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Thread: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

  1. #1
    Senior Member azkid's Avatar
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    Default Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    I may be mistaken but it seems to me that source material for fountain pen history is rather closely guarded.

    Having read a number of threads and various websites on pen history, company memos, letters, advertisements, sales catalogs or whatever else are cited but I don't often see the originals and have yet to find many internet repositories of such source material.

    Perhaps I just haven't found those repositories? If so I would love to have URLs shared here.

    I recognize that books have been written to provide us with historical information. Often the books are unusually expensive and sometimes they are difficult to track down.

    Worse, some fountain pen books, like Hoban's "Fountain Pens of Esterbrook," are out of print and obtaining a copy is both difficult and expensive.

    A few sites exist to provide history on major pen makers like Parker, Sheaffer, Montblanc, and so on.

    But mostly it is down to a few historians to keep the knowledge alive, to curate a collection of valuable source information.

    Not to be morbid but, when they are departed from us, what becomes of fountain pen historical knowledge? Do their surviving family members know how best to preserve and pass along that pile of musty documents and ads?

    Is there is a fountain pen historical society that helps with such matters? Museums?

    If not, it seems to me that to prevent this knowledge being lost to future generations, and encourage the rise of other experts, the collector community needs to work to make all of this material freely available online.

    Or maybe most of it is already out there and I just haven't found it yet?

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    Senior Member FredRydr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Books are the easiest secondary source. Some of the best volumes were limited editions or out of print, so it becomes a task (and expense) hunting down and acquiring books that cover your area of interest. (Don't ask me for my Conklin book!) I am cautious about volunteered information typed in forum posts unless I know the typists' real world reputations.

    Collecting primary source material is not as easy. You can buy ephemera from some vendors. One vendor in Allentown I know had piles of documents and catalogues, and sometimes those change hands. At one time, primary sources such as company catalogues were being scanned and made available through the PCA's library website to members. The WES is a good resource, especially for early writing instruments.

    Some collectors have made it their business to compile information and share it through websites or simply responding to queries. Richard Binder, Jim Mamoulides and David Nishimura are better known examples, and they deserve our thanks.

    Pen shows are great for posing questions to vendors and collectors who are knowledgable in their respective areas of interest.

    Quote Originally Posted by azkid View Post
    I may be mistaken but it seems to me that source material for fountain pen history is rather closely guarded....
    A tiny minority of collectors (two or three that I know of) keep detailed information close to their chests for use in trolling forums to try to trip up fellow enthusiasts and generate argument for fun. (One of those is a friend, and when we chat at pen shows he's glad to answer my questions in his area of expertise - go figure.) But by and large, I think it's just a question of the practical limitations of getting that primary information in the hands of a few out to the wider audience of many.
    Last edited by FredRydr; December 2nd, 2019 at 10:58 AM.

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    You can join PCA (Pen Collectors of America) and contribute to their mission to make vintage pen information available for posterity.

    They still take new members and their archive is available for public, just go to their website.

    https://pencollectorsofamerica.org
    - Will
    Unique and restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by azkid View Post
    Is there is a fountain pen historical society that helps with such matters? Museums?
    As mentioned, the PCA in the States and WES in the UK are primary sources of past manufacturers documentation.

    There isn't any hidden agenda. One has to take a... historical glance for a moment. For the better part of their lifespan, fountain pens were not thought of (primarily) as collectibles, but simply as useable objects. Rare is the person who buys a toaster oven and then amasses a library of information about that toaster over. Pen collecting didn't really start happening until the 1960s or so, ramping up more after that. By then, many of the manufacturers were gone or on their way out. Finding old sales catalogs and repair manuals has been an ongoing task for individuals, many contributing their finds to the above organizations. On top of that, many of the smaller brands which are of interest were simply not documented well. I happen to like Moore pens and there is virtually *nothing* available because the company apparently didn't produce that kind of material. It is what it is.

    So, yeah. It's out there but it takes a bit of effort on your part. Bear in mind that there are several very good specialist books but they tend to be... not inexpensive.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Junior Member Bzzer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    A good thread.

    Sharing information should be something that is perfect for the internet, sadly it struggles sometimes. For example this remarkable website was nearly lost completely, having been compiled by Jonathan Donahaye over many years.

    http://conwaystewart.wesonline.org.uk/csbook/page1.htm

    There was another bank of knowledge on Burnham pens but that has been lost.

    The books that are published on specific brands are expensive when new and very expensive to find secondhand, I have seen the Mabie Todd book sell secondhand for 300, when it was new it was under 70. The Duofold book is very hard to find at any price.

    Perhaps if a sales brochure or service manual is out of copyright it could be scanned and stored, perhaps in a Library section of FPG.
    Last edited by Bzzer; December 2nd, 2019 at 09:39 PM.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by Bzzer View Post
    Perhaps if a sales brochure or service manual is out of copyright it could be scanned and stored, perhaps in a Library section of FPG.
    And when FPG goes away, what then?
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Senior Member silverlifter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Bzzer View Post
    Perhaps if a sales brochure or service manual is out of copyright it could be scanned and stored, perhaps in a Library section of FPG.
    And when FPG goes away, what then?
    The Wayback Machine to the rescue!
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Excellent idea, but I feel that I've been able to obtain the information/history I need for the Esterbrook era of interest.

