Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fountain pen aesthetic

I enjoy the idea of a fountain pen aesthetic. To go along with the mechanical watch obsession, is a minor fountain pen obsession. To date I own two fountain pens, my original, which is a Waterman steel nib. But my crown jewel is my Namiki retractable fountain pen - as far as I know the only retractable fountain pen model in existence. I love my Namiki because it has an extra-extra fine nib which is generally hard to find in fountain pens. Additionally it was relatively inexpensive yet still has a gold nib. The difference between the gold and steel is difficult to understate. Combined with my indelible ink, I have a pen that is acceptable for all writing, including checks and mail.

I think pens, especially fountain pens, represent the ultimate single-object characterization of what it means to be human. Humans excel at abstract thought, fine motor control, aesthetics and communication. All of these manifest themselves in the fountain pen. I threw aesthetics in there to justify a fountain pen over a regular pen, mostly because I really dislike the idea of a disposable culture. There is a certain craftsmanship and history to fountain pens, ideas that generally don't have an equal elsewhere in the animal world.

So often newer computer users forget about the power of the pen and paper. The free-form unconstrained and rapid creation really rivals all other mediums for idea creation. If I wanted to insert a diagram of a pen, it would be fairly difficult in this blog. However if I was writing it on paper, I could do nearly anything I wanted, drawing skills aside. The closest computer equivalent would be the tablet PC, but I can't really deal with a PC right now.

Besides which, paper makes an excellent archival medium. In 100 years will people be pouring over the electronic correspondence of the greats of our time? Given how much data people carry on their personal computers, it might be, but it doesn't have quite the same ring to it as reading the personal correspondence of Albert Einstein. Or reading the notebooks of Da Vinci. So my personal stand is to attempt to create paper-based notebooks of ideas and thoughts. So far I'm not really successful, mostly because my notebook hides in my bag, but perhaps I just need another one for my desk as well?


Phil Lim said...

excellent thoughts. For a while a couple of years ago I kept a pocket sized notebook that was bound by rings which conveniently held a pen snugly. Always having it on my person I often jotted down mere thoughts, phrases, experiences, and of course, itineraries. I sometimes look through these notes and can instantly be transported back to when I wrote them. It's something that I really should start again.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the support Phil. I currently use a 2 year old Moleskine notebook I have been meaning to fill up for a long time now. Since I do everything on the computer (programmer!) the temptation is to continue to do all your thinking there, but it really isn't always the best medium to think on.

If you've ever read 'The Diamond Age' the neo-Victorians throw back to the pen and paper era. In a time of unlimited possibilities, the aesthetic choices become more important.

ChrisCP said...

Stypen was making a retractable nib fountain pen for a while (the Stypen UP) before Bic (apparently) bought them out and now the pens has Bic's name on it. You can see it here:

It twists to retract instead of the click mechanism the VP uses.

ChrisCP said...

Oops. URL didn't transfer properly.

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