The Many Anniversaries Of Maruzen

Maruzen Booksellers Storefront

The Maruzen Co., Ltd. has long been one of Japan’s leading booksellers. With a core focus on books and other periodicals, the company has cultivated a diverse portfolio that includes stationery, fashion, and information technologies. Founded in 1869 as Maruya Shosha, its success and longevity over the past 152 years is likely due to the forward thinking of founder Yuteki Hayashi. Hayashi’s ambitions were reportedly spurred on by the encouragement of Yukichi Fukuzawa, an educator and founder of Japan’s first private system of elementary and secondary schools, who was a proponent of Westernization. Great change was underway in Japan during the mid-19th century, heralded by the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, an American naval officer in command of the East India Squadron. He played a leading role opening Japan to the West after more than 200 years of isolationist policy under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate which comprised the military government of Japan during the Edo period from 1603 to 1868. Hayashi saw opportunity brought about by this cultural shift and sought out translated versions of many of the seminal works of the Western world. His relationship with Fukuzawa positioned Maruzen to have a strong presence with educational institutions, a major areas of sales for the company. Maruzen further diversified its product lines throughout the twentieth century and was able to survive the damage inflicted by World War II. Many sources indicate that Maruzen played a major role introducing the fountain pen to Japan, predominantly by importing brands such as Onoto and Waterman from England and the United States. As such, it is hard to overstate the importance of Maruzen’s involvement in bringing this writing technology to the citizens of Japan. Today, the company has a number of stores and international offices to its credit. Of course, I’m not here to regale you about the company’s rich and storied history. As a stationary retailer, Maruzen has had the opportunity to partner with several manufacturers of fine writing instruments over the years in order to celebrate its various milestone anniversaries, beginning sometime around 1989. I’m sure that you have surmised by now that a Pelikan or two may have been a part of some of those past offerings. Read on to learn all about these unique and rarely seen models.

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Unity Day And Pelikan’s “Rebirth Of A New Germany” Commemorative M800

Pelikan New German Birth Commemorative M800

October is a busy month, playing host to a number of international holidays such as Oktoberfest and Halloween to name just a few. It is punctuated by the crisp fall air, a tapestry of fall foliage, and the scent of pumpkin spice. Perhaps less well known globally is that October is also home to German Unity Day, celebrated on the third day of the month. It was 1990 when East and West Germany were reunited after 40 years of division set against the backdrop of the Cold War. The most recognizable symbol of that division was the Berlin Wall, a concrete barrier under armed guard that served as both a physical and ideological barrier from 1961 to 1989. Built by the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and portrayed as protecting the eastern population from fascism in the west, the wall cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany. It became a tale of two Germanys with the West, guided by the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), flourishing under capitalist rule whereas the East languished under Communism, facing regular shortages and a lack of opportunity. Such was the case until political unrest and revolution within several Eastern Bloc countries helped fuel dissent in the East. Faced with increasing pressure due to mounting protest, the communist leadership opened the border between the two states on November 9, 1989. A celebration ensued as crowds of East and West Germans intermingled freely for the first time in decades. This paved the way for German reunification, which went into effect on October 3, 1990, via treaty. To commemorate the occasion, Pelikan released a special edition “Rebirth of a New Germany” Green-Black M800, exclusive to the Japanese market. It’s a model not commonly encountered outside of Japan therefore you may have never seen one before. Read on to find out what, if anything sets this fountain pen apart.

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News: M200 Golden Beryl Special Edition Demonstrator

Starting in 2015, Pelikan established an annual tradition of crafting fountain pens from their Classic series that matched their Edelstein limited edition Ink of the Year release. Historically, news of those models would drop in August, but the release schedule has been on its ear for well over a year now as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and likely some internal issues as well. Many have come to fear that the tradition would finally come to an end this year given the company’s silence as 2021 begins to wind down. Whether or not we’d ever see this model come to light has been one of the most common questions that I’ve fielded over the last several months.  Pelikan put those fears to rest today with news of a new Classic model M200 to accompany this year’s Golden Beryl, the seventh such release from the company based on their line of limited edition inks.   Prior to the M200 Golden Beryl, we have had the; M205 Moonstone (2020), M205 Star Ruby (2019), M205 Olivine (2018), M200 Smoky Quartz (2017), M205 Aquamarine (2016), and the M205 Amethyst (2015).  Some of these models have made a bigger splash than others and several are now quite hard to come by. It was 2019’s Star Ruby that first employed a glitter induced shimmer effect along the translucent material of the barrel and cap and, like the M205 Moonstone that preceded it, the Golden Beryl looks to incorporate the same. Pre-orders are going live today from many vendors with this one due out sometime in November 2021. Read on to discover all of the essential details regarding the newest fountain pen out of Germany.

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The M800 Stilo “Laser”: A Rare & Intriguing Italian Bird

Pelikan M800 Stilo Laser

When the fictional character Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard (James Stewart), a revered US Senator, reveals the truth about his origins to newspaper editor Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young), Mr. Scott utters one of the most resonant lines in all of cinema, proclaiming; “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This line comes at the end of acclaimed director John Ford’s western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). Pelikan’s catalog is full of models that have a somewhat unusual provenance, their origins obscured just like those of Jimmy Stewart’s character. Perhaps few models have been surrounded by as much palace intrigue as the M800 Stilo “Laser.” Heard of it? I’m not surprised if you haven’t. The “Laser” has largely fallen into obscurity in the intervening decades since its launch, the details behind its genesis largely forgotten to time. As such, it’s hard to tease out where the facts end, and the fiction begins. In the spirit of the romanticized American West, I will endeavor to present you the legend of the Stilo “Laser” sprinkled with as much fact as we know. Read on to learn about this model’s unique design and history.

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News: M205 DUO Highlighter Makes A Comeback

Pelikan M205 DUO Highlighter Yellow

Thinking back to the good old days of 2010, many of you may recall the birth of the Classic yellow M205 DUO Highlighter. This was a special edition product which merged a fountain pen with a highlighter, hence the name DUO. In essence, you could highlight text with the double broad nib using a special ink but also jot notes at the same time. In 2011, the design went on to win several awards including the ISPA Award at Paperworld, the IF Product Design Award, and the Red Dot Award. The DUO came packaged in an attractive gift box that included a bottle of yellow highlighter ink. In 2013, a green version was released based on the same premise. The product’s accolades derived from taking two long held standard-bearers of the analog world and combining them in an innovative way. The end result was a reusable product that cut waste making for a pen that reportedly sold quite well in markets like Germany thanks to its reduced ecological impact. It seems that Pelikan has decided to resurrect this model but in a distinctly different hue. This past Thursday, notice of a new M205 DUO highlighter quietly dropped thanks to Fritz Schimpf and Pen Chalet. Expected to be available sometime in mid to late October, the new DUO looks to have a more neon appearance than its predecessor. Read on as I attempt to highlight all of the pertinent details surrounding this new model.

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Treasures In The Attic: A Time Capsule Rediscovered

Pelikan 100 caps

I imagine that most of us have experienced a fortunate stroke of serendipity at one time or another in our lives. Perhaps it was one major occurrence or a series of small serendipities along the meandering course of life. Sometimes, we may inadvertently stumble upon a long lost treasure, or we might discover something wholly unexpected and new to us. Maybe you can envision finding something unique and wonderful in the course of a home renovation? Such was the case in March of this year for one unsuspecting couple in North Macedonia. It’s not hard to picture what must have been a look of utter surprise on their faces when they chanced upon a cache of over 300 pens hidden in the attic of an old house that they were in the process of renovating. Not being diehard pen enthusiasts themselves, perhaps they were not struck quite as speechless as many of us would have been. How such a vintage horde of writing instruments came to be forgotten for so many decades is unclear. What is known is that within the couple’s lineage is a former retailer of both pens and watches who was in business around the time of World War II. Now deceased, it is his home that the couple came to inherit and have subsequently taken to the task of remodeling, leading to this most wonderful discovery. We can only presume that at some point, perhaps as a consequence of the post-war fall out, that the shopkeeper stashed the pens away in his attic where they would subsequently lay forgotten for nearly 80 years. What does one do when confronted with a unique and historic trove of writing instruments such as this? The couple in this scenario turned to Dragan Chichikj of ProtoPens, formerly known as UberPens, a retailer with several decades of expertise under his belt. Read on to learn what became of such a rare discovery.

