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Glossopedia of Pen Terms

(This page revised December 18, 2023)

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Reference Info Index | Glossary of Paper Terms  ]

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baby  1  When capitalized (Baby or BABY), a nickname Waterman applied to its 12VS pen, illustrated below.  2  Collectors’ generic term for any very small pen, especially Waterman’s “World’s Smallest Pen.” See also Bantam, Peter Pan, World’s Smallest Pen.
Fountain pen
baby’s bottom (also baby bottom and, less elegantly, butt cheeks) A condition in which the edges of the nib slit are too rounded where the slit meets the surface of the writing pad, so named for the resemblance of the nib’s tip to the profile of a baby’s posterior (see illustration below). A nib with baby’s bottom will usually be remarkably smooth, but capillary action will hold the ink too far away from the paper instead of drawing it toward the paper as intended, and the nib will have trouble starting. See also sweet spot.
Slit edges too rounded
backhand Term for writing that leans to the left, as shown below. Backhand writing is most common among left-handed underwriters. Esterbrook advertised its No 2442 Falcon fine stub nib as being particularly suited for backhand writing. See also underwriter.
backward lever See reverse lever.
bail (also bale) A jewelry fitting (shown below in front and side views) that rides on a chain, with a ring attached to suspend a pendant. Also used to secure a ringtop pen to a sautoir, which could be either chain or ribbon. See also ringtop, sautoir.
Baird-North (Baird-North Company) A mail-order jewelry house located in Providence, Rhode Island; founded in 1892 in Salem, Massachusetts, by William G. Hussey and moved to Providence in 1907 by Hussey and his son George R. Hussey. Beginning in c. 1900, the company sold fountain pens from various makers including Waterman, Parker, Conklin, Crocker, and Paul Wirt, as well as pens bearing the Baird-North name but made for them by other companies, including safety models made to Morris W. Moore‘s patent by the American Fountain Pen Company as well as assorted other designs, some of which may have been made by Byers & Hayes. By the 1920s, Baird-North branded pens were all lever fillers. The company continued in business until c. 1929, when it merged with the Jason Weiler Company to create Jason Weiler Baird-North, Inc., of Boston. See also Byers & Hayes, non-leakable.
Bakelite  1  (also Catalin, Marblette) Trademarked name for a thermosetting plastic (phenolic resin, made using formaldehyde and phenol) discovered by Leo H. Baekeland in 1907; used to make transparent pen bodies during a short period in the early 20th century. Bakelite barrels were made in amber and ruby red colors; shown below is a Dunn-Pen with a ruby Bakelite barrel. Bakelite is too brittle to be an ideal pen material unless reinforced by a fibrous filler such as asbestos or cotton; but the filler material makes the Bakelite opaque. In the end, the advent of celluloid eliminated the need for Bakelite in pens.  2  Any of several thermoplastics produced by Union Carbide after its 1939 acquisition of the Bakelite Corporation (e.g., Bakelite C-11, a styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) copolymer used for Sheaffer’s Snorkel). See also formaldehyde, phenol, polystyrene, thermoplastic, thermosetting.
Fountain pen
Baker Marlin S. Baker (1906–1982), a prolific designer/engineer who worked for Parker and was the principal creator of the Parker “51” in both the Vacumatic- and Aero-metric-filling versions. See also “51”, Parker.
Balance  1  The name Sheaffer gave to the torpedo-shaped pen model (shown below) that it introduced in 1929. As the first radically streamlined pen, the Balance triggered an industry-wide trend away from the blocky “flat-top” look of the preceding decades. Read a profile of the Balance here. See also Flat-Top, torpedo shaped.  2  The weight distribution of a pen. In general, a pen’s weight should be distributed so that the pen tends to lie in the user’s hand with the nib resting on the paper without having to be pushed downward (nib/front heavy). A pen with the weight distributed so that its back end is heavier (top/ back heavy) will require conscious effort to keep the nib from lifting away from the paper. Posting affects a pen’s balance. See also post (definition 2).
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
bale See bail.
Balilla See Ceriani.
ballpoint (also biro) A pen that dispenses a viscous greasy ink (not water based) from a tubular reservoir with a captive ball at the writing end. As the ball rolls across the paper, it pulls ink around it from the reservoir to the paper, with the ink acting as a lubricant to reduce rolling friction. Contrast with ball point. See also biro, CA, gel pen, Rocket, rollerball.
ball point A nib whose tip is hemispherical in shape so that it remains smooth and skip-free throughout a wide range of rotations and angles of elevation. The “Yellow” nib offered for Waterman’s No 7 and No 5 pens (from 1927) was a ball point, and Waterman advertised it as being especially suited to left-handed writers. Read a description of Waterman’s nib color code here.
banana shaped Self-explanatory term; refers to a pen that has become deformed by heat and/or pressure, assuming a somewhat curved shape as exemplified by the unidentified pen shown here. Most common among cheap third-tier pens but also seen in better pens, often localized to the area of the cap/barrel joint.
Fountain pen
band See cap band.
bandless See cap band.
Banker See Bankers.
Bankers (Bankers Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in New York City. Founded probably c. 1905 to produce high-quality hard rubber coin fillers, the company is generally thought to have failed before the end of 1920. The company’s most collectible model is the Master Pen, introduced c. 1915. Julius Schnell was at that time associated with Bankers, and the Master Pen (shown below) featured his patented slide filler. Because the Schnell filler can be operated by a push of the thumbnail, Bankers advertised that the Master Pen could be filled with one hand. (Do not confuse Bankers pens with “Banker” pens; the names Banker and New Banker were later used for third-tier pens.) See also Master Pen, Schnell.
