What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Who’s on Top?

Posted by Dirck on 29 May, 2012

Here’s something that comes up on the pen fora with some regularity: “I’ve got a {known brand name} pen; what comes next?”

The question is not entirely foolish, since {known brand name} is usually something like a TWSBI Diamond or a Lamy Safari, and on a cost and fitting front there are definitely steps upward.  It is, however, an interesting insight into the need in many of us for not only an established hierarchy but for a path.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I don’t have much brief with the notion of pens which are expensive for the sake of being expensive (and in listening to a certain podcast, I find I’m not entirely alone), but making allowances for that, I will admit that there is a rough hierarchy of pen makers; TWSBI and Mont Blanc do not occupy similar ground.  However, I don’t think it’s quite right to consider the world of the makers as occupying a set of shelves, makers of inexpensive stuff down at the bottom, makers of overpriced pocket jewellery at the top.  Pelikan, after all, makes things in that latter category as well as kids’ school pens.  I think it’s better to think of the makers as lying on a shared spectrum, and their frequency charts overlap.  Pelikan covers the whole visible spectrum, Hero attains yellow-oranges but also has lines of infra-red, Waterman is currently blue-shifting, and Mont Blanc is trying to keep itself somewhere between indigo and x-rays (which explains why I’ve never seen one in person).

So much for hierarchy then.  What of order of succession?  Having put a foot on A, is B destined to follow?  Not at all, no more than one must use an orange crayon after a red.  I always suggest a good but inexpensive pen to start with, but once one has a grip on notion of fountain pen, the next pen can be anything; old or new, cheap or expensive, anything within the boundaries of one’s own tastes and wallet.  The only thing I would seriously urge is a certain amount of contemplation.  Will the $12,000 pen bring joy through writing or merely through showing off (the latter not totally invalid, if you know that’s the reason)?  Are you physically and mentally prepared for a vintage flex pen?  That’s the sort of counter-questions that spring to mind when I hear “what next?”

Today’s pen, the result of considered action: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink, a frivolous whim of the instant: Herbin Pousièrre de Lune

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