Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised October 4, 2017)

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A
A. A. Waterman See Waterman, A. A.
abalone Any of several species of large marine bivalve gastropod having an ear-shaped shell with a varicolored pearly interior. The pearly shell is sometimes used as an overlay, by itself or combined with lighter-colored mother-of-pearl, on pen barrels and caps. Shown here is an Ancora limited-edition pen featuring a mosaic of abalone chips. See also alternating pearl, Ebonized Pearl, iridescent, mother-of-pearl.
Fountain pen
ABS Acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, an injection-moldable thermoplastic resin of which pens are made, a double copolymer of SAN (styrene-acrylonitrile) and BS (butadiene-styrene). The combination of the two copolymers provides excellent strength, rigidity, and toughness: a great improvement over the qualities of polystyrene, which is more brittle. ABS and SAN (styrene-acrylonitrile) are today the most common materials for the manufacture of low-priced pens, with polystyrene being used for very cheap products. Better pens are usually machined of acrylic. See also acrylic, polystyrene, SAN, thermoplastic, thermosetting. accommodation_clip
accommodation clip (also slip-on clip) An accessory clip, designed to slip onto the cap of a clipless pen. Here are illustrated two of the many types of slip-on clips manufactured during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The clip on the left is branded MODERN and bears patent dates of 1900 and 1909; the other clip is a version of the VV clip. See also clipless, VV clip.
Slip-on clips
accordion Filler schematicA type of filling system; operates by mechanical ink-sac compression. The sac is open at both ends and is corrugated somewhat like a bellows. At the distal end of the sac is a hollow button. A breather tube extends the length of the sac. Filling is by repeated presses of the button, compressing the sac to expel air; releasing the button draws ink up the breather tube and into the sac. View filling instructions here.
ACCOUNT An imprint sometimes used to identify an accounting nib. See also accounting nib.
accounting nib (also accountant point, posting nib) A very firm fine nib designed to be used for accounting. See also post (definition 3).
accumulator Term used among pen fanciers to denote a person who acquires pens with no apparent focus; i.e., someone who considers any and all pens to be “fair game.” People new to pens are likely to be accumulators because they have not yet acquired sufficient knowledge to develop a focused interest; but there are also experienced people who remain accumulators because their interests are too eclectic to permit a perceptible focus. See also collector (definition 2).
acetate See cellulose acetate.
Acetograph Trademarked name for stylographic pens made by Koh-I-Noor. See also stylographic pen.
acetone A solvent ((CH3)2CO) often used for fusing (solvent welding) cracks in celluloid or acrylic pen parts; it is readily available and inexpensive, but its relatively low reactivity produces weak bonds while its high volatility causes bubbles that mar the appearance of the repaired part. It is also extremely flammable, harmful or fatal if swallowed, and harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. See also methyl ethyl ketone.
Acme  1  (Acme Fountain Pen Company) A brand used by New York City diamond importer and manufacturing jeweler Maximilian J. Averbeck for fountain pens that he almost certainly purchased for resale from a now-unknown manufacturer. (There is no evidence that he manufactured pens at his place of business.) Averbeck, an Ohio native born in 1864, operated his jewelry business from some time before 1900 until c. 1920.  2  (ACME Studios, Inc.) A design firm founded in Los Angeles, California, in 1985 by Adrian Olabuenaga and his wife, Lesley Bailey. In 1987, ACME moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, and in 1997 it began offering writing instruments. The company now operates several stores in various East Asian countries. ACME’s designs are edgy and modern.
acrylic (also acrylic glass) Polymethyl methacrylate, a machinable thermoplastic resin of which pens are made, the most common synthetic polymer of methyl methacrylate (C5H8O2). Acrylic was first synthesized in 1928 and was first produced commercially in 1933 by Rohm & Haas. It is extremely tough and durable, and it can be manufactured in a broad variety of colors and patterns. The first successful pen model to be made of acrylic was Waterman’s “jewel like” Hundred Year Pen. Acrylic resists the corrosive action of inks and was adopted for that reason in the design of the Parker “51” but was generally supplanted by moldable cellulosic plastics around 1950. It is today the primary material for the manufacture of high-quality pen barrels and caps. Frequently referred to as Lucite® (DuPont) or Plexiglas® (Rohm & Haas). See also “51”, Hundred Year Pen, polystyrene, thermoplastic, thermosetting.
