Pelikan 400 NN – the forever fountainpen!
The last of the Pelikan 400 NN pens had rolled out of the factory in July 1965, a full year and a quarter before I was born, which does not make it, downright decrepit like me, but certainly, delightfully vintage! And that is just one of the many reasons why fountain pen aficionados from around the world swear by this particular model.
Take my 400 NN with a Tortoiseshell Brown barrel for example. While connoisseurs opine that it is just a shade below the notch of its Light Tortoise or Green on Green siblings in terms of collectability, they would still give an arm and a leg to own one, such is its iconic stature in the pantheon of the Gods of Fountain Pens. And the main reason is the fact that the pens were fitted with the B nib which are a class apart. While in general they lean towards being stub-ish and are as wet and moist as desire, they tend to be highly individualistic, each having characteristic traits that are revealed only to the one daring to fall in love with them. I guess, we have heard of the nib dancing on paper – writing with my 400NN is the closest I have personally come to experiencing it. Mind you, it is not the choregraphed, lifeless calisthenics that I speak of when I use the term dancing – it is more a spontaneous combustion of ecstasy!
The Pelikan 400 NN is a smallish fountain pen considering its purely German origin – it is merely 5.14 inches (5.78 when posted), weighs just a shade higher than 15 grams and has an ink carrying capacity of almost 2 ml (1.97 to be precise). Incorporating the Pelikan piston filler that needs no introduction to the discerning, the tortoise brown body is transparent through the stripes, which allows the writer to gauge the level of ink.
The trademark black cap, the emblematic gold beak clip and the solitary golden cap ring add a kind of an almost surreal elegance to the 400 NN, balanced by the black barrel end which also acts as the piston knob. The pen sports a pointed cap top with the Pelikan two chick logo embossed on it. There are subtle differences with the immediate relatives of the Pelikan 400 NN – the 400 and the 400 N – but I would rather not get into such intricacies, enamoured as I am with my 400 NN. Suffice to say, the lines of the Chevron on my 400 NN logo nib do not meet which indicates a later production date – 1964 onwards.
The Pelikan 400 was conceived in 1939 but was officially introduced in the market only in 1950 – the decade plus delay explained by the fact that the intervening period had witnessed the World War II. That the WWII had a negative impact on Pelikan need not be overemphasised. Production of pens with precious metals intended for sale within Germany was halted in 1939. Production facilities were conscripted to aid the war effort and it is a miracle that Pelikan had survived the devastation, for it is also recorded that in 1944 Pelikan was allowed to produce pens, though only for the export market. I will fail in my duties if I do not mention something here – Pelikan inks were (among others) used to tattoo serial numbers on the inmates of Auschwitz.
The WWII had officially ended on September 2nd, 1945. Naturally, it would be sometime before Pelikan could restart in the rubble to which everything was reduced to and it was from these ashes that the Pelikan 400 had done the phoenix. To come up with a pen of the stature of Pelikan 400 is commendable by any standards but to do it in a war-ravaged economy with destruction all around is sheer magic, nothing less! As a matter of fact, there will be very few fountain pen lovers who will not readily agree when I say that the 400 line, the mainstay of Pelikan in the 1950’s and the 1960’s, continues to be one of the most iconic and successful fountain pens made by Pelikan ever, a sheer pleasure to behold, even after all these years.
The Pelikan 400 had a production run for about fifteen years (not considering a brief time in the 1970’s when they were reintroduced). During this period, the Pelikan 400 had witnessed several modifications, each major revision marked with a suffix N (for “neu” in German) which was meant for internal consumption. This explains the fact that the Pelikan 400 N or NN model names are conspicuous by their absence in the price lists.
The importance and weight of Pelikan 400 can also be ascertained by the fact that Pelikan reincarnated it as M400 Souverän in 1982, when it initiated the process to reclaim the brand’s legacy and its rightful place in the writing instruments sun. Now, that too is close to four decades, which in itself is a testimonial that very few other fountain pen makers can match!
To learn more about Pelikan: https://www.pelikan.com/