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Posts Tagged ‘Merlin’

Here’s Hoping

Posted by Dirck on 16 June, 2014

I’ve mentioned a couple of times in the recent past that there’s a review I have been meaning to at, as soon as I remembered to process the pictures.

Well, it turns out it was “picture”, singular. I thought I’d snapped more.

No, I have not shown you this picture previously. It just looks rather like a lot of other pens.

What we have here is a bit of an enigma, and I have little to offer on it other than my own particular flavour of speculation.  The word, offered by none other than Dame Rumour herself, is that this is a company set up in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, and that the production was aimed at sales to the occupying forces.

I have no evidence for nor against this.  However, it doesn’t sit quite right, for a few reasons.  First, there’s the very notion of a new business setting itself up in wartime Holland.  Amsterdam, unlike Rotterdam, was not particularly worked over in the invasion, so it’s not an impossible prospect, but it seems likely that anyone doing so would be apt to be tarred with suspicion of collaboration even if they were not collaborating with the invaders.  That would make it hard to hire much of a workforce, if my father’s stories of the social forces in the Netherlands at the time are valid.  However, like certain current national governments, the Nazis were great friends to business, so it’s not absolutely out of the question.

With an eye specifically on pens, established makers in Germany like Pelikan and Montblanc were rather oppressed by the demands of the wartime economy, and it seems out of character for the Reich to smile upon an effort to set up new enterprises which weren’t given to at least nominally military goods.  If the target market were the Dutch population itself, it might be a little more likely, but since the Dutch population was having trouble getting enough to eat, the pen market was probably not so big.  There were the occupying forces, of course, but (1) they were busy with the occupation, (2) they also didn’t constitute a huge market (non-comms and other ranks got more mileage out of pencils, officers weren’t so thick upon the ground), and (3) I suspect they’d prefer a German pen, just to keep the Gestapo from asking pointed questions about loyalty.  One is led to believe this last item became extremely pointy as the war went on.

Then there’s the name– “espero” is Spanish for “I hope”, on the face of it a likely name for a company set up under the shadow of the Nazi eagle, and the sort of thing the Dutch have gotten up to since at least the time of Napoleon when very unlikely family names were offered to tax collectors (things like “of the Salmon” or “the Ribbon“– ridiculous!).  Spanish is a very odd choice, though, as if there’s any nation the Dutch have a historical grudge against, it’s Spain– the yuletide threat against naughty Dutch children is the prospect of being spirited off to Spain by the helper of St. Nicholas.  Now, this may have been a way to disguise subversion, and the same word is used in Portuguese, so this may be another front of speculation that can’t stand up to scrutiny, but I still harbour doubts.


“The better fountain pen made in the Netherlands”

There is, however, evidence that Espero is an actual Dutch company.  The image to the right is, according to the scanty information provided at the source, from March of 1949, so if the brand wasn’t wartime it might be a post-war employment builder like Merlin.  The slogan is a bit of a slag upon other Dutch pens, because the examples I’ve seen on the internet prompt one to ask, “Better than what, exactly?”  One may usefully compare Espero to Wearever of similar age; an exterior of perhaps slightly better than average attractiveness, filled with works that aspire to nearly being adequate.

The actual pen I had in hand, for example, is a generally robust button filler– it seems a reliable rig, but the whole inner mechanism was gone.  I don’t think it actually dissolved, but if someone took the trouble to shake it out, it can’t have been in good shape.  The clip is interesting, as it is mounted on a very flexible bit of steel in such a way that it can be opened like a clothes-pin, similar to earlier Conklins and the later Sheaffer Stylist.  However, that very flexible spring also gives a little tremulous feedback, as if it is only just holding itself together; “hope springs eternal” does not seem applicable in this case.  The plating is very nearly a res ipsa loquitur;  it might be gone merely due to a long and interesting career, but it’s more likely a result of having been no more than a couple of molecules thick.

The point… how can I hope to comment on it?  If this is a post-war rather than a wartime pen, it might be the original.  If the pen is pre-1945, though, it almost certainly can’t be– it’s of English manufacture, and the rules governing gold-use under the Nazis were essentially “Send it all to Goebbels; he’ll put it somewhere safe.”  Pelikan and Montblanc were having trouble getting any.  A start-up in Amsterdam was unlikely to get special dispensation.  Having said all that, it’s a delightful example of a loose flex point, and I was very happy to have a chance to play with it, however briefly.

And that’s about all I’ve got on the topic.  I hope I wasn’t too contrary, and I hope the owner of the pen enjoys it for a good long time.  Hopefully it’s such a tissue of nonsense that someone with firmly grounded facts will swing in to explain the truth of it all.  We live in hope!

