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If you're going to get serious about collecting, you'll want to do some reading on the subject. And so, by way of a bibliography, and in no evident order, I offer some references to some of the better fountain pen publications in print that I've seen and read.
Many of these books can be obtained online from sources like Amazon or Barnes & Noble; however, you may in some cases have better luck from a pen specialist like Pendemonium. These books are also frequently found for sale at pen shows.
Collectible Fountain Pens
Glen Benton Bowen, 1982
LW Book Sales, Gas City Indiana
Glen Bowen is a major figure in the world of pen collecting, and he's now the publisher of the highly-regarded magazine Pen World International. One of his earliest contributions to stylophile literature, however was this inexpensive and handy trade paperback. Here, Bowen focuses on the "big four" U.S. penmakers: Waterman, Parker, Sheaffer, and Wahl-Eversharp; each of these gets its own section in the book, with brief brand histories and an invaluable set of "police lineup" photographs of pens, both common and rare (these pictures are pretty close to actual size, which is handy for discriminating the sizes of actual pens). The book also contains lots of vintage magazine advertisements that help to fill in the history and folklore of the hobby (the Waterman chapter also includes a reproduction of the firm's 1925 catalogexcellent for those wrestling with Waterman's model numbering system).
A grain of salt is in order when reading some of the text; some of the information is "folklore" that later scholarship has debunked (like the old Waterman insurance-policy-ink-blot story, or the one about Wahl and the Japanese Ever-Sharp pencil), but the names and dates are pretty solid. Bowen also provides prices, although these are far from firm and may be somewhat dated (but they're good for judging the relative values of pens in the book). All of the illustrations are in black and white, except for a slick-paper color insert section that displays pens from a wider range of brands, most rather rare and expensive.
I am told that this book may be going out of print soon, so you might want to pick up a copy as soon as you can.
Fountain Pens of the World
Andreas Lambrou, 1995
Classic Pens, Limited, Essex, UK
Andy Lambrou, currently a proprietor of Classic Pens Incorporated, is one of the best-known figures in the world of pen collecting, and he put a vast amount of work into what must be the magnum opus for the hobby. The book contains illustrations of some 2,000 pens gathered from collectors around the world, most in beautiful color photographs (there are also some nicely-rendered line drawings, as well as technical illustrations and reproductions of advertising art). The text takes the form of a historical narrative for each of a number of the most famous brands of past and present, as well as overviews of fountain-pen manufacture in Europe and Japan, as well as the US and UK (this global view is, in my opinion, one of the book's chief virtues). He closes the book with a showcase of exotic limited edition pens (the genre was just getting off the ground when he was preparing the book), along with a résumé of materials and techniques used in fountain pen manufacture. And, where else outside a technical journal could you find spectrographic analyses of various celluloids?
This book isn't cheap, but it is a must-have for the serious collector, and has become a standard reference work. You'll often see pen sellers footnote their descriptions with tags like "Lambrou, FPOTW, p. 150, #10"
Fountain Pens United States of America and United Kingdom
Andreas Lambrou, 2000
Classic Pens, Limited, Essex, UK
Fountain Pens Vintage and Modern
Andreas Lambrou, 1989
Philip Jones Publishers Ltd (London UK) for Sotheby's Publications
Think of these two books as "FPOTW Lite;" the style and approach is very similar to Lambrou's big book (and they feature the same beautiful design and typography), but there's a lot less material, and the scope is narrower (particularly in the case of FP US&UK). Of course, they cost half the price of FPOTW, so you might consider them if your budget can't stand the big book. FP US&UK is still available, but FPVM seems to have gone out of print, so look for copies at used book specialists or at pen shows.
