for this: admiration of the technology, nostalgia, a belief that fountain pens are the best writing instruments, their beauty, and because of the quality of their nibs, old pens are best of all.

It requires lots of money, skill and knowledge to restore old cars, aeroplanes, motorbikes and tractors. Restoring small things like fountain pens, pocket knives and cigarette lighters is undoubtedly cheaper an easier. Some may regard collecting fountain pens as an investment and in some very few cases they may be right, but mostly it’s a bad financial choice, I would say.

Those of us old enough to remember when the fountain pen was king of communication may well hark back to those days, essentially of their parents and grandparents rather than themselves – most people alive today are too young to have participated in the heyday of the fountain pen.

I think it is debatable that vintage fountain pens are better than modern ones but it’s certainly cheaper to buy top quality in pens of yesteryear. It is constantly said that for flexible writing some old fountain pens are better than any of the new flexible nibs but most calligraphers of my acquaintance use dip pens.

What, I believe, fountain pens and old fountain pens among them are vastly better than their most popular successor, is in writing at length. For most people ballpoints are note-takers and no more. Whereas the fountain pen was an improvement on the dip pen carrying out the same work better, the same is not true of the ballpoint. It does not do the same job better. It is more convenient for a limited subset of what fountain pens do. I could go on about this at great length but let’s leave it at that. You get what I mean.

There’s another way in which old fountain pens are better than new ones. Most modern fountain pens are cartridge/converter fillers. They have their uses. I won’t dispute that but they’re downright boring, deleterious to the planet and mostly a means of improving pen manufacturers’ bottom line. All those lever, button, plunger, piston fillers and so on are admirable solutions to the problem of getting ink into a pen, not getting plastic into a pen.

There are hundreds of reasons for us to do what we do. Mine won’t be the same as yours in all probability. If I try to be as accurate as I can mine is a mixture of nostalgia at about 20%, admiration of self-filling systems and pleasure in restoring them at about 40% and pleasure in using them at about another 40%. Though not for me, many of you will enjoy the whole area of ink and paper, maybe making that even more important than the pens for you. There’s room for all of us here in the fountain pen broad church.


7 thoughts on “Another Rambling Post

  1. Dear Deb, I sometimes ask myself the same question–Why?

    Most of all, it is the pleasure of writing on good paper with an ergonomically comfortable pen (Parker ’51’ size or thereabouts) that has a responsive nib. Bear in mind that ‘responsive’ does not mean the all-conquering ‘flex.’ I love the 14k Triumph nib of my Sheaffer Touchdown desk set, the Newhaven Duofold range, and a tiny Waterman’s with a rather firm nib that sings to me when I pick it up. I think your articles have freed me from the spell of ‘flexitis’.

    As for expensive modern fountain pens, well…just say I’m not into male bling.
    Thank you for a most interesting and entertaining post. Cheers from Oz.

  2. A lovely post, I could not agree with you more. I’ve been asked many times if my interest in vintage pens is an investment, after I stop laughing, I explain myself at which time the eyes of the person asking glaze over. Unfortunately, I am a last-year boomer and missed fountain pens as a writing instrument in schools. Instead, I was victimized by Bic Cristal, my father was a civil servant working 2 or 3 jobs and did not have the money to invest in a good school pen. But I digress. The pens I choose are all based on nostalgia. Yes, the mechanics are fascinating to me but that is secondary. Also, I will seek out personalized pens, just so I can research the name imprinted on them. Maybe I have an overactive imagination, or just hopelessly sentimental, both I’m sure. But bringing a pen back to life in this age of disposable provides a level of satisfaction and pride I cannot find in the ownership of the latest and greatest modern fountain pen.

  3. Hi Deborah: Thank you for yet another wonderful post. I am not sure what I liked more: your appreciation of your experience with fountain pens or your writing skills. 🙂

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