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Return of Compare and Contrast

Posted by Dirck on 1 August, 2012

A brief preface.  yesterday’s wheel finished its spin with the pointer in a TUMOR slot, but leaning somewhat on a SPIN AGAIN.   We’re rather low, given the history of this sort of thing in our entirely unrelated cats.  There is a histopathological question as to just how fierce the problem is, but “matter of time” are definitely the words on Sam’s slate now.

To avoid the blue devils, I’m going to give a serious contemplation to this week’s pens.  Let’s have a look at them:

They are, in the way of all pens, superficial similar.  The Merlin is a rather small pen, even by the standards of its own day, and has somewhat more interesting celluloid, but otherwise, they’re both of a fairly standard pattern.  Lever- versus button-filler is a point of difference, but one which in regular use hardly signifies.  They are both also pens with an interesting element of flexibility in their writing that, while never rising above semi-flex status, gives some extra character to one’s writing.

There is one other element in these pens that doesn’t necessarily appear to a casual glance.  They’re examples of pen makers who have missed the bus, as it were.  I don’t mean to disparage either of the pens, nor in particular their makers, because paradigm shifts are a little hard to spot from anywhere other than the far side.  There were two shifts afflicting the pen world at this time, and it seems neither Merlin nor Waterman saw it in time.  One was the obvious turning away of the writing public, as the novelty of the ballpoint drew attention.  The other was the shift to what one can broadly call the modern fountain pen, heralded by the appearance of the Parker “51”.  Both of these pens were made after the war, yet both represent a fine expression of the fountain pen as it stood just before the invasion of Poland.

And… both companies perished at about the same time.  Neither Merlin nor Waterman US saw the end of the 1960s, so far as my reading indicates.  Both these pens, then, are sort of End of Line markers for a couple of pen makers, and the only real difference lies in the amount of corporate history they had stacked up behind them.  Merlin was (again, so far as I’ve made out) a post-war start-up, a new kid who, as it turns out, mistook the market.  Waterman had been around for decades, and had weathered at least one other turning-over of the way the business was done, although it must be admitted they were hardly brisk in passing through the Rubber/Celluloid divide.  Perhaps they should have known better.

To wrap up, an other off-topic point; let’s all shout “EEK!” to mark the 150th birthday of M.R. James.  If you’re looking for a good ghost story, it’s him you want (and not Henry James).

Today’s pen: Waterman Stalwart
Today’s ink: Waterman blue (vintage)

2 Responses to “Return of Compare and Contrast”

  1. I always forget that M. R. James wrote short fiction. I met him first through his catalogues of Cambridge College libraries, which is itself a massive accomplishment. He also has the charm of messing you up if you read his name in reverse order, as in a card index- James, Montague Rhodes.

    And I’m sorry to hear about Sam. He is a great cat, and at least he can enjoy the domestic comforts he was denied, for as long as he can.

    • James, Montague Rhodes? That’s also scary; one might take him for a scholarship-flinging colonialist!

      I’ll pass along the Sam wishes to she who is bound to be more upset about this than I.

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