Yesterday brought an unexpected glimpse of the next M8xx release out of Hannover, this time courtesy of U.K. based Penbox by way of their Instagram account. The news seems to come a little ahead of schedule as we don’t have any high quality stock photos or other promotional materials available as of yet nor do we see any announcements from other vendors. What we do have is a first look at the upcoming M805 Blue Dunes special edition in what appears to be a pre-release photo meant for retailers. Consistent with the rumors from earlier this year, this M805 has a pattern reminiscent of 2016’s M800 Grand Place. The Blue Dunes embodies swirling shades of blue intermixed with darker tones. We are still awaiting official word from Pelikan with regards to the inspiration behind this finish. The Blue Dunes will join the likes of the Ocean Swirl (2017) and the Vibrant Blue (2015), accented by palladium plated trim. Based on what little info is available at the moment, this one is anticipated for a late June 2019 release.
The M101N takes its design queues from Pelikan’s historic models of the 1930s and 40s and the re-interpretation has, by all outward appearances, been a success for the company. This modern line was first introduced in 2011 and has steadily grown since, now counting six models amongst its ranks. Those include the Tortoiseshell Brown (2011), the Lizard (2012), the Lizard Jubilee Edition (2013), the Tortoiseshell Red (2014), and the Bright Red (2017). The newest model, released just this year, is the Grey-Blue. Like the Bright Red that came before, there does not appear to be a corresponding vintage 101N model with the exact same finish. That’s not surprising since the original 101N line encompassed only a few different models. Also, Pelikan defies the nomenclature of the past here with its choice of styling. The 100Ns were characterized by black caps whereas the 101Ns had colored caps or caps that matched the pattern of the barrel. By placing a black cap on the newest M101N, the company has blurred some of the conventions of old, conventions which had remained intact up until now. Of this modern lot, it seems that the Tortoiseshell Brown consistently gets the most attention, and for good reason. The Grey-Blue is no slouch however and it is worth a look given the uniqueness of the finish. Read on to find out more.
The firm now known as Pelikan and it’s founder, the chemist Carl Hornemann, were chiefly involved in the manufacture and sale of various oil paints, watercolors, and colored inks with official operations beginning in the Spring of 1838. Long before Günther Wagner ever conceived of producing a fountain pen, the business had a prolific catalog of ink tailored to suit just about any purpose you could imagine. The broadest categories of usage included inks for copying, inks for writing, and colored inks. Günther Wagner purchased the business in 1871 and by 1886 the company was producing 49 different varieties of ink with a spectrum of properties ranging from indelible, to washable, and even to scented inks marketed towards women to name just a few. These inks were advertised under the Pelikan name which Günther Wagner had registered as a trademark in 1879. A comprehensive review of all the once available formulations would be quite the endeavor and is beyond the scope of this article. There are a few related product lines, however, that are worth taking a closer look at. Starting in the late 1890s in an effort to provide more clarity in their marketing, some of the most important “Pelikan Inks” would come to be trademarked with specific numbers, a convention which was meant to allow for easy recall. This was necessary since the company’s price lists from that decade took up 17 pages detailing the available ink varieties alone. These numbered lines included Pelikan Ink 2001, 3001, 4001, 5001, and, later on, 6001. The aforementioned formulations came about during the early days of fountain pens, before widespread adoption, and were produced concurrently with many other product lines. Only the 4001 name, historically one of Pelikan’s most popular products, continues on today albeit with a different chemical composition from the original. What properties did these inks of old display and how were they used? Read on to find out.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Pelikan introduced a series of special editions across their Souverän lines that employed sterling silver components decorated with a gold overlay. The gilding of silver is often referred to as vermeil, a French term that is actually pronounced “ver-may.” By plating sterling silver in such a way, an item can be imbued with a gold appearance at a fraction of the cost of pure gold. This should not be mistaken for simple gold plating. There are regulations that oversee what may be called vermeil in many jurisdictions. For the U.S. market, the base metal must be sterling silver with a gold coating of at least 10 carats or finer and with a thickness of 2.5 microns (1/10,000th of an inch). Mere gold plating has no such industry regulations. These upgraded Souveräns have a guilloche metal cap but otherwise maintain the same visual appearance and trim as their less gilded siblings. Each fountain pen in the series is referred to as an Mx50 and there have been nine such models over the years in addition to several companion pieces. Care should be taken not to confuse these with the M150 and M250 of the Classic series or the M750 anniversary edition which do not have any vermeil components.
