The Royal family (of writing instruments)

⬆︎ A Parker Duofold Centenntial fountain pen, first bought in London in 1995, now in my hands

Earlier today, Henry, who frequently comments here, sent me a link to a Washington Post story that I had almost missed. It’s “Beyond the keyboard: Fountain pen collectors find beauty in ink.” I was about three weeks ahead of them! It was with this post of mine, “Ink’s place in the retro movement.” But retro minds think alike. To the Washington Post’s excellent observations about fountain pens, I would add one more observation: Fountain pens and typewriters belong together. They are a dyad, both technologically and aesthetically.

By coincidence today, an old friend of mine who collects fountain pens as well as typewriters sent me a classic fountain pen that he no longer uses and wanted me to have. It arrived in the mail today. It’s a Parker Duofold Centennial that he bought in London in 1995. He has moved up to even more luxurious fountain pens, saying that he has found that he prefers a more flexible nib. Well, I like this fountain pen’s nib just the way it is. And why shouldn’t I? I am too frugal to justify the cost of one of these pens. They don’t lose their value if they are in good condition. It’s about what I’d consider paying for a fancy roto-tiller or a dental crown.

As for collectible typewriters, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s the full-size office machines that thrill me. Most collectors today prefer the “cute” portables, especially if they’re in pastel colors. But it’s the massive corporate workhorses that I like, because they’re the kind of typewriters I used when I was a newspaper copy boy starting back in 1966.

It’s easy enough to use typewriters for actual writing these days, as long as you have a scanner and OCR software handy. It seems I have so many typewriters these days that I have to rotate them to give them exercise. But I have been getting a lot of writing done, and of course that writing ends up in the computer, in an application named Scrivener that I have used for all my writing projects for years. Retro writing systems are far from obsolete, even when our words end up in our computers.

⬆︎ The nib on this pen is medium width — fairly broad, really

⬆︎The Parker nib

⬆︎My Royal 440 office machine, 1969

⬆︎My Royal FP office machine, 1961

⬆︎My Royal HH office machine, 1953. Internally, these Royals changed very little over a period of 25 to 30 years. The exterior design, though, changed to fit the tastes of the times. I like to compare the 1969 Royal with an Oldsmobile Toronado, the 1961 machine (a model which started some years earlier) with a 1955 Chevrolet, and the 1953 machine with a 1952 Chevrolet. There are clearly parallels between automobile styles and typewriter styles, though I’m still waiting for someone to write a book about it.

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