Public Domain Pen Documents Now Online

For a look at a loud conversation about the legal and ethical issues pertaining to these documents, go to:

Parker Pens 1929 Catalog

It is always nice when someone decides to share. And when the thing shared is pen information, it is beyond nice: it’s a public service.

We were browsing through our favourite host of online information, the Internet Archive and came across the fruits of some generous soul’s labour: high quality scans of vintage fountain pen & pencil documents. Catalogues and service manuals for some of the biggest names in the pen business. These are all public domain items, some in full colour, and represent a very valuable collection.

The importance of this information cannot be understated. We can often pinpoint the age of a pen by it’s appearance in a catalogue. Or, we may be able to determine exactly which pen would have gone with which desk base. We have discovered the exact length of the neck ribbons originally supplied by Waterman. The list goes on, and that’s just the catalogues!

The real treasure is in the service manuals. Detailed breakdowns of pens. Step-by-step instructions as to repair methods. Illustrations of tools designed & provided by the manufacturers. This information is a lifeline for old pens.

So our thanks goes out to the kind soul who, rather than hoarding this information—or choosing to profit by selling it—chose to enrich us all. We will be monitoring closely; if this generous soul sees fit to add more documents, we will update our list here.

The documents are posted to in groupings, which are not chronological and are named a bit oddly. We have decided to list them a little more intuitively here, so it’s easier to find what you are specifically interested in. It should be noted that the documents are available in a number of formats. Our headings here are linked to the corresponding conglomeration pages, while the individual documents listed are directly hot-linked to the pdf copies of the publications, directly on the host servers (a practice which is, incidentally, highly encouraged by the folks hosting the files).


NOTE: It has come to our attention that some of the documents listed above may have come from the online library of the Pen Collectors of America. This organization has used the library as a means of attracting new members. We appreciate that this information being freely available is a significant blow to the pca.

This being said, there are several things to keep in mind. First, the documents hosted at are all in the public domain, which means that they are owned by no one, and are free for anyone to use. They were either never copyrighted, or their copyright has expired.

Second, the issue of who controls information is the subject of great debate, both on the internet, and in the ‘real world’. Organizations like The Internet Archive have taken the stance that access to public domain works should not be used to enrich or empower. Large institutions such as universities, and companies like Ithaka Harbors (a non-profit company which controls jstor) take the opposing view: that access to knowledge should be controlled, for profit or purposes of accreditation.

There have been no legal rulings on the matter, either in the usa, or in Canada (where we are). This means that simply providing the files for free is not theft, and the issue of what constitutes ownership is not relevant.

This particular cat is out of the bag. It’s not our cat, nor was it our bag. Issues of whether these files should be available should be addressed to The Internet Archive We are going to leave this index page up, so long as the files are hosted by them.

We also would like to express appreciation to all who provide pen information, either for profit, or not. As expressed above, more information means more interest in pens, wider & more complete knowledge of pens, and fewer pens consigned to the garbage. And no one should complain about that!

We should also point out that the Pen Collectors of America is an excellent resource for anyone interested in pens. We encourage everyone to investigate membership there which includes, of course, access to a stunningly complete online library.

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