More very rare pens from Rard Changizi. Many thanks.
I don’t hate and detest ballpoint pens. I just don’t like using them and I avoid them. When I was employed, ballpoints were issued by my employer. The assumption clearly was that all written work should be done with them. The pens they issued were clear BICs or the yellow ones that had a finer point.
Why didn’t I like them? For one thing, they required an unnaturally vertical hold. The crystal BICs gave out a little too much ink so that a sticky blob would gather at the tip. Sooner or later it would be transferred to the page. I did a lot of handwriting, taking notes and minutes and those pens seemed to require some pressure. Not much, just enough to induce pain and even cramp in the fingers during an extended period of writing.
I fell back on pencils which seemed to be acceptable for all but permanent work. Pencils are much better writing instruments and don’t suffer from any of those problems I have outlined for ballpoints. I even found a BHR mechanical pencil, an Eversharp, and I used that without drawing adverse attention.
Why didn’t I just use my fountain pens? Mostly because I valued my old pens and some of the goons I worked with were perfectly capable of lifting one off my desk and “neglecting” to return it.
One way or another I managed to avoid using any ballpoints during the years of my employment. Of course there were times that material had to be written in something more permanent than pencil. I had nylon-tipped pens which were quite pleasant to use, and later Pilot gel pens came along. I really like them. If there has to be a successor to the fountain pen, the gel pen is it.
I don’t think there is a single ballpoint in the house, except for ones in sets that I have for sale. Most of the inks I use in my fountain pens are not permanent or especially water resistant, so addresses on envelopes are written with my trusty Pilot G2.
One of the discussions taking place in FPG at the moment is “which is the best pen?” Of course there can be no right answer to that question – too many people and too many pens for too many purposes but that doesn’t deny us the enjoyable debate on the qualities of pens that has ensued.
For me, the first divide would be between vintage and modern. Vintage is always going to win out for me, principally because of the nibs. Among all the splendid old nibs – and I restrict myself to British pens here, just because – Onoto, Swan, Parker, Waterman, Mentmore and so many more, it would have to be Swan, whether flexible or firm. Mabie Todd also made the very fine pens to back up their glorious nibs. I have a Leverless 1060, quite firm but capable of some line variation without effort. That’s the pen, the very best pen!
I don’t entirely ignore modern pens. Many Italian and German pens are really out of my price range. I can buy them to sell but not to keep and, in all honesty, I’m not tempted. Japanese pens are another matter. I have a Capless that is not only a wonder of convenience but it has a truly splendid fine nib. I have a couple of inexpensive Platinums too with very pleasing nibs. They seem to be kept inked a lot. Sailors, to my regret, have not worked out for me. They look good, sit well in the hand, but seem to have an irritatingly small sweet spot. That’s just what I have found, others love them.
When all that is said and done, I return to what I said earlier: the Swan is THE pen.
I’ve written about the Blackbird Fount Pen before. The search box above will find it. The Fount Pen comes as either an eyedropper filler or a lever filler and it is possible that these systems overlapped. Which leads me to the next point about the eyedropper filler: it can only be dated within a fairly wide timeframe. I have adverts showing the pen available in this form as early as 1913. That’s not to say it wasn’t in production before then. It was a popular pen and remained available well into the nineteen twenties. The last of them bore a Blackbird logo on the barrel.
The Fount Pens appear to have been made from very good black hard rubber. Despite having been faced with the same vicissitudes as other pens of this date those I have handled have retained their blackness and their shine. As with all Mabie Todd pens of this period, the threads and the fitting of the cone cap are excellent. Though, as a pen with no metal trim at all, it is clearly intended to be sold at a lower price than the Swan, quality has not suffered.
The pen doesn’t show its age but, unsurprisingly, the box does. It’s thoroughly scuffed but structurally sound. The once bright colours have faded. The filling instructions and guarantee are present, quite brittle with age. The eyedropper-filler is included but the bulb has perished.
It’s a hundred-year-old pen, give or take a year or two and it remains eminently practical for everyday use.
It turns out that I misread the engraving on the nib. It is a product of W.J. May and here’s a better one:
If I requote Rard’s comment that will give you an idea of how they fit in the British pen business and how rare they are today.
It is not a Mau, it is a May’s. May’s were a brand made by the Wade family (were involved with Summit, owned Lang’s, Pronto, Regent, Securus etc). May’s fountain pens were simple, basic lever fillers and there are not many of them out there. I think I may have one of the largest collections in existence owning only five.
They made some decent pens and were very innovative, producing the first capless fountain pen, the Pento Capless – very rare indeed. I’ve never seen one.
Many thanks to Rard Changizi for the photos and information.