Fountain Pens and Pencils: The Golden Age of Writing Instruments
George Fischler and Stuart Schneider, 1998
The Illustrated Guide to Antique Writing Instruments
George Fischler and Stuart Schneider, 1998
These books, compiled by a pair of longtime collectors, are known respectively as "the Blue Book" and "the Brown Book" and are frequently cited by collectors and dealers in identifying pens. The Blue Book is a coffee-table sized hardbound volume, and contains many color photographs of pens from the vintage age (up through, say, 1970), as well as useful text about the manufacturers. It also includes prices, which, as in Bowen's book, may be dated (but they're useful for rough comparisons). The photography isn't as drool-inducing as, say, FPOTW, but it is more than adequate for spotting and identifying pens. F&S mainly concentrate on the Big Four U.S. makers, but also cover some of the lesser-known US brands (such as Conklin and Chilton) in a bit more detail than does Lambrou.
The Brown Book is a much less expensive and handier trade paperback printed on heavy stock. There's obviously less content, but It's a good first book on the hobby, and is handy to take to shows or on shopping trips.
Fountain Pens The Collector's Guide to Selecting, Buying, and Enjoying New and Vintage Fountain Pens
Jonathan Steinberg, 1994
Courage Books, Philadelphia PA
This relatively short volume is the first book about fountain pens that I ever bought, and looking back over a decade or so of collecting, I find that it has had the biggest influence on my own rather eclectic approach to the hobby. Steinberg is an English barrister, consulting attorney, and collector who approaches the subject in a refreshingly opinionated and idiosyncratic style; he wisely stays away from the "encyclopedia" model already well-explored by Lambrou and others, and instead paints the history of fountain pens in very broad terms. I was particularly taken with his theory of the life cycle of the industry, from which I cribbed a bit for my own essay on the history of fountain pens.
The photography is topnotch, and if he favors rather rare or exotic pens (of the sort that few of us actually ever see, let alone own), you can often see the wear and blemishes, and he isn't afraid to feature the occasional clinker and point out its problems.
At some point about five years back, this book was reissued in a compact edition which appears not to have been authorized by Steinberg; the real article is in the 9x12" format. I am not certain whether this book is still in print, but you may find it at pen shows or from used-book dealers; you might also try Steinberg's website (http://www.vintagepen.com/), which is just as lively a read as his book. While there, you might also consider his new book Fountain Pens: Their History and Art (which I've not yet read).
As the author says on his website, "I [...] tried to provide a proper introduction to the field in a form which you would all like. Even if it was insidiously designed to HOOK the innocent reader into unwittingly becoming a collector." Thanks, Jonathan, you hooked me.
Collecting Fountain Pens A Primer for Newer Collectors
Joel Hamilton and Sherrell Tyree, 2001
This little book is just the thing to help you figure out where you want to go after you've gotten your first taste of the hobby. The brother-sister team of Sherrell and Joel is a familiar sight at pen shows, and they also have their own website (http://www.ink-pen.com/) from which they buy, sell, trade, and repair fountain pens.
Fountain Pens The Complete Guide to Repair and Restoration
If Lambrou's Fountain Pens of the World is the Encylopaedia Britannica of the pen world, and Pen World International magazine is its Playboy , then this famous book must be its Chilton Guide (I mean Chilton the car people, not the pen people). A famous curmudgeon and incomparably-experienced collector-restorer, the late Frank Dubiel put his years of experience in pen repair into a very comprehensive guide that will be of help both to the beginner trying to stick on a sac, or the veteran restorer trying to sort out a Waterman Ink-Vue. This book stands virtually alone in its field, and in fact is simply known as "Da Book." Although Frank passed away in 2003, the folks at Pendemonium have acquired the rights to continue publishing Da Book, ensuring that this valuable reference is not lost to present and future collectors.
Published by the Pen Collectors of America, Inc.
The PENnant is the official publication of the official organization for pen collectors in the U.S., the PCA. It alone is worth the price of joining PCA. It appears quarterly, and is expensively produced on heavy paper. The contributors include an honor roll of pen dealers, collectors, and restorers, but also everyday pen fans. The articles run the gamut from scholarly historical research to repair advice, pen-show reports, gossip from the hobby, and anecdotal features. The magazine, like PCA itself, is oriented toward vintage pen collecting, but even fans of newer pens, as well as novice or casual collectors, will find something useful in every issue.