Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The 21st century pen

It was like a secondary-school reunion, being surrounded by dimly remembered names. Except these were makes of pen. Parker, of course, I knew and Waterman had a classical ring. Shaeffer I associate with the USA but what about Platignum with its curiously intrusive g? Nor did I realise that the brashly pragmatic propelling pencil manufacturer, Yard-O-Led, did pens.

I was looking into the evolution of the fountain pen at the behest of my blog commentators. Surely things had moved on since the days when one lifted a small lever on the side, depressing a rubber bag and creating suction which drank ink. They have. Cartridges are less messy but there’s also a thing called a convertor which is unscrewed to reveal a plunger. With which one plunges.

Inks? Once there was simply blue, black and – for the ultra-fastidious – blue-black. Now you can get brown, green, purple, red and turquoise, the latter for anonymous sex scandal notes. The nanny state is at our elbow. You are warned that changes in cabin air pressure on planes may cause your fountain pen “to leak”, coded manufacturer talk for “explode”.

Roller balls seem to cost more than nibs. A cool £215 if you want to rotate with Shaeffer. Waterman’s Carene de luxe is nibbed and a snip at £146.50.

My research was entirely altruistic since I am not in the market for one of these devices. If I wrote with a fountain pen people might expect me to write better. I’d rather they offered up oblations (The first time I have used that word. Now there’s a thing.) celebrating the invention of the word processor.


marja-leena said...

Memory tweaks here that reveal our ages! I could never afford the expensive pens, except the Rapidograph technical pen we were required to buy in art school. It was lovely to draw and even write with but it would clog up with the Indian inks we used (a mistake!) so there was a lot of maintenance keeping it clean. Eventually it never did clean after a period of non-use but I still have it somewhere.

Avus said...

The Platignum was every boy's dream at Maidstone Grammar School in the '50s. I had a green one. When I passed my "A" levels a loving grandmother presented me with a Parker 51, which I still use and cherish (filled with Parker "Quink", of course)

Relucent Reader said...

Oblation: rolls right off the key or tongue, donnit? "Use a word three times and it is yours", Mrs. Driscoll my 9th grade English instructor would say. A great word and yes, a new word is "a thing".
What, pray tell, is "Quink"?

Barrett Bonden said...

M-L: I loved the idea of a Rapidograph but as far as I recall it required an artist's hand to use it properly. Wasn't it necessary to hold it vertical?

Avus: In my case it was the Longines wristwatch my wise mother (who, from my letters sent home during National Service, knew a pen wouldn't be the thing) gave me for my twenty-first. Later this was to present me with a dilemma which I have already blogged about.

RR: Ain't memory odd? That euphonious word has remained unused on my cerebral hard disk for at least sixty years. Then suddenly the need for it popped up. I had to check in the dictionary that it was what I thought it was. And now thousands more people are going to be visited by a desire to use this word. It's called morphic resonance and I'll blog about that some time.

Meanwhile, Quink. A brilliant marketing decision made probably eighty or ninety years ago. Ask any Brit middle-aged or older, fountain pen user or not, what Quink is and they'll say ink. The word sticks

Julia said...

Niftily, friends tell me that fountain pens are still used in schools in France to teach hand writing. They are certainly sold in the school supply section of E.LeClerc, so I'm guessing this might be true. When we were over in Brittany this summer we each picked out a pen to take home as a souvenir. A certain five year old now tells us that a princess-decorated fountain pen is the only instrument she could imagine scribbling with, but it is definitely not a traveling pen - too much leakage for that!

Lucy said...

O for an Osmiroid - or an oblation come to that...

I longed for and eventually acquired a Rotring, first for drawing, used a classic old black one, and then I wrote all my A level papers with a more flowing upgraded brick red one. but you had to keep that nib clean of indian ink!

Now Rotring do good disposable ones, which I sometimes acquire in discont stores like Noz...

Obviously a topic that gets people reminiscing!