One of my hobbies is to use a fountain pen on a daily basis. Hold on, that doesn’t sound right…one of my hobbies is to COLLECT fountain pens and to USE them on a daily basis. Yes, that is more accurate.
I have been fascinated by fountain pens since my first days in school, some (geez, that’s how long it’s been?) years ago. The wet line left by the small point of the nib, the little squeak it makes on the page of my diary, the mechanical wonder, the intricacies of how ink flows on the invisible little channels of the nib, the immensity of the white blank page waiting to be magically filled by my thoughts, etc, etc. Yes, I have a pretty rich imagination.
I remember that, in my very early years, I was accompanying my father or grandfather to the local post office for some business or other; I still remember the dip pens and ink wells lined up on the reclined tables in the post office lobby.
Glass ink wells and dip pen stand – Romania – cca. 1965 (although this model was extremely familiar and popular until the late 80’s)
The same dip pens and the regular violet ink could be seen in the lobby of the local CEC (the communist version of a saving account). I even remember my school desk having some holes at the top, guess why: for ink wells, right. We never used them though: the age of dip pens was gone by the time I entered elementary school.
I do not remember my first pen; it was probably a Romanian cheapie, more than probable a “Pionier”, a very small pen measuring some 10 cms in length, and seemingly designed for first years of school.
Anyways, the first one I remember to have and write with was a Flaro Vega, also made in Romania, I guess is a late 70’s model. Bad instrument to write with, it leaked, the nib was steel without iridium tip…a mess.
Various fountain pens manufactured by Flamura Rosie (Red Flag) State Enterprise from Sibiu Romania, between 1950 – 1985 (estimated period, not official)
I remember some of my fellow students having Chinese fountain pens, Hero type, very good writers. These came in different sizes and colours, and they were very much sought for. You could not actually go in a office supply shop and buy one. You had to be a good friend of the shop assistant or the shop manager, who will call you if some came in stock.
Once in the high school, my standards went up: no Romanian pens. Period. Instead, I hunted the market for a Parker, or Montblanc, or Waterman, Sheaffer. Anything but Romanian (or Chinese for that matter). So, after much looking around, I have found a friend who had a friend whose mother emigrated in Germany. Well, mother sent son a Meisterstuck; son needs money; I had money but no pen; you can figure out the rest of this. So I got my Meisterstuck, which I still have and write with. I remember the money I had were not enough for the price he asked, so I have to give him my stamp collection, my small Diecast vehicle collection, and my pride and my w/end joy, a foot ball, bought by me in Czechoslovakia ( by that time, I was admitted in the top junior league for boxing – a sport which gave me a lifetime joy and good memories, also a flat nose). And after that, in the following years, I got a Parker, a Sheaffer, and many other no-name good fountain pens from all around Europe and God knows where from. Most of these pens are now lost or sold. Or lost.
Ink was not a problem though; while no Montblanc, Waterman or Montegrappa( not unheard of though) were to be seen in the shop shelves, plenty of other brands were largely available: Pelikan, Parker, Chinese made „Hero” (actually pretty good), and the Romanian muck & mud soup called “Student” (err, Student) or “Pescarus” (Seagull), or „Super” (of course not).
Various ink brands, most manufactured and registered as TM (internal) by Flamura Rosie (Red Flag) State Enterprise in Sibiu, Romania.
Some of my fellow students, more inclined towards adventure, used to load their Flaro pens with stamp ink. It was much more full in body and wrote better. Well, imagine that these Romanian pens were so badly built, that they never clogged. Now, try this on a Montblanc. No, don’t.
Back to matter in hand: As far as my collection goes, I am only interested in those fountain pens which were built until say, 1970. Anything later than that just doesn’t interest me. That said, rule doesn’t apply to the MB Boheme Marron, gift from my beloved better half. Or to my Meisterstuck used in the high school. Or to the beautiful Waterman Ideal 18k, or to the Waterman’s Lady Agatha. Or to the exquisite Pelikan Souveran. Anyways…
I use them continuously, because what would be the fun of collecting, if you can’t or shan’t use the item collected? So, I use a fountain pen for my every day work, and I do write a lot, believe you me.
I keep all in an excellent shape and working condition; if broke (which never happens), it is sent to be professionally restored, which is a good thing, if expensive. All my newly acquired pens are sent to Belgium, where they are reconditioned (thank you, Francis). If in need of a professional restoration master, look this guy up: Francis Goosens from Belgium, to be found on The Fountain Pen Network. He is brilliant!
Now, all things said, I feel a tad on the sad side of the story: I do not see many of my fellow Romanians using a fountain pen anymore. In fact, almost no one uses one. Yes, yes, I know…life is changing, and so are the times, we live in a speedy age, and so forth. Well, for what is worth, my personal belief is that the fountain pen gives its owner some kind of status, some sort of a “je ne sais quoi”. Signing a contract for instance: fountain pen decisively gives you that feeling of Mc Arthur signing the Japan capitulation aboard the Missouri in 1945. You know what I mean.
Sadly, Romanian production facility in Sibiu, our one and only fountain pen and pens factory, is dead and buried. I mean, the company still exists, but the production is reduced to ballpoint refills and some ugly and cheap ballpoint models. Sad, very sad. The company was never a huge success, but nevertheless…it is a national brand, and it should’ve been more active. I just hope they will revive this part of our heritage. Read some more on Flaro here.
In my research of the history of Romanian fountain pens, I encountered an abysmal little amount of information on this issue; looks like nobody cares, or not many care. Again, sad.
But what made my day was the existence of a beautiful Romanian enterprise, called “Poenari”. For those who do not know this, it would appear that a certain Petrache Poenaru filed a patent for a device called “portable, endless fountain pen” in the early 1800’s. And I guess the name of the enterprise has something to do with him. If not, then good for him, I say. Or as Italians say „Si non e vero, e bene trovato”. All three images below are courtesy of and copyrighted to www.poenari.ro.
Alas, the patent was registered in France, not in Romania (we didn’t even had such institution at that time). As Poenaru’s patent seemed to show a new thinking of the technicalities of a fountain pen, we can safely call him one of the fountain pen founding fathers. Read some more on this. I very much doubt tha heis in fact the founding father of the fountain pen; many such patents were filed beginning with the end of XVIIIth century. I do believe however that he had a new solution which pushed forward the idea of a proper fountain pen and that solution helped this beautiful writing instrument to become what is today.
Back to Poenari: good to see this shop, manufacturing Romanian fountain pens and being proud to call themselves Poenari, in the honour of Petrache Poenaru’s activity, name and legacy. Keep up the good work guys, you have a staunch supporter in my person here!
Petrache Poenaru’s patent for what is believed to be one of the first fountain pens
Finally, I will sign with my pen of today, a Flamura Rosie, 1953 edition Romanian pen, beautifully restored not in Romania.
Thank you for reading this, means a lot to me.
All the best!