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Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements


Posted by Dirck on 4 November, 2010

Yesterday I was talking about the sort of random, casual damage done to pens by the youngsters they drift across.  Today, I am prompted by a forum discussion to examine the idea of pens that have been permanently defaced with intent and forethought, either by the owner or someone who considered themselves a friend of the owner.  Here’s an example:


The personalized pen.  Scarred for life!  I might say, “Branded!” but since that has come to mean something else than a means of identifying cattle ownership (or at least it insists on a darker definition of  “cattle), I’ll leave that term alone.

There are some people who simple cannot abide this kind of thing, who consider it the utter ruination of a pen.  I am not in this camp, but I can see their point, especially in such an over-the-top example like this.  It does render the future user somewhat sheepish through a sense of appropriation.  It is an amendment of the form divine to no purpose other than establishing ownership, which if you keep the thing in your pocket isn’t really an issue.  It messes up the resale value.

The other side of the debate in the forum is a little more diverse.  Some are at worst indifferent, a stance which shades over to outright enthusiasm for a tangible link to the past.  “I have this pen now, but Eula Edwards had it once, and someday another will hold it and wonder who stands between him and Eula….”  Very romantic.

I am in the latter camp, for the most part.  I find this extremity a little much, as is reflected in how seldom I actually break this pen out for use, but I am occasionally given to romance, and can otherwise view this as a sort of specific patination.  I am not the sort of collector, if that word even applies to me, that wants an old pen to look like it has been held in stasis, safe from the hand of man and time alike.  A pen decades old has been around the block (with strange rare exceptions), and should no more look brand new than Bruce Willis should look like a wisecracking lightweight with a full head of hair.

There are a lot of pens, indeed, which were meant to be engraved.  Sheaffer’s Autograph and Signature pens, in various shapes through the years, had big fat bands (like this Valiant which I initially thought was an Autograph) specifically to allow a personal mark to be applied.  Most of the chased hard rubber pens, as well as chased metal pens, have a cartouche along the barrel, a space left without chasing so personalization can be done.  In ye olden days, pen engraving was a if not a norm then at least frequent enough.

Romance aside, I find the engraved pens with their implicit stories slightly more interesting than the pristine brethern.  Certainly, my Waterman Citation is a nice pen, but thanks to W.H. Carr I can pin down the year of production with some confidence.  An otherwise dead-dull Parker Challenger becomes a subject of indirect admiration, as the engraving led to a back-story including service in post-war Japan.   I grant, having previously mentioned it, that this can also be a source of depression, but pens are more frequently handed out for good things (graduations, for example).

My main objection to engraved pens lies in the efforts of others to obliterate them in a misguided effort to boost the price.  Folks, unless you know what you’re doing, don’t do it.

I rather doubt I’m ever going to cause a pen to be engraved, as it seems self-aggrandizing if for myself and enforcing my own aesthetic if for someone else.  I suppose in twenty years or so, we’ll see if my son’s graduation causes a change of tone.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 5-30SR
Today’s ink:  Herbin Vert Empire

4 Responses to “Vandalism”

  1. […] be replaced and there’s no apps that will run on it anymore.  I’ve mentioned my own ambivalence to engraving pens, but at least if a pen is inserted in this little vignette, it works: I hope it […]

  2. […] imperfection is a flat spot on barrel, where someone has effaced a personalization.  Some time ago, I mentioned that some people are very distressed by seeing a name on the side of a pen, and it […]

  3. […] a Parker “51″ Demi, and while I know some folks will be put off by the engraving, it’s very appropriate to a prize draw.  It came […]

  4. […] writing.  There is one aspect to the thing that I consider extremely charming, but which in the eyes of some folks has ruined the pen […]

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