In Praise of Pelikans

No, not pelicans, Pelikans.  I’m writing about fountain pens.

First a confession.  I love paper and pens.  I’ve loved fountain pens, the way they glide across the page leaving an inky ribbon of writing, since I found my grandmother’s when I was 8.  She promptly gave it to me.  I was a favorite grandchild and she, having grown up with inky fingers, loved the easy neatness of a ballpoint pen.  I used it until the nib broke.  It wasn’t worth repairing, but by then people knew I liked fountain pens and gave me old ones.  I soon learned that most were broken (the bladders old, dried and cracked) but I generally always had at least one working one.  I like to fill them from ink bottles, not use cartridges.  This is because it suits my feelings of old-fashioned pen usage and because I’m cheap.

All that said, I am not a neat person.  I’m the sort who, walking with a full cup of coffee, will splash some on myself.  My nails seem dirty again minutes after I scrub them.  I am a messy sort of girl — the sort who should think twice before using or carrying about a pen full of ink. I am the sort who will find it leaking on me, on my purse on my books.  All of these things have happened, especially with a rather beautiful Parker that leaks no matter how many times I pay to have it fixed.

All this changed a few years ago when I bought at green Pelikan 200 gold plated nib pen. On the one hand, it could hold enough ink to carry me through a week or two of use, while on the other, it didn’t leak.  Not on my fingers, not when I filled it and not in my bag.  Even though the designs of Pelikan pens were less sexy than my retro Parker’s.  Last year I celebrated my dissertation defense with the purchase of a white and green/brown Pelikan 400 with a gold nib.  It writes smoother than the 200, holds ink equally well and has a feminine look.  When I bought it, I told myself that was it — I had two Pelikans and plenty of other fountain pens.  I had no need for any more.  Until Christmas time when my dad bought me a Pelikan 120 with a calligraphic nib.  And then last week when I impulsively bought an amber Pelikan Demonstrator 400 (those are the clear kind where you can see the ink draw into the pen) off of eBay.  I now admit it, I want one for every color ink I use.  Even if they aren’t the most attractive designs, they’re the most practical pens I’ve ever owned.

And I can sell the other fountain pens (repeats to self quietly).  No matter how pretty they are, I’m not the sort of girl who can handle a leaking pen.  Besides, a bunch of them need new bladders.


3 thoughts on “In Praise of Pelikans

  1. Jan

    As you know, we share this fetish. The Bromfield Pen Shop in Boston has done very good repair work on antique pens for me. It’s been a while since I’ve had any work done, but I recommend them. Just in case you ever decide to replace the leaky bladders.

  2. HD Silversmith

    Loved fountain pens since I was a girl myself, Inexpensive, expensive, I love them all. wrote most of my journals from 12-20 with fountain pens … blue-black ink was my preferred color.


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