Today’s pen: Cross Century II
Today’s ink: Diamine Sherwood Green

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Hibernation? Le Hiver Nation?

Posted by Dirck on 11 January, 2013

I’m off.  Outta here.  Departing.  I’m fed up with this.

I’m also a filthy liar, or at least a trifler-with of untruths.  I’m taking the next week off from The Regular Job, because it’s been about six months since I did something of the sort and it seems a good way of quelling the urge to fling a stapler at certain heads.  So, I’m off for a week, and since I’m fed up with the increasingly shambolical state of my Palace of Contempation (being the 78 square foot room my home computer lives in), much of the time I spend there will be with mop, bucket and duster in hand rather than with clever things to say about pens in mind.

I am not, however, departing in the more capacious sense of the word.  Last year’s flight (which can be taken in both its airborne and absconding senses) to the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth is not to repeat this year, and a great pity it is.  The relatively fine weather we’ve been enjoying since the year began concluded last night with 30cm (about a foot, or 47 bee spaces) of snow as a prelude to a temperature drop of about 20°c.  This is not as rude as the 75cm of snow we’re told Newfoundland is even now getting, but it’s not a great deal of fun, and buggering off to a padded expanse of Florida would certainly have been nice.  Even hibernation is not possible, thanks to the activity of my son and the continuing proper function of my thyroid; I shall be awake and aware for about 68% of the whole period, however cold and uncongenial some parts of it may become.

A week from Monday, I’ll be back, no doubt trembling in every limb from the effort of disinterring the house from its drift.  I may even have a thing or two to say about my new Kaweco and an unexpected Waterman… but until then, here is the story of my upcoming week, with Daffy Duck kindly stepping in for me:

Today’s pen: Merlin 33
Today’s ink:  Diamine Evergreen

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Posted by Dirck on 9 January, 2013

I occasionally make small noises about my Buddhist inclinations, and I do honestly believe that it’s a good philosophy to pursue.  Unfortunately, it’s also a very difficult one because of the central tenet of abolishing attachment.  I like stuff.  Stuff is neat.  Even though I find that inanimate objects frequently belie their very name through skittering away from outstretched hand or leaping suddenly from places of what should have been utter immobility, I can still find myself drawn out of sullen moods by considering some of the keen junk I’ve got.  Pens, of course, even the disappointing ones like yesterday’s group, are high in the ranks of balms to a rankled fancy (and thank heaven I didn’t settle on cars, boats, or aircraft as an object of collecting!), but they’re not the only things that do the trick.  In the past week, there have been some additions to the establishment that have, with a little effort, have gotten me out of the ditch I was figuratively wallowing in on Monday.  Shall I share?

Some time ago, I mentioned our delightful high-tech teleaudio-phonomajigger.  Recently, the provincially-owned monoploy which governs land-line communication here (long may it thrive!) declared that they were discontinuing support of the original pulse-dial system, which would render that device useless in so far as making out-going calls was concerned.  We therefore had to install a somewhat newer unit:

Unfortunately, no call display, so we don't know if it's Dick Tracy or Sky Captain who's calling.

Unfortunately, no call display, so we don’t know if it’s Dick Tracy or Sky Captain who’s calling.

This is about fifteen years old, and it’s a delight to behold and to use, even if the speaker-phone option is (as was the universal standard of the time) utterly useless, no matter how one shouts.  A problem solved, and while visitors aren’t completely perplexed by the function of it, it inclines enough towards steampunkery to make up for the loss of that amusement.

Did I mention how grand our collective Christmas was?  Almost nothing one had to be politely gracious about receiving, and much that satisfied the sort of long-standing desire that Buddhism suggests should simply be cast off in the name of true happiness.  For my part, I got not a great many gifts out of the day, which is in general a good development, since my son’s haul makes the idea of turning our house into some sort of Lego/Thomas theme park a valid alternative to any hope of sitting comfortably in the living room.  The reason my count was low is that my wife and her parents ganged together to get me this:

No batteries, no vibrating bits of quartz; just gravity and a radiation of joy.

No batteries, no vibrating bits of quartz; just gravity and a radiation of joy.

To underline my status as an odd, odd duck; I have since at least age 10 wanted a clock like this.  Gravity driven, pendulum regulated, ancient in appearance; every box on that decades-old list is ticked with a check-mark of gold!  Even better, from the Buddhist standpoint, there does not appear to be a follow-along desire for yet a new thing arising in its wake.  I’m sure we’ll all eventually stop jumping on the hour when it chimes.