Spring is in the air, a season full of promise and the renewal of life. With it comes baseball, April showers, blooming flowers, and fresh news of the next big thing out of Hannover. Earlier today, vendors across the globe gave us our first look at the M600 Violet-White, a light pastel purple or lilac colored model that is sure to fit right in at this time of the year. The new model’s appearance is very much in keeping with past releases which include the M600 Turquoise-White (2018), the M605 White-Transparent (2017), the M600 Pink (2015), and the M600 Tortoiseshell White (2012). There has been some uncertainty and delays surrounding Pelikan’s launch dates this year but, for now at least, you can anticipate the Violet-White hitting store shelves sometime in May 2019.
Fountain pens were once the writing instruments that ruled all others. In a relatively short period of time, the ballpoint pen was able to overthrow the kings of old. Sometime around the mid-twentieth century, ballpoints had clearly become the de facto standard. While fountain pen usage was on the wane, it never went away completely. By the early 1980s, Pelikan saw an opportunity for a revival of sorts. No longer the essential tool for daily life that it once was, the fountain pen was again being taken up, this time as more of a status symbol or collectors item. The early 1980s would come to herald what could be considered a fountain pen renaissance. It was 1982 when Pelikan chose to try to capture this market with the re-introduction of the 400, a pen that the company had a lot of success with decades earlier. With little in the way of cosmetic differences, the new model would be called the M400 and it would become the cornerstone of a high end line of pens known as the Souverän series, a moniker likely prompted by Montblanc’s long standing Meisterstück. Quite perilously, this came at a troubled time for Pelikan as a rapid expansion of the business in the late 1970s resulted in the company having to declare bankruptcy right around the time of the M400’s release. The company was ultimately taken over and various divisions were parted out, either into subsidiary companies or sold off completely. It is lucky for us that the production of fine writing instruments would survive this tumultuous time. What separates the 400 from the M400? How do you identify the subtle and not so subtle differences between the two? Read on to find out.
It seems like forever ago that we got our first glimpse of Pelikan’s 2019 line-up. News of the Herzstück 1929 limited edition and Edelstein Star Ruby broke in late December. January came and went with the much anticipated announcement of the M1005 Stresemann. Most recently, February brought news of the M101N Grey-Blue. Despite the regular flow of new releases out of Hannover, we have only seen the Star Ruby ink materialize which went on sale earlier this month. The fountain pens have yet to turn up. A few were pushed back slightly from their originally announced release dates and another has seen a more significant delay for what have been unclear reasons. If you recall, the M1005 was due in mid-February, the M101N Grey-Blue sometime in March, and the 1929 by late March. Rumors have been floated as to the reasons for the hold up of the M1005, some suggesting that there was an issue with the plating on the nibs. I reached out to Pelikan to specifically address these issues and was able to get a little clarity on what we can expect in terms of upcoming release dates. Pelikan also took the opportunity to debunk some of the recent rumors going around about their products.
The Pelikan 400 of the 1950s and 60s is perhaps one of the most iconic and successful pens ever put out by the company over its 90 year history of fountain pen production. Perhaps it is telling that Pelikan chose this model to rekindle its fountain pen production and turn the company’s fortune around in 1982 with a reincarnation of the 400 dubbed the M400 Souverän. We will focus squarely on the original 400 for the purposes of this article which introduces the final pen in this three-part series. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my in-depth look at both the 300 and the 140 which were in production alongside the 400. Glass negatives in the Pelikan archives indicate that this model was first conceived in 1939 and likely had World War II to thank for its eleven years on the drawing board. Launched on May 25, 1950, the Pelikan 400 was produced for a period of fifteen years (not including a brief resurrection in the 1970s) but underwent several modifications in that time. With each major revision, the suffix “N” was added to the model number. This stood for “neu,” the German word for new, and was a designation only meant to be used internally. This nomenclature was utilized for the 400 as well as several other similarly styled product lines and is the reason we have the 400, 400N, and 400NN. Of course, when these pens were being marketed, they were all simply called the 400 which is why you won’t find the “N” designation in any price list. Read on to learn more about just what changes came with each revision and how to identify them. As you read through, be sure to click on the photos found within to enlarge them for further study.