Pens, Purpose, and People

It’s been a minute. I hope you are well and had the good fortune to enjoy the holidays with those you care about.

I anticipate getting back on the previous weekly cadence and there are several topics I want to explore here in the new year. Before wading out into 2024’s waters there are a few items from the last days of 2023 that bear mentioning.

2023 was a year when I crossed many big items off the want to get” list. The first highlight was the Scribo LaDotta, a unique and special pen. I finally snagged a Parker 50 Falcon after a few years of watching and missing. The Sailor King of Pen always felt out of reach but when a deal presented itself, I took the leap and was rewarded with an incredible writing instrument. It was a similar case with this…

The Pilot Custom 845 Urushi in Vermillion. Like the King of Pen is for Sailor, the 845 is a flagship for Pilot. An aspirational piece and priced accordingly. For as much as I admired the 845, I couldn’t find its value for me at the regular asking price, especially since I’d never seen or held one in person. As chance would have it, a seller on eBay put out a discount offer on this 845, presumably for whoever had it on their watchlist. I thought about it for a day. I hesitated. I then decided I’d regret not taking the chance at a price I felt comfortable with. Worst case scenario would be I didn’t like the pen and could sell or trade it without much hassle. Happily, the scenario turned out best case and I find the 845 quite appealing.

Black, gold, and deep red make an outstanding color combination on this pen.Black, gold, and deep red make an outstanding color combination on this pen.

18k nib is firmer and had more feedback than I expected.18k nib is firmer and had more feedback than I expected.

It could be the hype and prestige tied to the word urushi influencing one’s thinking, creating a feeling that may or may not actually be there physically, but something seems different about this pen in hand compared to other materials. Bear in mind I’ve had the pen for two days and perhaps am still riding the wave of excitement.

That aside, the 845 is well balanced when writing and sits naturally in my grip. The nib is firmer than I thought it would be. It also had more feedback than expected. Any other Pilot gold nib I have glides on the page. This nib didn’t quite do that and it could partly have come from the firmness. Without that little bit of give and bounce it transmitted more of the paper’s surface to my hand. I gave the nib a few minutes’ work drawing lines on a piece of micromesh and that provided a smoother feel, but it’s still different than my other Pilot gold nibs. These are by no means complaints, just observations.

With Asa-Gao loaded in the 845 I had to decide on what to write with it. For Christmas I’d asked for and been given The Daily Stoic. I wanted the book as a new means to approach Stoic writers and their ideas. Part of the plan is to write out the quoted daily passage in a notebook and record my own thoughts alongside. A short but deliberate exercise to be consistent with writing every day. I started the journal immediately on 12/25 and when the 845 arrived in the mail on 12/30 I chose to bind the two together. I plan for the 845 to be the only pen I use in the Stoic journal. I’ve got plenty of Iroshizuku ink so it’s win-win all around. There were always many reasons to want to own the 845, but now that it is here let’s have a reason to use it often.

If anticipating the 845’s arrival on 12/30 wasn’t enough, being surprised with something else on 12/31 was an even better treat.

This pen travelled a long way to get to me, but its origins were very close by. Six weeks ago, my brother and his fiancée announced they were getting married on New Year’s Eve and asked me if I would officiate the ceremony. That request was the last thing I expected. It took a few seconds to process before I said yes.

In the following days I realized that for all the excitement surrounding the wedding there was a lot to consider — what to say and how to say it, how to run the ceremony and incorporate all the things they wanted and were important to them. Combined with the fact that the stretch from Thanksgiving through Christmas is by far the busiest time of year for my job, this led to several nights where I fell between trying to shake off the day at work and needing to spend time on ceremony planning and composing my remarks.

Thankfully, the bride and groom had a strong outline of what they wanted the ceremony to be and my work on that front consisted mostly of filling in the script for each part and transitioning from one to the next. That still left the matter of what I would personally say about them and their union in front of family and friends. There was a good deal of jotting down ideas and fragments in a notebook, trying to flesh them out into something more. Lines got crossed out and revised as certain ideas came in or out of favor. All the while a script was being typed up on the computer to reference and practice. I often have a pen and paper of some kind close to hand when at home, but with the wedding date approaching fast I tried to keep one directly on my person so as not to miss the chance to write down any idea that passed between my ears for the big day.

Between the time of the wedding date announcement and the wedding itself, my brother and his fiancée travelled through Italy for two weeks. Before departing they talked about the places they planned to stay and to visit. One of them remarked that I’d probably know all the pen factories to go to.

Being a pen geek, I naturally looked up all the Italian pen makers I could think of to see which had storefronts or ways to visit with the idea of providing a list of places they might want to check out if interested. It ultimately came down to the big three of Aurora, Montegrappa, and Visconti. Since one of the stops on trip was Bologna, I included Scribo but they don’t seem to have a public facing space such as the others do.

From poking around Google Maps, I also found a pen shop in Bologna named A.C. Vecchietti. The Vecchietti family opened their pen shop in 1928. Further reading revealed that Umberto Vecchietti started the Nettuno pen brand in the early 1900s, and though the original iteration of Nettuno folded in the 1950s the family store remains open to the present day.

Pictures of the shop online were quite appetizing, for lack of a better term, and so I included its details alongside the aforementioned firms. My brother and his fiancée both use and appreciate good writing & drawing instruments. I said the Vecchietti shop looked to have a strong selection of many top brands and should they be interested in a pen they might want to drop by if afforded the chance while in Bologna.

And so we arrive at yesterday, 12/31/23. Wedding Day. The ceremony and the spirit surrounding it was quite special. I was more affected during the ceremony than I anticipated being and there were a few times I had to pause for emotion to subside and keep everything on track. During the reception afterward, my brother and his now-wife came to me and presented this bag.

The name looked familiar. Then I saw Bologna and the Nettuno logo and realized it was the shop I had told them about. They said this is your gift for being our officiant. I was once again surprised, not expecting anything like this to occur. Inside the bag I found this nicely wrapped box.

Under the wrapping was this…

The pen is from Columbus, another old name in Italian pens. Now the mark is held by a distribution company that handles different brands in Italy, Sheaffer and Cross among them.

The box has no marking as to the pen’s model/style. Looking at the Columbus brand’s catalog, it seems closest to the Nuovi Argenti model. The cap is 925 sterling with fine lines and a blank space for engraving. I initially thought the barrel might be a burl wood but the nature of the pattern makes me think it’s some type of acrylic. The finish is more matte than shiny and hard to capture well in the pictures I have. The pen is of similar size to some of my slender Parkers like the Rialto or Falcon. The nib is two tone steel with a fine point. A pack of Herbin cartridges was also included, the Periwinkle Blue color chosen by the bride. I’ve used several Herbin inks but never this one.

Once home after the evening’s festivities concluded, I had to load up the pen with the accompanying ink. The nib needed a slight adjustment and some passes on micromesh. It took about 10 minutes to get that sorted and then I had very nice writer.

Anything this pen does or doesn’t do is immaterial compared to the people who gave it to me, the place it came from, and the importance of 12/31/23 in our family. The Columbus could never write another word and it would still be a most treasured keepsake. I’ll use it all the same because any time I hold it I will remember a special time and people I love.

The 845 came with all the pedigree you could want but needed a purpose to be something more than a nice pen. The Columbus came with more personal significance than almost anything and needs no practical application to have a place in my life forever. Two pens received a day apart from different places with different stories. A memorable way to end 2023 and start 2024.

Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope the words you write and the pens you write them with mean as much to you as these do to me.

1 January 2024