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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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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The Pelikan M800: A Modern Day Titan

Pelikan M800sThe German city of Frankfurt has a long tradition of hosting trade fairs, a history that spans more than 800 years.  The first Frankfurt trade fair to be documented in writing dates back to 1240 under the auspices of Emperor Frederick II.  Since 1330, trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt twice a year; once in the spring and once in the fall.  It was at the Frankfurt Spring Fair of 1987 that Pelikan launched the M800, their first modern oversized pen.  Held from February 21-25, the event was regarded as a success by its organizers with 4,375 exhibitors displaying their wares to an estimated 100,000 visitors.  Pelikan maintained a large display at the fair separated into two parts, one of which featured the sizable Pelikan collection of stylophile Mel Strohminger.  It was the following year (1988), on the occasion of Pelikan’s 150th anniversary, that their newest Souverän model would be brought to the shores of the United States.  Presumably, the M800 emerged as the result of market competition from rival Montblanc’s Meisterstück 146 and 149 amongst others.  The Souverän series, by today’s standards, was rather anemic before the M800’s introduction, consisting of only the M400 which got its start in 1982 and a version of the M600 which launched in 1985.  Despite differing model numbers, both of the existing Souveräns at the time were actually the same size, the M600 being distinguished only by its more upscale trim package.  These were considered standard sized pens though are somewhat small by today’s reckoning.   It wasn’t until 1997 that Pelikan adjusted the lines to make the M600 more of an intermediate size to bridge the gap between the M400 and M800.  You can well imagine how the M800 dwarfed its siblings in the lineup at the time of its introduction and represented a truly new size option for the first time in the company’s modern history.  The M800 was initially available in Green/Black (striped) or Black but the line would quickly expand throughout the 1990s to encompass many limited edition releases.  Even today, the M800 chassis is the go to platform for a large number of Pelikan’s special and limited edition models.  Read on to learn how the M800 has evolved over the years.

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Classic Pens’ Collision With Pelikan: A Look At The CP6 Goethe Pens

Pelikan/Classic Pens CP6 Marguerite & CharlotteBorn out of a shared passion for fountain pens, Andreas Lambrou and Keith G. Brown launched Classic Pens Limited in England in 1987.  Their goal was to create exclusive fountain pen designs for like-minded pen lovers across the globe.  The pair would end up partnering with a wide variety of international manufacturers, taking models with an already established pedigree and elevating them in new and unique ways.  The endeavor did not take off immediately as they struggled to find manufacturers willing to partner with them, but their efforts came to fruition in 1990 with the launch of the Classic Pens CP collection of limited editions.  The first release was done in partnership with Sheaffer UK and was based on the Targa but the collection would grow to comprise well known flagship models from many other prominent brands.  Classic pens would take those pens and make them new again by covering them in sterling silver and decorating them with customized guilloche engravings.  Named after the craftsman Guillot who is credited with inventing the art, guilloche is an ancient technique that consists of engraving patterns on materials.  It has been used to decorate countless items including watches, lighters, cufflinks, cutlery, and pens.  In 1998, shortly after the release of their fourth CP edition, Classic Pens Incorporated was formed in Los Angeles, California in order to better serve the United States market.  The CP collection of pens are as much works of art as they are functional writing instruments.  To accomplish all of this, Classic Pens partnered with the Murelli family, renowned professional guillocheurs out of France.  The series has spanned 18 years and is made up of 8 limited edition releases representing 14 models with most of the designs guided by a specific theme.  All the pens standout as special but two in particular will be the focus of this article; the CP6 Charlotte and CP6 Marguerite.  These two models represent the sixth edition of the CP series and are only rarely seen for sale these days.  Announced in September 2000 and released in 2002, they represent a collaboration between Classic Pens, Murelli, and Pelikan.  Both are considered official Pelikan releases, backed by a lifetime Pelikan Warranty and after sales service.  Read on to learn about the inspiration that helped breathe life into these unique models.  

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Before It Was Cool To Be Clear: The Origin Of Pelikan’s Demonstrators