Addipoint A pen model sold by Sheaffer under the WASP brand; featured a user-replaceable nib sold as a screw-in nib/section assembly complete with a sac (see illustration). The Addipoint may have been an attempt to compete with Esterbrook’s Re-New-Point, introduced in 1935. Read a profile of the Addipoint here. See also WASP.
Fountain pen
adjustable nib  1  A nib with a mechanism for adjusting the nib’s flexibility. From 1932 to 1939, Wahl-Eversharp produced Doric and Coronet pens with adjustable nibs having a small slider that can be positioned in one of nine notches (illustrated below, left). With the slider moved toward the section, the nib is quite flexible. As the slider is moved notch by notch toward the tip of the nib, the nib becomes progressively firmer. With the slider all the way out, the nib is a rigid (manifold) nib. Eversharp called this nib the Adjustable Point (also Self-Fitting Point).  ¶  LUS of Italy produced a model called the Giubileo, with an adjusting knob at the back end of the barrel; turning the knob adjusts the nib by sliding the entire mechanism of the pen within the outer barrel (1950s). See also nib.  2  A nib arranged so that it can be rotated in a section that is ergonomically shaped instead of being round, in order to accommodate the way the user holds the pen. The best known pen with such a design is the Parker 75, whose section is roughly triangular (below, right).
Adjustable nib Adjustable nib
Admiral See Sheaffer names.
advertising blotter Advertising blotterA small sheet of blotter paper, printed with advertising and given away for promotional purposes. In the “olden days,” advertising blotters frequently bore pin-up art (sometimes risqué) and were used by businesses of all kinds; today, these blotters are made primarily for pen repairers and collectors. Illustrated here are a vintage advertising blotter used by the Industrial Equipment Company, Charleston, West Virginia (below), and a modern one that I designed for my own business (right). Both of these blotters use art by Earl Moran. See also blotter, desk blotter, rocker blotter.
 
Advertising blotter
Aero-metric Filler schematicParker’s name (colloquially “aerometric”) for the system (U.S. Patent No 2,612,867) by which its Foto-Fill squeeze-type filling system (introduced in 1948 and illustrated here by a Parker “51”) operated. The basis of the Aero-metric (“air-measuring”) system is a breather tube that is essentially the full length of the squeeze-filling sac, has a very carefully calibrated inside diameter that is smaller than in other pens’ breather tubes, and has a very small hole (also calibrated) in its side near the feed. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, fails to meet the specifications of Parker's patent for the Aero-metric system and is merely a squeeze-filling pen, not an Aero-metric one. Parker later dropped the Foto-Fill name, using Aero-metric to denominate the filler itself. View filling instructions here. See a cross-section of the anatomy of an Aero-metric pen here.
Fountain pen
Aikin Lambert (Aikin Lambert & Co.; sometimes misspelled today as Aiken Lambert) A pen manufacturing company located in New York City. Founded as jewelry maker J. C. Aikin & Co. in 1864 by James C. Aikin and Henry A. Lambert, the company began making gold pens (dip pen nibs) to supply the burgeoning demand after the American Civil War. In the late 1880s the product line expanded to include fountain pens made under license using Paul Wirt’s patents, and in 1889 the company was incorporated as Aikin Lambert & Co. by Aikin and Lambert along with John B. Shea and James C. Wakefield. Shortly thereafter, Aikin Lambert began supplying gold nibs of very high quality to L. E. Waterman; the relationship continued and led to Waterman’s 1915 acquisition of Aikin Lambert. Aikin Lambert pens were of high quality; among the company’s best known brand names are Mercantile, Capitol, and The Pet. Most of Aikin Lambert’s later own-brand fountain pen nibs are imprinted ALCO. Waterman continued to use the Aikin Lambert name for such models as the Skywriter, finally subsuming it in about 1931. Shown here are an Aikin Lambert No 7 dip pen from the 1870s and a typical Aikin Lambert lever filler from the 1920s. See also Waterman, L. E.
Dip pen
Fountain pen
air channel See channel.
Airliner Wahl-Eversharp‘s name for the design of second-generation Gold Seal Doric pens fitted with the Safety Ink Shut-Off and the Adjustable Point; these pens featured an Art Deco cap band that extends to the cap lip, with triangular cutouts for decoration (shown below). See also adjustable nib, Doric. Safety Ink Shut-Off.
