Reflections of a Stylophile

The tops of houses whizzed past my window as I took in the detail of their architecture at speed. Beautiful chimney’s, slate roofs and federation verandah’s in various states of repair and window into the history of development on this continent.  A thought occurred to me whilst taking this all in on the daily train ride on a dreary Sydney morning; how much more I am writing.

You may have seen my article about my acquisition of a new Mont Blanc 1912 heritage fountain pen. To say that I am excited about obtaining my ‘Grail pen’ is a total understatement.Since purchasing the pen online, I’ve set up tracking on the package via email updates which come through at random intervals. Every time my email makes its usual whooshing tone, my anticipation reaches lofty heights as I scramble to check if it’s an update. The latest update means it’s reached the country so it will be only a matter of days before it is in my hands


parcel track
Parcel tracking – excitement!

This pen was not cheap though. It retails for about $1350 AUD from MontBlanc in Australia, and I managed to pick it up for a little less than $900 shipped. In order to fund this pen I had to cull some of my non-vintage collection of fountain pens. Stylophiles will understand what I mean by that statement but for those a little newer to the term let me explain.

Stylophiles are lovers of writing instruments. Typically stylophiles collect pens, and in particular fountain pens, along with other forms of ephemera such as ink bottles, advertising and paraphernalia such as pen cases. A nice introductory article on this curious group of people was succinctly put by the BBC recently. Whilst there are no hard and fast rules with collection, people tend to center a collection around a particular brand, period, model, filling system, colour or in some cases they just buy what they like. Usually in these collections, collectors are face with a choice to go for vintage or modern models. I won’t get into the merits of either other than to say I collect specific models, the Parker 51, Vacumatic, Duofold and then have a collection of ‘user’ pens of various brand, nib sizes and filing systems. You read that right, many stylophiles pay good money, sometimes in excess of $1,000 for a single pen, and never actually use it for its intended purpose, to write. That may seem crazy, but it shouldn’t surprise you if you consider other collecting habits around the world. Typically unused examples fetch more on the resale market or as a long term gamble, and those stylophiles simply enjoy the aesthetics, details and feel of the pen. Each to their own.

Back to the 1912 I am so eagerly anticipating, the cost of the pen meant that I needed to raise some funds from previous pen purchases to cover the bill. I set about on a small bout of refinement, selling three pens in order to fund the one. In refining my own personal collection I’ve noticed that replacing pens I have not used in a long time has not only made sense in light of my purchase but encouraged a rather peculiar behaviour. That is to actually write more.

Parker Duofold Centennial getting a whirl

If you have a look around a variety of blogs, there are no shortage of articles about this phenomenon of collecting pens versus using them. Some good examples that spring to mind include such as the excellent video from penhabit, the bbc or the well written and slightly deeper article from fellow Australian and stirrer of the pot, peneconomics. I will attempt to explain my reflection on this behaviour from a slightly different angle, the renaissance of creativity that refining my collection has created for me.

Culling of some of my ‘not in use’ pens that decidedly sit outside of my vintage Parker collecting has meant overall that my enjoyment of writing has increased. Typically I write in my journal every few days about topics of interest, reflections on the past few days and very rarely on creative pursuits. Sometimes these entries flow out of my head with ease and other times it will dry up stretching these entries to periods of up to a week. Since I purchased my grail pen I now have less pens which I would consider inking and writing with. It is unfathomable to me to ever ink up most of my vintage Parkers. You see, my collection of 51’s and vacs are mostly all mint uninked examples which were very difficult and time consuming to obtain, not to mention the hit to the hip pocket. I primarily collect them for aesthetic and historical reasons, as I find that evolution of fountain pens and particularly the period surrounding WW2 interesting. Since I now have less pens to write with, I have tended to focus less on acquiring new ones outside of this collecting pattern and thinking critically about then pens character and purpose.

The end result is a distinct slow down in interest in new pens, replacing that instead with the organising what it is that I write. The organising of my writing extends to three areas; creative writing, journalling thoughts and finally, recording important events and blogging. In these three areas, the I’ve also assigned one or two pens which I feel reflect the character of what I am writing. For journalling thoughts I use my trusty Visconti Wall Street LE or Duofold Centennial in marbled green, for historical events and blogging my Duofold International, and finally for creative writing I had temporarily assigned my Mont Blanc 146 to be replaced by the incoming 1912. A spark has suddenly started with this new found purpose for creative writing. It must sound rather absurd, but the pen encourages me to write and I feel a connection of emotion with the character of the writing instrument. Suddenly I am trying my hand at writing fiction and short stories, something which I have felt largely uncomfortable with before and hopelessly out of my depth. I have begun to read more and find myself pulling out classic texts to study and rediscovering their narrative, jotting down ideas in the margins. I’m even finally having a go at pulling my blog together properly! One day soon I will muster the courage to share some of these short stories on this blog.

One of my gorgeous Parker 51’s

I will admit however that I considered the idea of leaving the new 1912 mint in the box when it finally arrives. It is after all a limited run pen that didn’t sell as well as Montblanc expected. Based on a vintage design safety filler, this would surely make a great showpiece or even go up in value slightly over a period of time. The idea was toyed with over the course of a couple of days and finally, I decided that the enjoyment I will derive from using it would be greater than having it lying in my display case. A win for my creativity!

So at the root cause of it all, and after much reflection, I think purpose and connection with the items we have is more valuable and satisfying than seeking to expand them. No doubt, many will asset that this can be applied to not only pens but broader and more important aspect of our lives. Living in the moment, laughing more and taking it as it comes are what you might hear discussed. For me though, this hobby of mine (some would say addiction) had given me something valuable beyond the concepts of ownership and satisfaction, and that is creativity.

Now, can this darn pen just show up already! 🙂


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