Pelikan 400NN and 455 DemonstratorsMany of the preeminent innovations and game changing inventions throughout the history of human civilization have had but one thing in common: they were born out of curiosity.  The drive to push towards new ideas and experiences thereby unlocking limitless potential is a basic human attribute.  From the Acheulean hand axe and the control of fire to space exploration and self-driving cars, curiosity is a powerful motivator for learning and influential in decision-making.  It is one of the pillars upon which the advancements of society have been built.  It should come as no surprise then that curiosity has also helped drive innovations in fountain pen design.  Mention of a primitive reservoir pen can be found dating back to less than 1000 years Anno Domini.  The Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru was one of the first to be granted a patent for such a design in France on May 25th, 1827.  Pelikan entered the market with their Transparent Pelikan Fountain Pen in 1929 featuring Theodor Kovác’s differential piston filling mechanism.  The steady evolution of the fountain pen meant added complexity and many of the competing manufacturers of the early twentieth century were eager to show off their pens and make the case for why their design was superior to others.  Pelikan was no different in this regard and therefore outfitted their sales representatives and stationary shops with special pens that revealed the model’s inner workings.  Likely starting sometime in the early 1930s, the hard rubber components of the 100 were skeletonized or cut away to create non-functional models, not available or intended for resale.  It is unclear in what capacity these models were utilized but make no mistake, this was the birth of the demonstrator, just not the ones we commonly think of today.  Those came about later, with the advent and mass production of clear plastics.  Examples exist of the 400 and 400NN from the 1950s and 60s done in green or clear shades of transparent plastic.  Many of Pelikan’s demonstrators from the 1950s through the 1960s were low production volume items carried by reps and delivered to stationary shops, which makes them scarce and highly collectible today.  Eventually, such pens would catch on with consumers and grow in popularity.  No longer relegated to life as a sales tool, demonstrators would grow into their own and become special edition releases.  Pelikan’s first major modern foray into the demonstrator was the Transparent Green M800 released in 1992 which they quickly followed up with the M810 Blue Ocean in 1993 and a multitude of other demonstrators since.  Read on to learn more about the origins from which today’s demonstrators hail.

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The M800 Demonstrator: Then And Now

Pelikan M800 Demonstrator 2020 Chinese EditionThe M800 Demonstrator has had an interesting life.  It was first released in 2008 as a special edition to celebrate the company’s 170th anniversary and it came in two forms.  The first of these was a standard demonstrator in clear, transparent resin that lacked any embellishment on the barrel or cap.  The clear resin allowed for unobstructed viewing of the brass piston assembly which was complimented by Pelikan’s standard gold plated trim.  At the same time, another model was released, identical to the first save that this one featured etched descriptors of the various parts filled in with white paint.  These pointed out key features such as the spindle nut, twist stopper, and piston to name just a few.  Eight attributes in all were labeled along the barrel and piston knob.  Interestingly, this particular model featured a cut out in the brass connector of the piston assembly to allow for better visualization of the spindle within the connector, making it a true demonstrator pen.  When the same features were incorporated on an M805 variant in palladium trim in 2015, this little detail would be left out.  Most of the etched variants were annotated in the English language while a small minority would be done in Spanish.  Niche Pens once declared that, “Altogether, 3,500 Clear Demonstrators were produced, the majority with English engravings, a small number with Spanish engravings and an even smaller number with no engravings at all.”  While the veracity of that statement cannot be verified, it further imbues the M800 Demonstrator with a bit of mystique.  Both pens were readily available in their time but have been out of production for about twelve years now and are infrequently encountered.  This model is not without its fair share of intrigue and new developments for 2020 make it worth revisiting.

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The Origin Story Behind Pelikan’s Original M800 Tortoiseshell Brown

Pelikan M800 Tortoiseshell BrownPelikan launched the M800, their first oversized pen, at the Frankfurt Fair in 1987.  The new pen was initially available in the company’s classic green striped Stresemann pattern with an all-black model to follow shortly thereafter.  We know that around this time a third model was released, the fabled Tortoiseshell Brown.  For over twenty years, this was the only tortoise variant available from Pelikan in a larger sized model.  Why this was the case, we can only speculate.  While the brown tortoise M800 has achieved a cult status amongst collectors, some have posited that sales at the time of the initial release may have been somewhat lackluster.  Nonetheless, in 2013 Pelikan re-introduced the M800 Tortoiseshell Brown to great fanfare.  The company must have realized the pent up demand as their sales literature kicked off with the line; “Finally, it is back!  The much coveted model Souverän 800 tortoiseshell brown….”  Both models are now scarce in the secondary market and command a hefty sum when found.  The provenance of that original tortoise has always been shrouded in a touch of uncertainty.  The issue is compounded by the fact that German law only requires companies to preserve records for a period of 15 years so the historic archive is often times fragmented and lacking in primary supporting documents.  That said, Pelikan has done a better job than many at preserving the company’s rich history.  I thought that it might be interesting to explore the available evidence as well as the past statements of some subject matter experts in an attempt to find the truth.  It also provides a good opportunity to take a closer look at each of the two M800 tortoises side by side.  While we may never know the definitive answer as to original pen’s origins, the mystery only enhances its intrigue as a collector’s model.

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