Many thanks for all your good wishes in comments and email.  Most appreciated.

My apologies.  I’m not getting much done here because of family illness which is taking up most of my time.  I hope to get back to normal quite soon.

Latest Upload

They’re going fast, I have to say,
I sold a pen at once today,
I’d listed it and blinked my eyes
Then it was gone, to my surprise!

There are new uploads still to see;
They’re not all gone yet, mercy me!
Some rarities for you this week,
If something different you do seek.

The holidays are nearly here,
And fountain pens bring us good cheer,
So as a gift, or for yourself;
I’m sure you’ve been a good wee elf!

But time is short, the postie’s stressed
He really will do very best
To get these parcels out to you
But reindeer mail’s not always true.

Still, if you miss the cut-off date
For festive mail to not be late
A New Year’s present won’t go wrong –
But sales are hot, so don’t take long!

Fountain Pen Books

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.

Stephen Hull: The Swan Book – Mabie Todd in England 1880 to 1960

I have many fountain pen books. Several are really coffee-table books: photographs with a short paragraph of text. Those are perhaps marginally useful for identification purposes or to give a vague outline of fountain pen history, but no more.

Beautifully bound, illustrated and presented though it is, Stephen Hull’s The Swan Book is no coffee-table book but a repository of years of research and familiarity with Mabie Todd pens. It does not only cover Swans but also Blackbirds and Jackdaws, ephemera and shop window displays.

Mabie Todd in England was a large, valuable and complex company. Brief biographies of the most senior people involved are part of the story and this gives an idea of how the company developed under changing management.

Since I first became enamoured of British fountain pens, Swans have been central to my interest. I gathered as many Swan advertisements as I could which helped a little with dating but I remained unsure of the issue dates of many pens. This book solves that problem. It moves through the decades presenting the pens as they came along. That chronological progression makes the story easy to follow and it helps to find the pen you want. Indexing a book about fountain pens will almost always be difficult because, as in this book and the Conway Stewart one, the pens are identified by numbers rather than names. Again, the chronological order of the book makes consultation easy. The book is both an engrossing narrative and a reference work – one I use almost daily.

All our much-loved pens are here: the eyedroppers, self fillers, Leverless pens and Visofils to name but a few. They are beautifully illustrated by excellent photographs. It’s wonderful to see them all gathered together in one place, almost – but not quite – as good as having them all.

As we all know, the popularity of fountain pens has gone through a steep and deep decline. They have gone from being the primary writing instrument to a niche interest. This book enables the reader to live in the glory days of one of the best fountain pens ever produced: the Swan.

The Swan Book is central to the story of the fountain pen. It gives unmatched access to historical and technical detail. It is, perhaps, Stephen Hull’s masterwork, a splendid addition to his previous volumes. My advice is – buy this book! It’s a wonderful read and the most useful reference in my library.

A 1935 Silver Jubilee Pencil

This pencil commemorates twenty-five years of the reign of George V, his Silver Jubilee. It is purple, the colour associated with royalty. Most noticeable is the finial in the shape of a crown.

George V was how we seem to like our royalty: conventional, dull and non-intellectual. His only passion was stamp collecting. However, he did establish the standards which royalty have attempted to adhere to ever since, George VI and the present Queen with some success, others less so. Within a year George V was dead and succeeded by Edward VIII who tore up those standards and stamped on them.

Getting back to the pencil, it’s hexagonal and one of the facets indicates that the pencil was issued by Wanstead and Woodford Urban District Council. Like George V that august body is long gone. It disappeared in the reorganisation of 1965.

At first glance I would not have taken the pencil to be more than seventy years old. The colour and design seem more modern. It isn’t a cheap giveaway as most commemorative items are. It’s well made and must have been comparatively expensive.

Sunday Ramblin’

Our discussion on inks and subsequently on paper is very much in line with the times. I don’t read a lot of pen discussion boards. I’m only active in Fountain Pen Geeks but my husband reads them all though he doesn’t comment much. He confirms my suspicion that serious discussion of vintage pens plays a much smaller part than it used to, while discussion of modern pens, ink and paper is busy.

Changed days indeed. A decade or so ago matters were very different. We had the wonderful Lion and Pen which was entirely about vintage pens and was scholarly. Later, Isaacson’s Fountain Pen Board was similar and a real haven for collectors and users of old pens. Then it went to Facebook where I wouldn’t want to follow. Pentrace, in its eccentric way, remains essentially a vintage pen discussion but it isn’t for everyone. Fountain Pen Network from its inception (yes, I was there!) was the home of the “what ink shall I put in my brown Lamy Safari?” post. The level of vintage pen discussion was never very profound, and in the case of the disgraceful Conway Stewart section discussion was stamped out in favour of commercialism.

Time moves on and things change. I find the current emphasis on ink and paper rather than old pens unappealing and it is part of the reason why I began this blog a few years ago. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with an interest in inks and papers. I’m just saying I’m set in my ways and I don’t move with the times.