The Fountain Pen Convert: A Cautionary Tale



To me, that was the fountain pen. Dip pens were worse.

When I was a teenager, I was into calligraphy, and had a beautiful old dip pen with many nibs. Although I did enjoy using it, I found it frustrating because of the lack of quality paper. It was scratchy to write with, and the ink tended to bleed.

I had actually bought a nice Schaeffer Connoisseur more than 15 years ago, but it was not for me. It was an anniversary gift for my husband, and I was humouring him. We had been into a beautiful store several times, and he always stopped by the fountain pen display. He had been given one years before, but (probably through moving here, there, and everywhere) had lost it. He had always wanted a replacement, and who was I to deny something that was so lovingly remembered?

Whenever I would try to write with it, I found it really odd feeling, and awkward to use. It was big and heavy; my fingers were telling me they did not like this type of pen. But it has been wonderful to see him use it regularly. Anything that was to be written had to be done with the pen. But I felt led away to the ball points, and then the gel pens.

In recent times, he discovered how much he liked Parker 51’s. After finding his first, he was so excited about them that he researched the history of the Parker Pen Company. He went to the library and got out the pen books that talked about how fountain pens were put together and, more importantly, how to fix them. He wanted to be able to buy something that was beautiful, not only to look at, but also to use. He wanted to encourage others to experiment with their choice of writing instrument, and come on over to the Fountain Pen Lovers side. He went online to connect with the people who were willing to share their wealth of knowledge with those who were like-minded. Through this whole time he is sharing what he is learning with the rest of us: our son, 17 years old, and two daughters 16, and 12.

In the mean time, I’m going with the flow; you know how the conversation would sound:

“Wow sweetie, the Parker 51 comes in how many colours?” (Some look the same to me.)

“What do you call that thing on the end? Oh, that’s what they call the jewel?” (I thought it would look, well, like a jewel.)

“You want to buy the book all about Parker 51s. Okay.” (How much!?)

“The design on the cap is called what? Oh, there are more than one design and they come in gold and silver…”

“That pen was sold for how much?!” (That’s crazy, it’s just a pen!)

I knew I had just revealed my ignorance when my daughter (the 16-year-old) could tell me exactly what that pen was worth, and why it was more than I would have guessed. By this time, all three of my children had left the ‘normal’ pens (also known as “ink sticks”) behind, and were proud owners of fountain pens, even taking them to school.

There was only one thing left for me to do: if you can’t ignore them, join them. It was time I caught up to the century my kids were living in (even if it was the previous one,) and I wanted&emdash;no, needed&emdash;a fountain pen too! Something is wrong when kids get in on something good before the parent.

So I am now the proud owner of a Parker 51 (burgundy, gold-filled cap with converging lines, grey jewel.) It has a fine nib that writes beautifully. It was actually the Shoppe pen; I had tried it out and, well, what can I say? It was like semi-sweet chocolate to the tongue, the feel of fine silk to the fingers. My whole hand loved the feel of the pen and how I wrote with it. We (the royal ‘we’, that is) have discovered why we like a certain filling system better than others, what nib we like, and what colours.

Recently my husband found a very pretty stripey Duofold. Hmm, I see where this is going. One cannot use only two pens (the Shaeffer and Parker 51) for everything. A distinguished person must have as many pens as needed: for writing on different pads, for different moods, for carrying in different bags and pockets.

Little did I know when I fed the love of fountain pens all those years ago it would come back to me like this. We (the greater ‘we’, that is) are completely immersed, sometimes literally, in the world of fountain pens.

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