Penmanship extraordinary – and the Fountain Pens that made the prolific wordsmiths  

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“That’s elementary, my dear Watson” the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used a Parker Duofold, at least, to write many of his timeless creations.

Dylan Thomas, the “roistering, drunken and doomed poet”, is said to have used the then popular Parker 51, which was celebrated for its quick drying ink.

Samuel Longhorn Clemens, the creator of the Great American Novel – the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and its prequel, the Adventures of Tom Sawyer is better known by his pen (no pun intended) name Mark Twain. He is widely associated with the Conklin Crescent Filler, which according to some, was one of the earlier endorsement gigs, the company having paid him to advertise their product. However, it is also a fact that in the later part of his life, he was afflicted with severe rheumatism, which constrained him from writing longhand for extended periods, forcing him to dictate his thoughts.

Vladimir Nabokov, the creator of Lolita – which regularly finds a place among and towards the top of any compilation of hundred best English Language Novels – was a camp follower of the Eberhard Faber Blackwing 602 which was used for outlining his novels. Incidentally, Nabokov was known for sketching the outlines of his novels on index cards. Well, that is not a Fountain Pen, but I love the poster.

Stephen King had to do the diametrically opposite, become a fountain pen convert that is, after a car accident made prolonged use of the computer excruciatingly painful. His chosen word processor was a Waterman for his post-accident years and he is said to have enjoyed the act of penning with a pen, especially the way it forced him to slow down and think out every word before writing it down.

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse” Walt Disney is quoted to have said. Well, it could jolly well have been started by a Sheaffer as it was his chosen weapon of mass creation. A well-used Sheaffer Balance was retrieved from his desk in the 1970’s during a restoration, which is considered to be the Grail pen of Disneyland.

Edgar Wallace, one of the most prolific English writers in the period between the Great Wars and his contemporary, Natsume Soseki, one of Meiji era Japan’s most important novelists, were owners of fountain pens that were made by Thomas de la Rue and Company Limited. Winston Churchill too, is stated to have been a proud owner of their creation. Though, the most celebrated user of the company’s pens was Florence Nightingale – the Lady with the Lamp. Not many people know that she was also an extremely gifted writer. Fewer still know for a fact that this company produced their first pen – the Anti-Stylograph in 1880, almost three years before Waterman got into the act. Yes, we are talking about Onoto pens, which came into being in 1905 with the introduction of the plunger filler pen, which drew up the ink by using the vacuum of a piston.

Ernest Miller Hemingway, Noble laureate, whose influence on 20th century writing is beyond doubt, was one whose life was as colourful as his writing was brilliant. While his affinity for the type writer is well documented, his name is also linked with the Montegrappa pens. It is a fact that he was stationed next to the factory in Bassano del Grappa at Villa Ca Frizzo during the first World War. It is also a fact that Montegrappa’s “Mightier than the Sword” collection features a masterpiece dedicated to the American writer, many claim, to celebrate the brand’s close association with him.

Neil Gaiman whose repertoire of writings covered the entire gamut – short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films, was a known user of the Waterman. He started using a notebook and the pen when he was working on the Stardust and wanted to replicate the way it would have been written in the 1920’s. Naturally, the love affair – between the author and the pen that followed, was inevitable, perhaps even pre-ordained.

Paolo Coelho – creator of the Alchemist, highly decorated Brazilian lyricist and novelist, is known to be a keen user of the electronic media and created the virtual Paolo Coelho Foundation way back in 2014. What is not known widely however, is that his name is associated with Montegrappa as well. American artist-novelist John Dos Pasos is another name that is widely associated with the house of Montegrappa.

The information has been compiled from the farthest corners of the web. The veracity or authenticity is not something that I will swear on, though reasonable care was taken to cross check as much as possible. Will appreciate if readers contribute with their hand of support in areas where they feel I have stumbled. Please feel free to add to this list of celebrity writers and the fountain pens that helped give shape to their creations.

Do also let me know if you would want me to continue this series, as we trace the stories of the famous personalities and the fountain pens that were an extension of their selves.


2 Replies to “Penmanship extraordinary – and the Fountain Pens that made the prolific wordsmiths  ”

  1. i remember reading a similar piece about the presidents of the unites states. it will be interesting if you can club together one about the actors – the Hollywood heart-throbs and the pens they used most for giving autographs? that will be some piece


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