Pelikan passed through most of the 1950s without falling to the temptation to produce a hooded pen. When they did, they created something that was very different from their previous output, and in some ways rather an oddity among pens in general. One suspects that the naming of the pen, P1, is a recognition of this, in that it reset the clock on model numbers.
Even when capped, the P1 is clearly not quite like other Pelikans, with its four round ink portholes mounted well down the barrel. This placement is unusual for any piston-filling pen, as the usual place for any ink window is just behind the section, so when the pen is on the verge of running out the window announces the impending problem. In the P1, the windows are so far back they are just clear of the head of the piston when it is run all the way back, and to check whether the pen is about to run out, one has to hold it point upward; when writing, the windows will show empty even when the pen is just about full.
The possible reason for this strange placement is the fact that the pen does not have a section at all; from the mounting of the piston to the tip of the point, the body of the pen is a single piece. This is a very unusual arrangement, and makes for some serious difficulties should a need for maintenance to the point and feed arise.
The point and feed are also rather curious. The point takes full advantage of being hooded, and is very small indeed– unlike the tubular point in a Parker 51, it is closer in sensibility to the tiny fragment of a point found hiding in a Lamy 2000. The feed is quite unlike the arrangement found in either of those externally-similar pens. Rather than having complex convolutions, is it very nearly a straight, uncomplicated shaft, whose powers to resist sudden ink surges seem to lie in its length, as it is very nearly half the length of the pen. This is apparently a “thermal” feed, but as to what that means exactly, your guess is as good as mine.
A little more point shows in this pen than in the Parker, and this allows for a little more spring in the point, but nothing in the way of flex. Absence of actual flex aside, the performance is much in the same line as the contemporary open-pointed models; smooth, but with a little feedback. Those who are given to gripping a pen very close to the point will likely hate the thread placement, but the majority of users will find it a delight– the later models especially have absolutely nothing along the barrel to irritate the fingers. One does have to work a little to remember that this is a screw-on cap, particularly if used to similarly shaped Parker models, when removing and replacing the cap.
There are two main variations on this pen; it was offered with a rolled gold or a Silvex cap. As in the case of the Silvexa caps on the 20, the placement of the word indicating the cap material has led to a regular identification of this pen as the “P1 Silvex”. What the differences between Silvex and Silvexa might be are mysterious, and internet searches discover little regarding the composition of either– if you look for yourself you may find a plating company in Maine, a wholesale jewelry source, a pesticide, and (possibly closest to the mark) a tungsten-based bullet core offered as a less-toxic alternative to lead. One leading resource on Pelikans gives these two different finishes separate designations, either P1S or P1RG. I cannot say whether this was official, but it is a useful shorthand.
A final point which has no real weight but which chews on me– the model number is out of keeping with Pelikan’s practices. Prior to it, the pens were known by simple numbers (100, 140, 400), sometimes with a letter or two as a suffix. Subsequent models would gain a prefix to indicate what sort of pen it was, based on the German word for the type; K for ballpoint, M for piston, P for cartridge. The P1, as a piston filler, should be an M1 under the latter scheme. I suspect, without any foundation of evidence, that in this case the P stands for “Pelikan”, just to get more than a single digit as a model designation; if I’m right, then it’s a Pelikan Pelikan-One, which is silly enough to believe coming out of an advertising department, but rather too silly to take from an established German firm.
Production Run: 1957 – 1965. Sources differ on this, suggesting 1957, 1958 and 1959 as start dates. Pelikan’s own site speaks of 1958 beginning with the P1’s introduction, which suggests a late 1957 roll-out to catch Christmas sales translated into a 1958 “model year”.
Cost When New: 1963 recommended price was DM29.- for the Silvex cap and DM38.- for the gold, which I’m told equates to about $7.25 and $9.50 respectively… which seems amazingly reasonable (compare to the prices of contemporary Parkers or Sheaffers, and for modern values, try this calculator); you may believe the German amount, but take the conversion with a grain of salt. Update: I have been told, without any details, that the Deutschemark was artificially undervalued for a long time after the war; prices on exported pens were probably more in line with those of the competitors, but the price and exchange right above are more or less right in Germany.
Size: 13.2 cm long capped, 14.4 cm posted, 12.6 cm uncapped.
Filler: Piston, capacity approx. 1.2 ml
If you are relying on the preceding information to win a bet or impress a teacher, you should read the site’s scholarly caveat. Remember, this is the internet, and it’s full of bad information.