Poet and punk rocker Patti Smith, who spoke at the PEN World Voices Festival at Cooper Union earlier this year, had this advice for writers: “Buy yourself a nice pen.”
Bonham’s on Madison Avenue makes that more tempting on Thursday, Aug. 19, when it hosts an auction of hundreds of vintage fountain pens. The pens come from the collection of actor Michael Tucci and from the private Clavius Collection, which derives its name from a 16th-century astronomer who helped design the Gregorian calendar. The sale features mostly limited-edition pens, some decades old, crafted by pen manufacturers or artisan pen makers such as Omni, Visconti, Omar and Pelikan. More than 400 fountain pens, or groups of pens, with a few rogue pencils, will be offered at starting bids ranging from $100 to $18,000 for a rare Montblanc “Spider.”
According to Penopoly, a West Coast vintage pen restorer, you can’t just dive into fountain-pen collecting without doing a little research into the proper care of them. Tips from Roger Cromwell of Penopoly include the sensible-”always store with the nib up”-and the sophisticated: “Don’t use India ink-it has a lacquer that can seize up the barrel.” And then there’s the real insidery: “Don’t use on inexpensive legal pads and recycled paper: They contain a small amount of wax.”
The most expensive pen on offer at Bonham’s is Montblanc’s Magical Skeleton Black Widow Spider (which has a spider web etched onto its writing nib). It’s decorated in white gold, with black diamonds on the clip.
Waterman’s The Rising Dragon Sérénité Maki-e features a metallic dragon that wraps around the cap and barrel. Complete with its original packaging, and one of a limited edition of 120, it is priced from $2,000 to $2,500. More accessible, at about $800, is the German-made Hercules Limited Edition Fountain Pen. The Greek God is etched in silver on blue-toned lacquer; it was one of 800 made.
Of course, for writing, a pen is not enough. Ms. Smith recommends also “discipline”-and a good notebook.