Fountain pen
Ajax (Ajax Fountain Pen Company) A fountain pen company located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; founded in the early 1920s by John Lehn, an Austrian immigrant and former shipyard laborer. It is likely that Lehn purchased job-shopped parts or complete pens; there is no record of his having had a factory or any employees. His business lasted into the 1930s. Ajax pens, primarily flat-top lever fillers, bore AJAX-imprinted barrels and clips, and were of moderate quality; they appeared in plain and chased hard rubber and in celluloid. The celluloid pens were often solid bright red or orange but also appeared in marbled colors, and there exist a surprising number of yellow specimens. Shown here is a typical BCHR Ajax pen.
Fountain pen
ALCO See Aikin Lambert
All-American Pen, The A Conklin sub-brand (1929-1930s). Flat-topped at first, the All-American soon acquired a streamlined look along with the Endura Symetrik and the Endura Nozac. Produced with lever, vacuum plunger, and twist-actuated bulb filling systems (twist-bulb shown here), the All-American was an excellent and reliable pen; and it also appeared as a combo. See also combo.
Fountain pen
alligator forceps A surgical instrument (properly known as a hemostat) whose long reach and short jaws allow manipulation of small objects in tight spaces; especially useful for installing and removing parts within pen barrels and caps.
Alligator forceps
Allison (James Allison Manufacturing Company) A fountain pen manufacturing company located in Indianapolis, Indiana; founded in the late 1890s by James A. Allison to manufacture the Allison Perfection Fountain Pen, which Allison had invented while working for his father at the Allison Coupon Company. The pen business was short lived; in 1904, Allison formed a partnership with Carl G. Fisher to found Prest-O-Lite, an early manufacturer of carbide automotive headlights.
Alpaca See nickel silver.
alternating pearl Term for a pattern created by alternating mother-of-pearl with other shells such as abalone or paua in decorations such as pen overlays. During the 19th and early 20th centuries several manufacturers produced remarkably beautiful pens with alternating-pearl overlays. Shown below is a vintage taper-cap eyedropper-filling pen with a barrel overlay in an alternating pattern of mother-of-pearl and abalone. See also abalone, mother-of-pearl.
Fountain pen
Ambassador A J. Harris sub-brand (1920s-1940s). Ambassador pens were lever fillers and were generally cheap and of poor quality, but they did have 14K WARRANTED nibs. It appears that when J. Harris became the Majestic Pen Company, it kept the Ambassador brand; later Ambassador pens resemble contemporaneous Majestic models. See also Harris.
ambering Discoloration of clear celluloid caused by slow oxidation. The color of ambered celluloid can range from very slight to moderate (as in the transparent section of the Inkograph stylographic pen below) to severe; severely ambered parts can be as deep brown as strong tea. See also Celluloid, discoloration.
Ambered celluloid
American  1  (American Fountain Pen Company) See Moore.  2  (American Lead Pencil Company) A pen and pencil manufacturing company located in Hoboken, New Jersey; founded in 1865 by Edward Weissenborn. American was the first company to manufacture complete pencils in the United States using American raw materials. In 1905, the company established the Venus name as a trademark for its drafting pencils. In 1944, it started producing Venus fountain pens. In 1956, American changed its name to the Venus Pen & Pencil Corporation, relocating its offices at that time to New York City. Venus was sold in 1966 to a group of private investors, and a year later it purchased Esterbrook and became the Venus-Esterbrook Company. Its new owners soon closed its New Jersey operation, moving manufacture to Tennessee, England, and Mexico. In 1973, the remains of the company were bought out by Faber-Castell.
A. O. Waterman See Waterman, A. O.
aniline dye A dye made from aniline, an oily poisonous liquid (phenylamine aminobenzene, C6H7N). The first writing inks based on aniline dyes appeared in the early 1860s; and with the exception of a very few blue-black inks based on iron gallotannate, all modern fountain pen inks use aniline dyes for their coloring. See also ink, iron gall ink.
architect’s nib Nib shape(also architect’s italic, Arabic italic, or Hebrew italic) A nib shape (illustrated to the right) that is designed to create broad strokes in a generally sidewise direction (relative to the nib itself) and very thin strokes in a generally up-and-down direction. This stroke configuration, orthogonal to that produced by the usual italic nib, is often seen in architectural drawings and can be useful for other writing styles that feature broad horizontal strokes and narrow vertical ones. Note, however, that in general this nib is not useful for calligraphy in such styles. This nib shape also works well for some Indic scripts and for some East Asian pictographic writing styles. Illustrated below is the first sentence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” in the types of scripts listed here. The origin of this nib style is not known. See also italic, nib.
