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Top 3 Vintage Fountain Pen Books.

Vintage pen books, given their somewhat esoteric nature, limited customer base, and the sheer hard work of production are, unsurprisingly, few and far between.

Nevertheless, the best of them are truly superb and are almost indispensable for any serious pen collector.  They are generally not cheap, as books go, but this is understandable in view of high production costs and comparitively small sales volume.  The work involved for the authors is immense and must be a 'labour of love' as the financial incentive cannot be great.

For my 'Top 3' I have selected two books that deal with a full range of makes and one that is brand specific.  This 'single maker' book reflects one of my particular areas of interest, obviously other collectors may well be drawn to different books, but this one sets the standard. 

Starting with books from the 'general' category:

'Fountain Pens Of The World' by Andreas Lambrou:

I don't have enough superlatives for this colossal work, it is a masterpiece.  With dimensions of 32 x 23.5 x 3.8 cm., and a weight of 2.7Kg., it isn't the kind of book you would cart around but the amount of information and format just could not be done on a smaller scale.  

The book, a hard back, comprises 448 pages including a comprehensive indexand no less than 178 full page colour plates showing pens of a particular make or model.  The format is splendid, facing the colour plate is a 'key' identifying the pen, the colour images are actual size!! No tedious measuring, if you're not sure which size Duofold you have just place it on the page and all is revealed.


The sections are arranged by country of origin and then manufacturer, in addition to the colour plates each section gives a brief history of the countries' minor manufacturers and a fuller account of the background to the larger companies.

The quality of the images, the wealth of information and the organisation that Mr. Lambrou has put together make this book a valuable and unique resource.  It is worth noting that, in many cases, I find it quicker and more convenient to use FPOTW (my mnemonic), rather than wade through unwanted material on the web.  The life sized images also offer a dimension that the computer cannot provide. If I could onlyhave one pen book then it would certainly be this one.


'Pen Repair, 4th edition' by Jim Marshall and Laurence Oldfield


Despite my comment on the pricing of pen books in general I have to say that, at £38, this is an absolute bargain.  I'm sure that many enthusiasts, myself included, have actually gained financially by owning Pen Repair due to being saved from making a monumental blunder when dismantling a hitherto unknown pen.  

Unlike 'Fountain Pens of the World, which is more of a 'coffee table' book, Pen Repair is a working manual.  The spiral binding is a very helpful feature, the book can be left open at the correct page while you work.  The images and diagrams are clear and precise and the authors clearly have a gift for explaining procedures.  The 'scientific method' comes through loud and clear as the processes are described step by step  and llaid out with clear headings in an orderly and easy to follow sequence.  I've just noticed how often I've used the word 'clear', I make no apologies!

The book is laid out in 3 sections: 'Introduction-parts, functions, procedures and filling systems', 'Specific makers and models of pens and pencils,' and 'Advanced procedures, reference, and information':


The second section, dealing with specific makes of pen is the one that i use most frequently.  It is obvious that the authors have considerable experience with a wide range of models and have gone to great lengths to share this:

 One of the authors, Laurence Oldfield, actually makes the universal cap dismantling tool shown above.  I bought one some time ago and have found it invaluable for working with Parker 51s, adapters are available for other caps.  The mechanism is ingenious and very easy to use, I believe it is the only 'safe' way to remove the clutch from metal caps, it can also be used to remove the plastic liner from plastic caps, with the appropriate adaptation.

An aspiring pen restorer simply does not usually have enough time to acquire the experience to deal effectively with a wide range of models, the wealth of knowledge contained in Pen Repair goes a long way to addressing this problem.

The book, and a range of tools is available directly from Laurence Oldfield at his excellent website:   

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 'The Swan Pen: Mabie Todd in England 1880-1960' by Stephen Hull.


The Swan pen is essentially a brand rather than a model of fountain pen, the vast majority of pens made by Mabie Todd were Swans, even the Blackbird and Starling pens can be seen as a subdivision of the Swan.  In this seminal work the author covers the whole range, taking 400 pages and over 1100 full colour photographs.

The layout of the book is superb, it is divided into 12 chapters in chronological order, each one covering a time period corresponding to the stages of development of the pens from 1880 to the end of production in the 1960s.  These are not arbitrary sections, they are precisely worked out to delineate major stages but maintain a feeling of the evolution of the pen, and the company.

The lifesized images of the pens are a boon to speedy identification, and also serve to 'bring the book to life'. 


Mr. Hull is clearly a historian, in the true sense of the word.  He has collated and presented a fascinating range of original adverts, leaflets, catalogues, price lists and photographs to add richness and depth to the story.

 The 'Cygnet' and the 'Blackbird' pen are also part of the story:


The book ends with eight appendices which are packed with information concerning patent extracts with diagrams, British patent dates, colours and numbers, nib manufacture, catalogues, and an appendix devoted to an absolutely wonderful description of the Swan pen business, 'At the sign of the Swan', by S.P.B. Mais. 

Stuart Petre Brodie Mais was an author, journalist, and broadcaster who became a household name in the 1920s and 1930s but died peniless in 1975.

 With dimensions of 28.8 x 22 x 3 cm and a weight of 1.75 Kg., this is a very substantial book.  It is hard covered with an attractively illusrated sleeve, although the hard back itself is equally attractive in a more understated fashion:


   I'm always astounded by the amount of work involved and the depth of knowledge that must be in place to produce a book af this quality.  An extract from the 'acknowledgement' section gives some prespective:

'The vast majority of the information in this book has come from my own extensive archive and collection built up over 40 years

Physically and aesthetically, the book is top notch.  The quality of the print, construction, and paper is excellent and the colour prints are stunning.  My poor attempts at photography do them no justice.

The author says he hopes that this book, one day, will form part of the 'standard reference sources for the history of English fountain pen manufacturing'.  In my opinion that status is already well established, it's a great book.

 'The Swan Pen' is available, at a discounted price of £35, direct from the author at: