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 stationary, 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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Review: M600 Tortoiseshell Red (2020)

Pelikan M600 and K600 Tortoiseshell RedTortoiseshell has a long history of use in small items such as combs, glasses, guitar picks, knitting needles, boxes, and even as furniture inlays.  The beauty of the material’s mottled appearance, its durability, and its organic warmth against the skin made tortoiseshell attractive for both manufacturers and consumers.  The time invested to hunt and harvest the tortoises and the care needed in working with the shell to preserve its color made such items rather expensive.  Unfortunately, the quest for profit has resulted in several of those species being hunted to near extinction with many now findings themselves on the endangered species list.  The trade has been banned internationally for some time but that has not deterred harvesting shells for sale within the black market.  Thankfully, more sustainable and environmentally friendly alternatives exist.  The tortoise look is well suited for the likes of fountain pens and fans of Pelikan’s fine writing instruments can’t seem to get enough of such releases.  The company’s tortoise finishes have been captivating people for decades thanks to their refined, upscale look.  I’m happy to report that no actual tortoises have ever been harmed by Pelikan, the characteristic look instead being derived from cellulose acetate crafted to artificially resemble the mottled pattern of true tortoiseshell.  There is no shortage of tortoise variants out there with some of the company’s most iconic and sought after models having been tortoises of one type or another.  The original M800 Tortoiseshell Brown (1989) or the M600 Maruzen Tortoiseshell Brown (1999) come to mind as more recent examples of nearly mythical birds and that is just counting the company’s relatively recent production history to say nothing of the countless historic models such as the 400NN Light Tortoise (1957-60).  To close out 2020, Pelikan has given us the M600 Tortoiseshell Red which looks to be a take on the previously released M101N Tortoiseshell Red (2014), now adapted to the more traditional Souverän line.  Rather than a straight up adaptation however, this new model appears to be a reimagining of sorts.  With a color scheme apropos for a December launch, this one is sure to please with its bold, vibrant hues and unique tortoiseshell application.  Read on to learn if this model stacks up like Theodor Geisel’s Yertle the Turtle, king of the pond in Sala-ma-sond.

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News: M600 Tortoiseshell-Red

Pelikan M600 Tortoiseshell-RedNews about one of Pelikan’s most anticipated 2020 models broke today.  With its release pushed back slightly due to the coronavirus pandemic, today’s newcomer makes a compelling case for the wait being wholly worthwhile.  For the last several years, we have seen quite a few white pens grace the M600 line starting with 2012’s Tortoiseshell-White.  Another tortoise joins the family today, bringing with it a bold and bright look.  The M600 Tortoiseshell-Red puts a fresh coat of paint on an old theme which does wonders for the aesthetics.  Of course, this model will quickly conjure recollections of 2014’s M1o1N Tortoiseshell-Red which employed a similar color scheme though with an overall different style.  Pelikan’s supporting literature states; “This colorful series gives the classic Souverän a bright and warm appearance.  The extraordinary color variation is reminiscent of a beautiful sunset and encourages us to stroll down memory lane.”  The M600 Tortoiseshell-Red will be available in December and vendors are taking pre-orders now.  

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News: M600 Violet-White

Pelikan M600 Violet-WhiteSpring 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. 

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Review: M600 Vibrant Orange (2018)

Pelikan M600 Vibrant OrangePelikan has several brightly colored models in its stable of past releases though only a precious few bear the moniker ‘vibrant.’  Prior to this year, we only had the M600 Vibrant Green (2014) and the M805 Vibrant Blue (2016).  It seems a biennial pattern of vibrant releases is emerging because this year we’ve been given the M600 Vibrant Orange.  It may surprise you to learn that these finishes are not unique nor did they originate with these larger birds.  Back in 2004, Pelikan gave us the M320 Orange followed by the M320 Green three years later.  The smallest of the Sovueräns, these tiny pens pioneered the vibrant finish even if they weren’t named as such.  Other manufacturers have produced similar finishes which can be seen with the Delta Dolce Vita Oro, Pineider Avatar Saffron Yellow, and the Aurora 88 Sole to name just a few.  Pelikan appears to have dusted off the old cellulose-acetate to bring us this year’s Vibrant Orange.  Looking back at the releases that have graced the M6xx line in recent years, it certainly looks as though this line, more than any other, is Pelikan’s outlet for colorful expression.  I’d wager that few lines have seen the bouquet of colors that the M6xx has which is ironic since so many voices have clamored for a Tortoiseshell Brown or Anthracite Stresemann to grace the platform.  As my little kindergartener tells me, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”  So it is with open arms that I welcomed the Vibrant Orange into my flock and after some use, have found it unique enough to review.  Read on to find out if this is the model for you.  I have a suspicion it may well be the last official release we see out of Hannover for 2018.

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News: M600 Vibrant Orange

Pelikan M600 Vibrant OrangeThis year has seen some rather conservative releases as far as color and styling go.  When you look at the Spirit of 1838, the M815 Metal Striped, and the M805 Raden Royal Platinum you see pens with a very monochromatic or two toned styling (usually black & silver).  I don’t say that to take anything away from those models but many of us out there yearn for a splash of color.  The M205 Olivine and the upcoming M800 Stone Garden help scratch that itch somewhat but even their colors are more subdued.  To the casual observer, it would seem that Pelikan has been using their M600 line over the last few years to provide an outlet for more colorful releases.  We saw this with the Pink and the Turquoise-White for example.  Well, today we have a new addition to that line, the M600 Vibrant Orange.  Rumored since earlier this year, the Vibrant Orange is due out by mid-November and is sure to be a welcome addition to many who find the M600 line of pens to be the sweet spot in terms of size and weight. 
 
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News: M600 Turquoise-White

M600 Turquoise-White fountain penToday is Saint Valentine’s day and Pelikan has chosen to celebrate the occasion by sending a love letter of sorts to their fans.  Retailers across the globe broke news of Pelikan’s first release of 2018, the M600 Turquoise-White.  The announcement comes somewhat later than anticipated and heralds the second M6xx release in the last several months, following on the heels of the M605 White-Transparent which came out at the end of last year.  You’ll notice that it is styled and packaged very similarly to that model as well as the M600 Pink that pioneered this look back in 2015.  This newest release is expected to hit retail shelves sometime around mid-March but I wouldn’t count on this one hanging around for too long.  Pelikan’s turquoise beauty will serve to kick off what promises to be an exciting 180th anniversary season of new releases. 

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News: M600 Pink Ladies Collection

Pelikan Souverän M600 PinkOne new product announcement today from Iguana Sell would have been great but we got two!  In addition to the M205 Amethyst Demonstrator detailed in the previous post, we were also made aware of the upcoming release of Pelikan’s new Souverän M600 Pink which seems to be targeted specifically for the ladies.  Being marketed as part of a ‘Ladies Collection,’ this seems to be a new effort on the company’s part as I cannot recall any prior product with such a focused target audience.  You’ll very quickly notice that it’s the pink striped barrel that sets this model apart from its siblings.

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