The pen is mightier than the sword is an expression said to have been invented by the English playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton. In its true sense, Bulwer-Lytton was perhaps referring primarily to the fact that symbolic acts have a greater and more lasting impact than violent ones. But that notwithstanding, in today’s society the pen is an undervalued accessory of the gentleman. Here we have listed the best fountain pens on the market right now.
Despite all the technological note-taking possibilities that surround us these days, an elegant pen still has its place, both for spontaneous notes and signatures. Being able to offer something to write with in different contexts is also a gentlemanly act. There is also a risk that the art of writing will become a dying art if it is not continuously practised.
What is a fountain pen?
Fountain pens have always been popular collectors’ items. Perhaps more so in countries such as Italy than in the US, but even here there are collectors who are inspired by these beautiful pens.
How does the fountain pen work? Unlike the ballpoint pen, the fountain pen is an ink pen where the ink is stored inside the body of the pen and comes out to the stylus at one end of the pen through a combination of gravity and capillary force. The ballpoint pen has a reservoir of viscous and fast-drying ink that is transferred via the rolling ball to the paper when writing.
Predecessors to today’s fountain pen have a long history but today’s pens date back to designs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The barrel of the pen can determine the feel of writing. There are pins made of steel, silver, gold and even glass.
There are different ways that fountain pens can be filled with ink. Most common nowadays are ink cartridges, whereas in the past it was more popular for pens to have their pins dipped in ink and then the ink sucked in by squeezing a rubber bag contained in the reservoir. There are also pens with other methods, such as pumps and plungers, for filling the pen with ink.
The best classic fountain pen brands
There are some classic fountain pen manufacturers – with both high-end and cheaper variants. Here are some of the best fountain pen brands on the market.
Aurora – luxury Italian brand
One of the most exclusive on the market is probably Aurora, which we have written about here before. Earlier this year, Aurora launched a pen in collaboration with the 100th anniversary celebration of Acqua di Parma.
The exclusive Aurora Riflessi Optima fountain pen in fine gold with a price of around 133,000 SEK, which is far from the most expensive pen in Aurora’s collections. However, in addition to the luxury pens, Aurora’s range also includes more everyday pens.
Pineider – the pioneer of the art of writing
Pineider is another exclusive Italian brand, founded in Florence as early as 1774. This makes it one of the oldest companies still operating in the industry. Pineider initially focused on elegant stationery at its shop in Piazza della Signoria.
Pineider’s shop became a must-visit destination for upper-class young men passing through on their Grand Tour educational trip. Some of the most prominent guests at the shop included Napoleon and Lord Byron, who visited in the early 19th century.
It was in 1884 that Pineider launched its first fountain pen and at the same time patented its ink-filling system. Nowadays, the fountain pens named La Grande Bellezza are a collector’s item among many influential people around the world.
Pineider is also known for its elegant leather products for the office. Nowadays, it is not so common to take travel writing tables with you on your travels. However, in the first part of the 20th century, writers and authors used travel desks like this one from Pineider to carry their favourite pens and paper for their work.
This travel desk is handmade in Italy from cherry wood and soft leather. It comes with 14 different nibs for the pens and, of course, ink for the pens – along with notebooks and stationery.
Parker – one of the world’s biggest brands
When it comes to slightly less exclusive, but still venerable brands, Parker Pen Company is definitely a worthy option. Parker is a well-known brand in the Swedish market as well and is available in many bookstores around the country. Parker Pen Company is an American company founded by George Safford Parker in 1888.
The company was founded in Janesville, Wisconsin and especially in the late 1800s and early 1900s the company was by far the largest in the world in the field. Over the years, Parker has had factories in a number of countries. The factory in Newhaven was closed in 2010 and production was moved to France.
Advertisement from The Saturday Evening Post and their December 17, 1910 edition. The advertisement shows founder George Safford Parker and some of the predecessors of the Duofold series, namely The Black Giant which was launched in 1905. George Safford Parker received his first patent for a fountain pen in 1889.
Among Parker’s famous pens are the Duofold series (launched in 1921) and Parker 51 (launched in 1941), Jotter (launched in 1954) and Parker Vector (1986). The company is also known for its ink, Quink.
Lamy – classic German brand
Among the venerable European manufacturers of fountain pens is the German company Lamy. Lamy was founded in 1930 in Heidelberg by C. Josef Lamy as Orthos Füllfederhalter-Fabrik C.J. Lamy. Fountain pens were sold under the names Orthos and Artus. The big breakthrough for the company’s pens came with the Lamy 27 model, which was launched in 1952.
A milestone was the Lamy 2000, in production since 1966, which uses a screw pump. Lamy’s other popular product, the Lamy Safari, was launched in 1980, using cartridges. Famous designers such as Gerd A. Müller, Mario Bellini and Richard Sapper have been commissioned throughout history to design the pens.
Lamy 2000 – the pen that, when released in 1966, became the starting point for Lamy’s unique design profile.
Conklin – American classic
The Conklin Pen Company was founded in 1898 and Mark Twain, among others, was a faithful user of the company’s fountain pens. Despite its history and the fact that the company and its pens are still on the market today, they are relatively unknown in Sweden. The picture is from The Saturday Evening Post in 1920.
Montblanc – an increasingly popular luxury brand
Finally, we have arrived at Montblanc, a brand that has done very well in marketing in recent years. Montblanc is a German company that is very strong in fountain pens, but their watches and jewellery are also well known on the world market.
The engineer August Eberstein started manufacturing fountain pens in Berlin in 1906 and sold them to retailers in Hamburg and Berlin. The trademark “Montblanc” was registered in 1910 and from 1913 the pens were adorned with the symbol. The symbol looks like a six-pointed star with rounded tips but is supposed to symbolise the six valleys of the Mont Blanc mountain.
In 1924, the Meisterstück fountain pen (pictured above) was launched, a pen that is still a bestseller today and perhaps the most iconic of fountain pens.
Every year since 1992, Montblanc has released a limited edition collection called the Writers Edition, paying tribute to the greatest icons of literature. The latest pen in the collection has been created in honour of Rudyard Kipling, one of the greatest writers of the Victorian era. The pen features a clip depicting a wolf’s head and an engraving with the opening line from his 1910 poem About… A true collector’s item for anyone who enjoys elegant fountain pens.
FAQs – best fountain pens
It largely depends on your budget. There are brands of really good fountain pens for under $100. Parker is one of the best known brands of fountain pens. They have many affordable models.
We recommend fountain pens from Parker’s Duofold series and their Centennial Edition if you’re looking for fountain pens that are great for writing.
Most fountain pens are more comfortable and softer to write with. They have a liquid ink that makes writing a wonderful experience. Above all, fountain pens are aesthetically very beautiful.
Unlike the ballpoint pen, the fountain pen is an ink pen where the ink is stored inside the body of the pen and comes out to the stylus at one end of the pen through a combination of gravity and capillary force. The ballpoint pen has a reservoir of viscous and fast-drying ink that is transferred via the rolling ball to the paper when writing.
You can find most well-known brands of fountain pens on sites like Amazon. You can also buy fountain pen ink here.
Among the best and most well-known brands of fountain pens are Parker and Montblanc. Italian luxury brand Aurora is also popular with collectors.