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    Senior Member Deb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    I have always felt that consigning information and research to expensive magazines is not a good way of sharing material that we can all benefit from, hence my blog. With all its faults - and there are many - it attempts to be a source of historical and sometimes technical information for someone who has a vintage pen he or she knows nothing about. Free the knowledge! Of course most (though not all) of the vintage pens I write about are British, so perhaps of less interest to those from other countries. There are, of course, more scholarly websites devoted to individual brands.

    Books are another matter. Comprehensive, in depth, detailed works about a single manufacturer or the fountain pen industry of a single country must, by their very nature, demand publishing in book form. The splendid works of Stephen Hull and Andy Russell are good examples. Another, from a technical point of view, is the incomparable repair manual by Marshall and Oldfield.
    Regards,
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by Deb View Post
    I have always felt that consigning information and research to expensive magazines is not a good way of sharing material that we can all benefit from, hence my blog. With all its faults - and there are many - it attempts to be a source of historical and sometimes technical information for someone who has a vintage pen he or she knows nothing about. Free the knowledge! Of course most (though not all) of the vintage pens I write about are British, so perhaps of less interest to those from other countries. There are, of course, more scholarly websites devoted to individual brands.

    Books are another matter. Comprehensive, in depth, detailed works about a single manufacturer or the fountain pen industry of a single country must, by their very nature, demand publishing in book form. The splendid works of Stephen Hull and Andy Russell are good examples. Another, from a technical point of view, is the incomparable repair manual by Marshall and Oldfield.
    Deb, I am very interested in British -made pens, I find a lot of them them unique and charming, so your blog is appreciated.

    In the same spirit, I have been (for a few years now) posting information about vintage pens, right where I think it's most needed, in the subreddit where 139K of mostly beginner fountain pen users have subscribed. And quite a few of them wrote me to tell me that the information is useful for them because otherwise, they don't have anyone else who would tell them about vintage pens, some of them are genuinely surprised that vintage fountain pens can still be used today.

    And it's not just myself, a few of us that I see in this forum (Jon Szanto, AzJon, and others) also are there in the "frontline".

    Also, between Jim Mamoulides (PenHero) and myself, we probably cover a lot of the "forgotten" brands of old that is considered "third tier" or "uninteresting" to most collectors.
    - Will
    Unique and restored vintage pens: Redeem Pens

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    Senior Member Deb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    I'm pleased that you like my blog. More power to your elbow in Reddit. I'm sure you're ight and that's where the future lies. I enjoy Jim Mamoulides's excellent photography and the subjects that he covers.
    Regards,
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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by Deb View Post
    I'm pleased that you like my blog. More power to your elbow in Reddit. I'm sure you're ight and that's where the future lies. I enjoy Jim Mamoulides's excellent photography and the subjects that he covers.
    Jim's stuff is invaluable. As an aside, one of the benefits of PCA membership is the very nice Pennant magazine, and Jim has done a number of features on lesser-known pens, a recent one on Moore pens being spectacular.

    I'm far less optimistic regarding reddit simply because of it's nature: it is totally transitory. There is *nothing*, save for a couple of stickied posts, that lasts. If someone wants info on a particular subject, you could possibly search for something, but you could do that with Google, too. Any time I post about a topic, within an hour or two it has scrolled off the page, pretty much never to be seen. There is NO structure like a forum, with sub-forums by subject and archived materials. It is of the moment and gone over there, so I'm happy to help a few people but I don't close my eyes to the fact that there is no permanance to any of the knowledge base.

    In addition, we are often seen as "uppity" or "holier than thou" (quoted from a post from yesterday) and many like to listen to complete idiots on YouTube for their pen knowledge. There, I said it.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    and many like to listen to complete idiots on YouTube for their pen knowledge.
    Example I came across a while back: one of the "reddit designated youtube authorities" proclaiming that iron gall should only be used with caution and your pen should be flushed daily if you did throw caution to the wind.

    We are entering the dork ages.
    Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Reddit does have pretty good google visibility (unlike Facebook - anything discussed in groups there really is vanishing into the unknown). I fairly often do subreddit site searches on google to find previous discussions of things.

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by silverlifter View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    and many like to listen to complete idiots on YouTube for their pen knowledge.
    Example I came across a while back: one of the "reddit designated youtube authorities" proclaiming that iron gall should only be used with caution and your pen should be flushed daily if you did throw caution to the wind.

    We are entering the dork ages.
    I think I just had a handful of braincells die off just reading that statement. I'm afraid to even ask who said such a remarkably ignorant statement.

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by silverlifter View Post
    We are entering the dork ages.
    If I'd been drinking milk when I read your post, it would have shot out my nose and all over my monitor!
    (Why milk and not apple juice or iced tea? I have no idea...)
    Quid rides? Mutato nomine de te fabula narratur. Horace
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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Behold, the future of pen knowledge and discussion:

    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Senior Member FredRydr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Behold, the future of pen knowledge and discussion....
    Jon, I thought you had gray hair.

  31. #19
    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Quote Originally Posted by FredRydr View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jon Szanto View Post
    Behold, the future of pen knowledge and discussion....
    Jon, I thought you had gray hair.
    Be careful. I know where you live.


    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Sharing Pen History Knowledge

    Interesting subject. I find that all to often well researched and documented information is presented in answer to a question only to have the author scorned because the facts or information does not match the popular beliefs or the desired answer.

    Another interesting case is the blatant plagiarism and data fabrication by some on the Internet forums. Examples here where one poster was called out only to have others defend the OP and belittle those trying to correct the record.

    Sometimes one asks oneself why expend the effort and likely funds necessary to find source data and then share. Which is an answer to one tangentially posed question above.

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