Angus Davies reports on the Montegrappa Cosmopolitan 2011 Victorian England, a range of fine writing instruments.
I can still vividly remember sitting in the primary school I attended as a young child. My first experience of handwriting was holding an HB pencil in my right hand, trying to shape characters into a legible form.
My school provided the necessary stationery. All children were treated the same. No special pens or pencils. No opportunity for personalisation or expression of one’s self.
The pencil was the first writing instrument we held with care when trying to impart a story.
An eraser was poised at one end of the pencil waiting to assist with the foolish mistakes of a virgin mind.
The lead of the pencil was milled to a point. It was treated with due reverence. A snapped lead meant visiting “Misses’s desk” to use the industrial sized pencil sharpener, a fearful journey.
Handwriting lessons consisted of repeatedly writing characters in rows. Perfecting lines and culturing curves.
A blue ballpoint pen
In junior school, we were presented with our school issue blue ballpoint pen. There was now a permanence to our scribing.
I still remember the lack of anatomical empathy the pen would have with my larger than average hand. As numbness arrived to the tips of my fingers, I would release my grip from the pen and shake my hand to encourage the blood to flow once more.
Handwriting lessons would require special exercise books. A series of closely set horizontal lines between which we had to make our wayward characters fit confronted us. Evenly sized, uniform in presentation, all writing had to conform to the accepted font.
Those children in the third year who had “beautiful hand writing” were allowed to graduate to the ultimate pen. A school issue Platignum fountain pen. Those graduating to this status were invariably the neatly attired, fragrant girls, who were complicit in the tedium of school life.
My own writing style
My own writing was wayward in style, small in size. Freudian analysis would have yielded many conclusions. I would suggest it was a fusion of hieroglyphics and general practitioner haphazard scrawl.
Sadly I did not receive my fountain pen until the fourth year. My writing style never did conform to Marion Richardson’s handwriting acquisition method.
However, the use of a fountain pen had an inferred status.
Entering adulthood, I have owned the occasional fountain pen but invariably settled for the complimentary item residing in my hotel room.
My first proper fountain pen
A few years ago I purchased my first proper fountain pen. A significant purchase from my limited resources, it cost a few hundred pounds. However, in the same way I became immersed in a world of haute horology, I have now looked at some of the finer writing instruments available.
Montegrappa are based near Venice in Bassano del Grappa. They celebrate their centenary this year.
Their pens are made in an atelier, where artisans create beautiful writing instruments which enhance the experience of writing.
Elegant and graceful their designs harness craftsmanship sharing many of the skills I much admire in watchmaking. I recently held a pen bearing the finest guilloché. I admired the peerless gem-setting of another writing instrument.
A trip to Harrods
One particular pen caught my gaze, whilst visiting the Montegrappa store in Harrods, the Victorian from the Cosmopolitan 2011 collection.
A limited edition fountain pen, one of only 500 available in a sterling silver finish beckoned. A roller ball is available, but I favour the tradition of a fountain pen. I would liken this to selecting a hand-wound watch in preference to quartz. I somehow feel a greater emotional connection with the passion personified by a pen with a nib.
A solid 18-carat gold version is available but restricted to only 50, for those whose fortune has reached rarified heights. A beautiful expression of the maison’s craft, it would sadly come with an opportunity cost I could never bear.
There are five themes depicted with the models in the Cosmopolitan collection; Mount Rushmore, Bohemian Paris, Arabian Animals of the Desert, China’s Ancient Gods and Victorian England. As a patriotic Englishman, I would favour the latter model.
Queen Victoria was the longest-reigning monarch of Britain. She reigned for 63 years and 7 months, albeit with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrating her diamond jubilee this year, Queen Victoria’s record reign should be bettered in the near future.
All the Cosmopolitan collection share similar architecture. The cap has a resin end piece, octagonal in shape. The clip on the cap has a rotating sphere, a trait shared with all Montegrappa pens.
The body of the pen is enchantingly engraved. Intricate lines in bas relief, assimilate Victorian England and delicately define the nineteenth century English culture.
The pen acknowledges England’s prominence on the world’s stage. It celebrates London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and takes a retrospective look at a time when the British Empire extended around the globe.
England was a leader in exploration, medicine, science, literature and architecture. It was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. This pen beautifully captures this with several scenes.
The nib is 18-carat gold and available in varying widths to suit the owner’s style.
The pen has a piston filling system.
Writing is a necessary skill which I have acquired over the years albeit with an unkempt character.
A pen was in my hand when I noted Pythagorus’s theorem, a WIlfred Owen poem and later in life the Boston Consulting Group Matrix.
A pen recorded the important moments in my life; the signature of my wedding certificate, the record of my daughter’s birth and that of my son’s and the deeds of my first home to name but a few.
With the passage of time, the considered note taking deserves a fine writing instrument to afford due reverence to life’s important moments.
The culmination of my development from boy to man now justifies a fine fountain pen.
Montegrappa provide a broad choice of models from the luxurious to regal perfection in the noblest of metals.
My current budget will probably necessitate patience but one day I would aspire to own an Italian thoroughbred of peerless beauty.
One day I would like to own a Montegrappa and a suitable model would be the Cosmopolitan Victorian England.