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News: M1000 Raden White Ray

M1000 Raden White Ray Fountain Pen

Pelikan International’s 2020 Annual Report provided a forecast regarding what we should expect this year out of Hannover, and it has been spot on thus far. Tucked away on page 13 was the statement, “For 2021, we will continue the tradition of reinventing the popular designs with new materials and colours, though we plan to concentrate on less product launches as we cautiously move forward in the market.” It is already August and all we’ve seen come to market thus far has been the M205 Petrol-Marbled, M1000 Maki-e Seven Treasures, and the M605 Green-White. In 2019, prior to the pandemic, we already had nine new models by this point in the year and seven the year before that. Not only is the company sticking with a strategy of fewer releases, they are also embracing the rehash of popular designs with new colors. Late last evening, vendors broke news of the next release due out. This time we have the M1000 Raden White Ray, a re-imagining of 2020’s Green Ray, which is just the latest addition to a growing line of limited edition Raden releases. It will join the likes of past M1xxx Raden models which includes the Moonlight (2011), Sunlight (2013), Starlight (2014), Sunrise (2016), and Green Ray (2020). For those that don’t know, Raden is a traditional Japanese art form used to embellish lacquer ware and woodwork. Small pieces of shimmering abalone shell are utilized in the creation of unique, handcrafted designs. A Urushi lacquer is applied to the barrel and cap before strips of abalone shell are laid down after which a final layer of lacquer is applied to seal everything in place.  Each pen is signed by the artist and hand numbered using the Maki-e technique. Just like the Green Ray, this will be a limited edition run of only 400 pieces worldwide. Availability is anticipated for some time in September 2021.

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Review: “Pelikan Limited & Special Editions: Fine Writing Instruments 1993-2020” Book

Pelikan Limited & Special Editions: Fine Writing Instruments 1993-2020

by Michael Silbermann

Leuenhagen & Paris, 2021, 280 pages

Once every several years or so, a new book detailing some facet of the Pelikan brand seems to surface. With a company history spanning over 180 years, there is certainly no shortage of material from which to draw upon. Not all of the books published have painted the company in a favorable light. It was 2018’s Tinte Und Blech which detailed the fruits of a systematic investigation looking into the involvement of Pelikan’s patriarch, Fritz Beindorff, with the Reich during World War II. Other recent tomes have taken a distinctly lighter tone when dealing with the company’s history. Some have detailed the ephemera surrounding Pelikan’s products while other have delved into the fascinating history behind the company’s advertising. Each book has been a fun read, discounting the language barrier imposed by some, and I have enjoyed exploring the various aspects of the company through their pages. Make sure to explore my site to see a more complete list of books published to date. Of course, the definitive works about the company’s history of fountain pen production remains the first and second editions of Pelikan Schreibgeräte by Dittmer and Lehmann. Last month brought a new addition to supplement the libraries of Pelikan fans across the globe. Pelikan Limited & Special Editions: Fine Writing Instruments 1993-2020 is a hardcover book detailing 27 years of fountain pen production across 280 full color pages. Its author, Michael Silbermann, has been a Pelikan employee for many years, most recently working in sales. What he has put together is the quintessential coffee table book. Read on to find out whether or not it’s worth picking up for your reading pleasure.

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