Arabic: Arabic writing sample
Hebrew: Hebrew writing sample
Indic (Oriya): Indic writing sample
Japanese (Kanji): Hebrew writing sample
Argentan See nickel silver.
Argentium Registered trademark for a patented modern sterling silver alloy that is coming into use on pens whose designers prefer that they not tarnish. In Argentium, some of the copper used in traditional sterling is replaced with germanium. (Silver content remains at 92.5%.) Argentium is much less subject to tarnish than ordinary sterling, and it also has other enhanced qualities such as increased ductility and less tendency to accumulate firescale during working. It is, however, more difficult to work. See also silver, sterling.
Arnold (Arnold Fountain Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Petersburg, Virginia. Founded in 1935 by Remmie L. Arnold, the company made cheap but competent pens and pen/pencil combos, principally lever fillers with thinly gold-plated nibs and furniture, priced from 19¢ to 89¢ and intended for sale in dime stores and discount stores. Arnold made huge numbers of pens in a broad range of eye-catching colors and patterns, at one point becoming the largest producer in the world. There also appeared a certain number of “gadget” sets comprising a fountain pen, a mechanical pencil, and a single-cell keychain flashlight. Shown below is a typical Arnold combo. Arnold made a small number of pens with gold nibs, and these pens are today very uncommon. The Arnold company survived, making ballpoint pens, until 2005. See also combo, third tier.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Arrow clip A clip design used by Parker from 1932 to 1938 and, with variations, from 1948 onward. The original Arrow clip, created by Joseph Platt and illustrated below, is a classic of Art Deco design. Read an article that includes a discussion on the Arrow clip, with illustrations, here. See also Art Deco, Split Arrow clip.
Arrow clip
Artcraft (Artcraft Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Birmingham, Alabama; founded in about 1920 as the Cromer Artcraft Fountain Pen Company, Inc., with Ford D. Cromer as Presi­dent/Treas­urer and James G. Erwin as Vice President. At some point, the company changed its name to become the Artcraft Pen Company; it first appears under that name in a 1925 Birmingham Chamber of Commerce document. The company initially made hard rubber pens of moderately good quality; its later celluloid pens (e.g., the desk pen shown below, upper, whose imprint still reads Cromer Artcraft) are solid third-tier products. Ford Cromer received U.S. Patent No D92,704 for the design of what is probably the most commonly found Artcraft model, shown below (lower). In 1934, Erwin moved the company to Buenos Aires, Argentina, where it continued in operation at least into the 1950s.
Fountain pen
Pen design
Art Deco (also Deco or deco) Shortening of the French phrase les arts decoratifs. A design school that came to the fore in about 1925, in France; marked by stylized forms and geometric designs adapted to mass production. Some of the most desirable pens of the Golden Age, such as the Parker Vacumatic (especially its Joseph Platt-designed clip) and the Wahl-Eversharp Doric, are Art Deco designs. Art Deco waned in popularity through the late 1930s as modernistic streamlining came into vogue. See also faceted, fluted.
artists’ ink See India ink.
artist’s nib A very flexible nib with a very fine point, usually 3XF (needlepoint). This type of nib allows an artist great latitude in the types of strokes he or she may use in drawing with pen and ink. Pen manufacturers noted for their artist’s nibs included L. E. Waterman. See also flexible.
aspergillum (also aspergill, holy water sprinkler) An implement for sprinkling holy water. Sometimes made to resemble a fountain pen for portability when needed for rites or rituals conducted elsewhere than on church grounds. Where the nib and feed would be, the section is closed over and perforated with several small holes to allow droplets of water to escape when the device is shaken. An aspergillum bears the symbol of a cross, which can be the only external means of identification if the aspergillum is part of a set with a pen. See also clerical pen.
