Thursday, February 18, 2010

Being of an Earlier Time

All day long I’ve been feeling pin pricks and nudges from the pen and ink side of my blog-brain, reminding me that it’s been over a week since writing anything about fountain pens, and that I might be disappointing those who come to this page hoping for something about this or that fountain pen, or ink. With that thought uppermost, and with the reminder that the last pen-related post was about the very modern and stylish Lamy Safari, it came to me that maybe it was time to look in another direction in German pen manufacture.

To my mind the label ‘antique’ can be applied to something once it has reached the century mark. Of course, the word 'vintage' has a very different meaning. Originally, it referred to wines in both its Latin and Old French forms, but along about 1883 ‘vintage’ began to take on a general sense of “being of an earlier time.” So, when we speak of vintage fountain pens, that description seems to be right on the mark. Let me tell you about a vintage Pelikan 400NN, manufactured in Germany between 1956 and 1965.

The one shown in the photos here cannot be dated any more specifically than the span of years above. No doubt a Pelikan expert could tell something more about it, but I’m not sure it matters. The 400NN model came out in 1956 as a further development of the 400N, which was first advertised as a model with “an improved shape.” It isn’t a large pen, and is very close in length to the newer Souverän M400 at thirteen centimeters (5.1 inches). The interesting bit I learned about this pen is that the 14k M nib was not machine-pressed, but hand hammered.

Writing with this pen is always smooth, and it lays downs a fluid and satisfying line of ink. I like a good bit of flex in a nib, and this one meets my expectations completely on that point. Once in a while, though not enough to call regular, it will skip on a downstroke, but the problem is so small and random, I really don’t let it worry me. Hardly what I would describe as a consistent problem with the nib. The line, as it flows off the nib is beautiful and when there is that tiny break in a downstroke, a quick touch repairs it.

My favorite thing about the 400NN is the beautiful and so very elegant barrel, with its brown tortoise stripes. It is the very look that to my eye rings so true to the ‘vintage’ label. Much about the pen’s appearance is familiar, with its typical beak-shaped/gold plated pocket clip and ring at the bottom of the cap. Overall, it is recognizable right off as a Pelikan fountain pen.

No doubt I often repeat the same thing, but for anyone who has yet to enjoy the Pelikan experience, do give some thought to trying a Pelikan the next time you’re considering a new (or vintage) fountain pen.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America