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Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Stone Age Tools

Posted by Dirck on 17 December, 2012

The friend of whom I have often spoken here, she who is responsible for half of the Duofolds I own, has produced another prodigy.  Actually, she’s produced two, as she’s got an absolutely elegant burn on her left hand from a horrifying incident of incautious bacon-cooking.  The good prodigy, however, is a pen related item from a past decade:

Those pictures are strangely familiar to me....

Those pictures are strangely familiar to me….

Not, alas, one of these shoe-boxes full of rare old pens one infrequently hears about, but a reference book printed in 1989.  If I had entered upon my real interest in fountain pens at the same time as I got my first Waterman, rather than loafing along as a simple user for another decade, this is the sort of thing I would have been clinging to for data.

…and, holy cats, am I ever glad the internet has come together!  The contents are, for the most part, a monochrome continuation of the cover; images extracted from period catalogues, arranged with the single lines of data for each pen shown.  That data is the model name, a small coded description of the materials, and the then-current price for a particularly good example, something like: Werther Gladiolus, BCHR, LF, GPT $75.

It’s painful to think how much work this thing must have been to put together, just in terms of gathering the images, let alone arranging the whole thing and getting it printed.  Have I put a lot of work into my site?  Sure.  But if I find I’ve made an error, I can just go in and fix it.  If some item becomes outdated, I can update… and I’ve not made any effort at suggesting authoritative pricing.

Even moreso, though, coming at it from the other side– in a non-digital setting, one might hear of this thing’s existence in a distant and unfashionable town, one might thereafter find a copy, and then… well, it’s a bunch of black and white drawings.  Which is not necessarily complete.  Or, as in the case of mis-using Sheaffer price-codes as model indicators, not necessarily accurate.  I’m previously declined the title of Luddite, but this confirms me in that with a flourish of trumpets.  The power to discover this sort of information, and to correspond directly with those who might have access to primary sources, or even to lay digital hands on those primary sources, is something I embrace with both hands.

I appreciate the gift of this book, for all that it’s not hugely useful to me; the limitations of the physical format and the insistence upon “vintage” pens means that it doesn’t cover anything made after about 1960.  It may help with tentative identifications of some less popular items, after all, and there are plenty of pictures of pens, which will keep me out of trouble.  The light it casts on the hard, hard road of the pen collector in the days before the internet, though, gives me a new appreciation for those who went before me, and renders me deeply grateful for this vast, swirling resource, however full of contradictions and semi-random conjecture it may be.

Speaking of contradictions and semi-random conjecture; I’ve got a pile of new pages on the site.  That’s probably the sort of thing I should make a habit of mentioning here, eh?

Today’s pen: Parker VP
Today’s ink: Pelikan violet

3 Responses to “Stone Age Tools”

  1. Maja said

    Some have referred to Cliff and Judy Lawrence as the “godparents” of our hobby.
    The “Pen Fancier’s Club” that they founded way back in October 1977, and its accompanying monthly newsletter (“The Pen Fancier’s Magazine”) were instrumental in bringing together pen collectors from different countries, before the days of the Internet. We are so fortunate to be able to share our hobby with like-minded individuals around the globe, thanks to the ‘net, but I cannot imagine how lonely a hobby it was in “the dark ages”…. 😦

    • I’m going to be crass an use a quotation from my own works by way of agreement; as I imagine it, “each fountain pen user might as well have been the last Arthurian knight, watching from a hilltop as the milling hordes of barbarians below grunted and growled, never dreaming that there was a fellow on every other hilltop.” Perhaps, dreaming but not quite believing it from available evidence is more the state of affairs.

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