How to choose a fountain pen?
At the time when we made the habit of writing letters, documents and other missives using a keyboard or a touch screen, we would have almost forgotten the fountain pens. Yet, these instruments still fascinate many collectors. And their use is not denied. Because to draw full and loose on a sheet of paper, the fountain pen is always as nice, much more than a ballpoint pen, a felt pen or a marker. And pen writing, when most of us pianote on a smartphone, has almost become a genuine act of rebellion. This refined and elegant instrument, which can be found at all prices and in all styles, is also often considered a timeless, trendy and indispensable accessory, just like a watch. Fountain pens are regularly auctioned. We propose you to know more about this instrument which, for many of us, is synonymous with childhood and schoolyards.
The origins of the fountain pen
The invention of the fountain pen is not accurately dated or attributed to a particular person. This writing tool is rather the result of a long evolution, supported by technical advances and the advent of new materials such as steel. In any case two men seem to originate the pen. The first is a Romanian engineer, Petrache Poenaru, who first patents in Paris an "endless portable feather that feeds itself with ink". At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, an insurance agent, Lewis Edson Waterman, perfected the traditional pen holder by adding a conduit and a reservoir. Thanks to this invention, the insurer was no longer at risk of losing a customer for a contract stained with ink stains. And the success is such that the Waterman Pen company was born in New York at the end of the 19th century.
The technical characteristics
To choose a pen, you have to know the different components. Their state of conservation and the manufacturing materials are indeed part of the criteria for estimating the value of a fountain pen.
The body of the pen is the part that is held in hand to write. It also contains a reservoir or a location in which a liquid ink cartridge can be slid. Its size is very variable and it is advisable to choose it according to the dimensions of its own hand, if the pen is used to write.
The most common and economical models are made of ebonite, a kind of natural rubber, colored resin or plastic. Metal or wooden pens are also common. We then find copies made in wood species or precious metals such as gold, more or less worked, and which often constitute the high end of feather pens. Real works of art see the day, writing jewellery adorned with filigrees and finely chiseled decorations. Finally, lacquer, carbon and other more or less noble and expensive materials are used to make the body and cap of feather pens.
The metallic feather is not as recent as one might think. From ancient times, Egyptians and Romans used bronze and copper to make them. The feathers of bird or of plant origin, in Reed for example, have also crossed centuries to be replaced in the early 19th century by steel feathers. Flexible and resistant, with a slit and an "eye", these allow a comfortable writing. In France, it is the sergeant-Major feathers that are imposed in the schools. They are then mounted on a pen-holder and soaked in a ink-bottle. Reinforced with iridium, the metal feathers then find their place on the ink-tank pens.
Classical school pens are equipped with a crude, sometimes gilded, steel feather. The high-end models are endowed with gold feathers, sometimes rhodium, in Palladium... and watermarks still adorn their surface.
Different types of feathers are found, with more or less wide points: extra-fine, fine, medium, bold (wide) or double-bold (extra-Large). To choose according to his writing style. The spout can also be beveled; These "italic" feathers are usually used for calligraphy.
Unlike the ballpoint pen, the fountain pen recharges in ink. There are different systems like filling tanks or cartridges to replace. In most cases, feather pens use universal cartridges, available in two sizes, short or long. Some brands require specific cartridges, which will have to be taken into account in your choice to be sure to find refills easily.
The price of a fountain pen is very variable. Between industrial models and luxury copies, the price difference can be important. It is most often a function of:
-Brand: Almost all brands offer high-end versions of their pens. The best known are Aurora, Caran of Ache, Faber-Castell, Lamy, Montblanc, Oberthur, Parker, Pelikan, Pilot, Waterman, Dupont...
-The materials used: the more noble the materials, the more expensive the pen will be
-the date of manufacture and the number of copies: Feather pens are part of limited series, published for example in honor of a great writer, a personality, a politician... These unique collections are also sometimes the result of a great designer, a renowned jeweller...
-The state of walking and conservation
-The general aesthetic of the object