In the universe of writing instruments, the Montblanc galaxy occupies a central place. The advertisers remind us that a Montblanc pen is a status symbol: the items coming out of this foundry bestow to their holder an embellishment of their position in the society, rightfully matched with their social status, much as the imperial regalia of orb and scepter. Beware, says the myth, that it is not kosher to come to business meetings with a Montblanc if age, luck, or inheritance has placed you on the mid-level management, for you may perform a sacrilege on the ritual. Only those who have achieved supreme status are rightful owners. Those who are not, or at least not yet, are doomed to succumb to its symbolic power. The parvenus are a dissonance, a hideous parody. They are rightfully expelled from the potlatch of showcasing a big fat bank account and a fancy costume that goes with it. What a myth!
The Montblanc 14
A vintage Montblanc is primarily a Montblanc. It still possesses the distinctive insignia of the brand, namely the star (or “bird’s feces” as someone told me the other day). This vintage Montblanc has landed on my mailbox from a gentleman in the UK, who took a splendid care of it for years and finally gave it away at a very low price. Although the insignia is there, its vintage has precedence in the list of attributes. For me, at least.
Let’s try to go beyond this delusion of massive proportions that advertisers have created to charge 800 EUR for a pen, even if it is a “good” one. Everything in this world is subjective. In a state of mind that discards the subjective perception and focuses on the essentials, this Montblanc 14 is an outstanding writing instrument that survived over the decades. It has a semi-flex medium nib that hovers handsomely over the paper, leaving a fascinating line. It features a yellowish ink window, and a golden belt on the cap delineated by two triangles, like an art-deco flower. This flower pattern is repeated in the way the nib is extending out of the nib section, mounted as it is. While this nib mount is met in old vintage pens, or even on contemporary ones like the Vanishing Point, it is my first one on my fountain pen tray. Love it!
Needless to say that this pen performs in a wonderful manner with my Pelikan Edelstein Onyx ink, an everyday black ink, for writing text and taking notes. It writes with no interruption whatsoever, not too dry, not too wet. It’s perfect.
This is not a flex nib, which leaves a rookie in the writing culture like me even more satisfied. Flexible nibs, like the one I have in a contemporary design pen and that I will review in the future, requires special handling. Semi-flex nibs, however, will leave a rich line on the paper almost effortlessly. This is not cheating. It is a feature, not a bug.
What Use is a Vintage Montblanc
What use is such a pen? Leaving aside the colorful dazzle of status symbol discussions, this is a pen that adheres to the culture of analog writing in an almost natural way. The solitary activity of putting words together, of transcribing ideas, is similar to the task of architecture. If a building, a construction is the form of thought in the three-dimensional physical space, then writing is the footprint of thought on a piece of parchment, a piece of paper. It is the process of communication between present and future selves, between people, and indeed a creative process that gives birth to a string of ideas, sometimes inexistent up to that moment. In this creative process, some people have a penchant for form as much as for function: a fountain pen enhances the experience, giving it a subjective meaning. A vintage pen is an instrument of function that comes from afar. Much as an urban sketcher picks an angle, primarily to frame his or her subject, a writer will reach out to an appropriate extension of his or her hand to execute the process of leaving a footprint.
To the people who cannot afford to spend a considerable amount of money for the sticker price of a mint Montblanc in one of their signature stores, it may appear to be an inexpensive compromise – a poor man’s Montblanc. Little did they know, for this pen is not only affordable, but also outstanding, and no less a Montblanc. To me, it is even better, as its art-deco spirit is of immense pleasure to look at. The fifties and sixties, a golden age all over the Western world, has brought us some items no less valuable and timeless than a piece of classical music — and, moreover, at an affordable price. Why not take advantage of it?
- Those who can recover the living spirit of a decades-old writing instrument in their hands.
- The people who appreciate the semi-flex character and its line variation, without having to pay a ridiculous amount of money to enjoy it.
- Those who pass à côté of discussions of status, and appreciate fountain pens for what they are.