I’m going to discourse a little on the history of the pen, and I must start with some caveats. First, I want to apologise for a lamentable degree of focus on North America– it’s where I am, there’s more material in a language I understand, and I have to live with that. As my scholarship develops, I hope to address this imbalance.
There is some gentle dissention between pen fanciers as to what constitutes a “vintage” or a “modern” pen. Some will point to a particular development in the technology of writing, some to a specific date, others to a mere ad hominem appeal (“It’s older than me”).
I don’t set myself up to judge, frankly. I find that there are some distinct ages in the history of fountain pens, and only the earliest ones can’t be made out as the time in which “modern” might be reasonably applied. These are distinctions of my own invention, too, and if you don’t agree with them or can suggest exceptions… well, why not? It’s a very open field of scholarship, and I don’t claim to have the true word. I will, however, in the linked pages which follow suggest where I think the boundry between vintage and modern pens lies at the moment, although I will also note that it is foolish to firmly fix a line like that in the face of the onward rush of history. Note that in other fields, “post-modern” has been in use long enough that some things so labelled are looking a little gray.
My own notion, then, of the divisions of history of the Fountain Pen:
- Prehistoric times (for which we have very good written records)
- The Dawn of Time (aka The Rubber Age)
- The Explosion of Colours (not as dangerous as it sounds, although nitrocellulose is involved)
- The Golden Age
- The Great Fall (aka Lászlo Jozsef Biró Conquers the World)
- The Dark Ages
- The Renaissance (aka… well, what time is it now?)