Finally, the last of the dark shreds* about me were dispelled last night by a visit from a friend.**  Said friend is attending the post-est of post-secondary education in one of the more desirable locations for such things (with, as you can see for yourself, some small imperfections), and I was afraid I had missed entirely the chance to interact directly during his seasonal visit home through a bout of seasonal illness I was disinclined to share, and which coincided with his meeting of friends at the pub of choice.  The visit was lamentably brief, although understandably so given the lack of floor space not devoted to nubby bricks and wooden railways, but it included some largesse which could be considered both late (or perhaps Orthodox) Christmas joy and mere sharing of things with a friend.  I now have a book of  Jorge Luis Borges’s short stories, who I have been curious to read but too distracted/inert to pursue; a gift that includes entertainment, expansion of literary awareness, and possible inspiration in the direction of weird fiction is extremely efficient and gratifying.  I also have a new and unlooked-for pen, which I present only as a teaser prior to its inclusion on my site…

Details to follow!

Details to follow!

…but which is also something I’ve been curious about and curiously inactive about pursuing.  How could a down mood persist in the face of such things?

Today’s pen: Merlin 33
Today’s ink:  Diamine Evergreen

* I should mention that these shreds were being undone also by a relatively civil late entry in that Facebook misery that I alluded to on Monday made by one of the people who had gotten my gyroscopes askew.  This is why rushing to sever friendships is not a wise thing.

**His wife was there as well; she’s also a friend not seen often enough, and her visit was very welcome.  I fear I’m snubbing her through failure of literary power and want of composition time.

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I Hope There’s a Bottom….

Posted by Dirck on 7 January, 2013

I’ve fallen into a bit of a depression over the weekend, and I don’t seem to be able to organize my thoughts about anything else at the moment.  It’s not the usual seasonal thing, but regards an exchange on Facebook.  Part of the depression is that I’m letting that sort of thing affect me at any level, of course, but that’s not the whole story.

…and, in fact, I don’t know that this is the venue for the whole story, as there’s politics at the base of it.  In essence, there’s some people on Facebook who I have known for a while who have shown a startling failure of sympathy; whether they have sympathy for the cause is neither here nor there, as what’s got me down is the willingness to minimize the suffering of a fellow human, and indeed an entire category of fellow humans.  I didn’t think I’d been acquainted with that sort of people, and the fact that I have been has got me down.  The fact that I can’t think of a way to explain why this is a problem to either of them puts a booster on the effect.

So that’s it for me today.  I’ll try to pull myself up off the floor and be interesting tomorrow.  I’ll just finish by saying that there’s no commenting available on this post because the last thing I want is to bring that discussion into a whole new venue and I will prevent it even at the risk of losing expressions of sympathy directed towards me and my mopishness.  I’m just going to go around the back and sing a round of “Mankind Should Have Been My Business” with Jake Marley and the Social Conscience Band.

Today’s pen: Merlin 33
Today’s ink:  Diamine Evergreen

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Tea and the Elements of Style

Posted by Dirck on 3 August, 2012

I told you I wasn’t going to be around yesterday.  Today, I’ve got a couple of items to cover my absence.  First, a bit of a read on the utility of having your “you’re” sorted out, from a person in a position of real-world authority.  As someone whose unthinking fingers routinely insert an apostrophe into inappropriate “its”, I might be called a bit of a hypocrite, but I am a poor proof-reader, not someone who doesn’t know or care what this difference in “to” and “too” is.

A little more fun to end the session– how about a cuppa?  It’s tea-time somewhere, after all, and it′s an age since I touched upon anarcho-dandyism.

Today’s pen: Waterman Stalwart (yes, I should have come in and mentioned the Merlin yesterday)
Today’s ink: Waterman blue (vintage)

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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)

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The Sound of One Hand…

Posted by Dirck on 31 July, 2012

…pacing.  I use “hand” in the nautical manner, of course; the hand in question being also the master of the vessel.  Me.

Last week I mentioned in passing the downturn in our foundling cat’s health.  On the way into work today, I dropped him off at the vet for the medical-grade konking-out which will allow a close examination of his head’s interior spaces.  The Wheel of Uncertainty is clicking away now, waiting for the indicator to show ABSCESS, TUMOR or SPIN AGAIN.  Sam is a sort of inverted Schrödinger’s Cat; we won’t know if he’s to live or die until he’s opened.

The result of listening to that damn clickety wheel churning around in my uninsulated imagination is that I really can’t think of much else to write about here, and I think I’ve written about as much as I can stand.  This bothers me, as I haven’t been particularly productive lately, and I know that I’m not going to be around for making the effort on either Thursday or Friday, but there’s little to be done about it.  I’ll update the world on Sam’s fate tomorrow, hopefully as an aside to a slightly more interesting topic.

Today’s pen, doing its best to distract me: Merlin 33
Today’s ink: Diamine Rustic Brown,  which on reflection is a little too hemoglobinish for current comfort.  What was I thinking?

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