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Archive for August 8th, 2013

Boxed In

Posted by Dirck on 8 August, 2013

I occasionally see debates on the merit of keeping the boxes pens come in appear on the fora, and I don’t get involved because I can see the merits on both sides.  I’m going to externalize my notions on the topic today, as a means of filling some space and celebrating last night’s nearly-decent sleep and the consequent ability to not ramble about flaky crap as I did yesterday.  A side effect of the healing process in my mostly-recovered arms has been broken sleep, since when one is lying quietly in bed there’s fewer sensations to distract one from a slowly-unwinding bruise lodged between radius and ulna, so my judgement might have been a little off on yesterday’s screed.  I’ve had a better time with insomnia than some, so even in this I’m not really complaining.

Let’s start with the foolishness of keeping boxes.  I refer of course to the boxes they leave the factory in rather than the diverse box-like objects that on-line auctions see pens stuffed into; those that are reusable obviously get kept for outbound voyagers.  The manufacturer’s boxes generally fall into two categories, the first of which is useless little pieces of tat.  Mere folds of heavy paper only just able to support the name of card-stock–

Falling to bits even as you look at it!

These things were never meant to be kept, and exist primarily to keep dust off the pens while they await stocking on shelves.  Their one virtue is that they don’t take up too much space, which is exactly the problem with the other category of pen boxes.  Behemoths.  Leviathans.  Devourers of domestic real estate.  Meant as window dressing to assist the sale of the pen that lurks somewhere near their core, they are certainly durable enough to be hung onto, and indeed are apt to be commented upon by archaeologists fifty generations hence, but unless one has an Indiana Jones-style warehouse (complete with bent, patient porter) in which to lodge them, keeping them is an act of madness that fits within the general mental abberation of hoarding.

If you look carefully, you’ll see a pen in there.

To be fair, there is a slender little eyedropper under the pad. That needs plenty of elbow-room.

These are practical, logical considerations, but as many have observed before me, mankind is an impractical and illogical creature.  I incline towards the keeping of these boxes, and while I can give a reason, I’m not sure that the reason can overcome the counter-reason of “you’ll die when the stack of them topples on you.”  True, although for the moment the stack is non-threatening and mostly confined to a bed-side table’s drawers.  The reason has to do with preserving the context of the pen.

You see, while the pen itself has some indications about the aesthetic of its originating time and place, the box has a lot more of that attached to it.  That Hero box at the top, while a little bit of an anachronism, is redolent with the ideas of marketing in China at the time of the pen’s production.  As much as I’m very informal about my collecting of pens, I am likewise a well-meaning but inefficient historian of them.  I keep the boxes, when I get them, because they help to identify, because they expand the sense of the pen’s age, and because they offer a better insight into the similarities and differences of mindset between people as they exist now and as they were over the previous century and a bit.

All of that can be elided into “Well… they’re pretty cool.”  Some of my pen boxes on the tat side of the equation are items of wonderment merely because they have survived for so long; someone else not only gave a damn, but thought others might one day as well:

Tat, but it’s pedalling mighty hard with its little flocked bed.

Well… they may not have given much of a damn, but it’s still a cardboard box with a metal hinge-pin, and it’s been around since the late 1950s

On the more durable side of the equation, I’m sure one day this thing…

…which is the size of a VHS cassette…

…will one day evoke the same sort of tremors of fond nostalgia as these:

Man, that's some fancy digs.

Man, that’s some fancy digs.

Even a little squalid, it’s still pretty

Oh, the splendid mystery!

I’d have taken a picture of the box my Pelikan M600 came in, but I find I can’t stand back far enough from it to get the whole thing in frame.  One day, I’ll rent a helicopter for the job.

Today’s space-age pen: Pelikan M20
Today’s ink: Diamine Prussian Blue

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