Aspergillum, capped
Aspergillum, posted Magnifying glass
Aurora (Fabbrica Italiana de Penne a Serbatoio-Aurora) A pen manufacturing company located in Turin, Italy; founded in 1919 by Isaia Levi, a rich textile merchant. Aurora’s first products, the first Italian-made fountain pens, were high-quality BHR pens with a distinctive Italian style. The company began to make celluloid pens in 1925, inaugurating Italy’s long tradition of beautiful celluloid pens. Aurora received an unexpected publicity splash in 1928, when a zeppelin carrying 18 people on an expedition to map the north polar regions encountered severe weather conditions and crashed. The pilot, a well known explorer named Umberto Nobile, used his Aurora fountain pen to keep a diary until the crew were rescued 48 days later. By 1930, Aurora was selling in the Spanish, Swedish, and Polish markets. The Aurora Ethiopia, produced to celebrate Italy’s 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, is extremely rare and has become a Holy Grail for many collectors because most examples were destroyed when fascism fell in 1943. The company’s factory was bombed in 1943, and production was relocated. 1947 saw the introduction of the 88 (illustrated below, upper); designed by architect Marcello Nizzoli to compete with the Parker “51”, the 88 and its successors the 88K and 88P (produced into the 1970s) have become highly collectible in their own right. 1970’s Hastil (below, lower), designed by architect Marco Zanusso, had a cylindrical steel body made from a single solid steel cylinder; this pen’s design was so remarkable that a Hastil is part of the permanent exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. As of this writing, Aurora is still in business producing quality pens with an Italian flair.
Founain pen
Fountain pen
Autofiller (Autofiller Fountain Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Toledo, Ohio. Founded in 1903 as the Schaaf Fountain Pen Company, the company initially made primarily coin fillers but soon began producing pens with a twist (“wringer”) filling system (U.S. Patent No 732,117, by Albert E. Schaaf), after which it changed its name to Autofiller. The company also produced — somewhat paradoxically — AUTOFILLER-branded eyedropper fillers. Schaaf’s twist filler differs from A. A. Waterman’s in that the former uses a spindle-like rod protruding through the back end of the barrel and covered with a blind cap, as illustrated below, instead of Waterman’s threaded twist knob. Later Autofiller pens have a twist knob, and the company also sold some lever-filling pens. The company went under in about 1920. See also Waterman, A. A.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
autograph  1  A person’s handwritten signature.  2  The Autograph Fountain Pen Company, located in New York City. Founded probably in 1911 by brothers Emil and Isaac Regensburg, both of whom were salesmen at that time, the company appears to have been one of the many makers of ordinary pens that flooded the market just before the Golden Age. Initial production consisted of well-made BCHR eyedropper fillers; when self-fillers began appearing in great numbers, Autograph probably began producing them. The company lasted at least into 1921; I have found no records of it after that year. Emil Regensburg died in 1924; his obituary noted that he had been a salesman for the Eagle Pencil Company for “many years.”  3  When capitalized and used in reference to writing instruments, Autograph indicates a pen or pencil with special provision (such as a solid gold cap band) for the engraving of a facsimile signature as shown here on a Sheaffer’s Oversize Balance originally owned by Elton Magnuson. See also indicia, Sheaffer names.
Autograph band
Autopoint (Autopoint Company) Initially, a mechanical pencil manufacturing company located in Chicago, Illinois; founded in 1920 as the Autopoint Pencil Company, with W. E. Gerry as president, H. S. Hasselquist as vice-president, John T. Booz as treasurer, and E. L. Campbell as secretary and assistant treasurer. A principal force in the formation of the company was Charles R. Keeran, inventor of the Eversharp pencil, who had recently been forced out at Wahl-Eversharp. In 1923, the Realite Pencil Company bought Autopoint, becoming the Autopoint Products Company, later renamed the Autopoint Company, with Keeran as president. In 1927 or 1928, the company began production of the Autopoint Fountain Pen, a high-quality pen with a clever concealed filler resembling a spoon filler in principle (U.S. Patent No 1,733,780). Autopoint continued producing innovative pens and pencils of high quality, patenting several other advanced designs, and is still in business as of this writing.
Avtoruchka Kharkov (Авторучка Харъков, “Kharkov Pen,” in Russian) A brand of pens manufactured during the Soviet era in the city of Kharkov, now Kharkiv, in Ukraine. Most Avkoruchka Kharkov pens appear to have been copies of various Pelikan models such as the 100, along with other, less expensive, models.
Aztec The common name for three rare and highly desirable overlay eyedropper pen models produced by Parker (models 58, 59, and 60); the gold-filled or sterling overlay is worked with Amerindian relief designs such as the triskelion. See also triskelion.

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