Bankers Master Pen, Schnell Filler
Bantam Wahl’s name for its series of very small bulb-filling pens (approximately 3" capped). Introduced in about 1932, the Bantam continued in production until about 1940. Bantams are easy to collect because there exist myriad color variations as well as versions with one, two, or three cap bands. Shown below is a faceted Bantam from about 1933, bearing a Century of Progress imprint. Read a profile of the Bantam here. See also Century of Progress, midget, Peter Pan.
Fountain pen
Barclay (Odborný Závod Plnícími Pery, Professional Factory for Fountain Pens) A manufacturer of pens and pencils, located in Prague, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic); founded c. 1934 by Karel Barth. Although a minor manufacturer, Barclay was known for the high quality of its pens, especially its nibs. Before World War II, the company exported nibs to England for inclusion in British pens. While making pens under the Barclay name, it also produced at least one sub-brand, Smaragd (“Emerald”), of which an example is shown here. in 1948, after World War II, manufacturing in Czechoslovakia was nationalized, and all of the country’s fountain pen companies fell under the umbrella of Centropen. The Barclay name was retained for a range of high-line pens, many of sterling silver. See also Centropen.
Photo © Mike Kennedy. Used with permission.
bark See écorce.
Barleycorn A decorative surface treatment created by engraving closely spaced zig-zag grooves, usually used on metal pen bodies (or overlays) by several manufacturers, e.g., Mabie Todd, Sheaffer, and Waterman. The Barleycorn surface treatment on the Waterman C/F illustrated here (below, upper) is shown more clearly in the enlarged view of the pen’s barrel surface. See also engraved.
Fountain pen
barrel The “frame” of the pen, generally cylindrical in shape, on which the complete body is built. The barrel contains the ink reservoir (and filling system, if any), and the gripping section (with nib and feed) is attached to it. See also body.
Barnett One of the largest U.S. manufacturing jobbers of fountain pens during the decades immediately around the turn of the 20th century. Ira Barnett set up in business in New York City c. 1885 and remained in business probably until the 1920s. Barnett billed himself as the “King of Popular Priced Fountain Pens” and claimed to be the “largest manufacturer of fountain pens in the world for premium users, publishers, mail order and auction houses, export trade, jobbers, stationers, jewelers, department stores, demonstrators, agents and druggists.”
Barrett (C. E. Barrett & Company) A manufacturer of gold pens (dip nibs) and holders, fountain pens, and fountain pen parts, located in Chicago, Illinois; founded before 1908 by Clarence E. Barrett. The major portion of the company’s production from the 1920s to its demise in the 1950s was parts for pens assembled and sold by the National Pen Products Company, also of Chicago. (There has been suggestion that Barrett himself may have owned National Pen Products, but it was a separate company, not a subsidiary or division of C. E. Barrett & Company.) When the Modern Pen Company, holder of the A. A. Waterman trademark, relocated to Chicago in 1921, possibly having been bought out by National Pen Products, Clarence Barrett became its president. See also job, job shop, National, Paris.
base (also heel, tail) The end of a nib opposite the tip; the portion that is concealed within the section. See illustration at nib.
baseline An imaginary line representing the base on which ordinary letters stand in writing (see illustration at x-height). Of interest primarily to calligraphers. See also head line, majuscule, minuscule, x-height.
base stamp An imprint at the base of a nib, e.g., the star Parker used on some Vacumatic nibs to indicate a lifetime warranty.
Bâtarde (more technically, bâtarde flamande) A subclass of Blackletter scripts used most commonly in France and Belgium, principally during the 15th century. Bâtarde flamande scripts are generally more rounded and humanistic — resembling the free forms of flames, whence the name — than Fraktur or Quadratra scripts. Shown below is a bâtarde flamande style called Givry. See also Blackletter, calligraphy, chancery, Fraktur, Quadrata.
Blackletter exemplar
Bayard (Stylo Bayard) A pen manufacturing company located in Paris, France; founded in 1922 by stationer Étienne Forbin and his nephews Pierre and Étienne Panici as Société Panici Frères & Compagnie. The elder Forbin had registered the name Bayard as a trademark in 1912; Pierre Terrail de Bayard was a Medieval French knight, a hero who was viewed as the image of a fearless and irreproachable knight knight, and Panici Frères used “le stylo sans reproche” as a marketing slogan. Initial production consisted of black and mottled hard rubber helical-cam safeties and eyedropper fillers; lever fillers appeared in 1927, and production began switching to celluloid in 1929. The elder Forbin’s death in 1924 triggered a reorganization; the brothers relocated the company and restructured it to establish total control over the entire production of their pens. Most of their factory workers were women, who were considered more meticulous than men. In 1934, the company was renamed Stylo Bayard, and the name Bayard appeared as an imprint on clips. Not permitted to use gold nibs during World War II, Bayard in 1943 introduced a model called the Excelsior (postwar example shown below), which featured interchangeable nib units and included a spare to compensate for the more rapid wear of the steel nibs the company was reduced to using. In the 1950s, model lines were restyled for better uniformity, and pump and accordion fillers were introduced. As with other companies, the ballpoint pen was causing a decline in the demand for Bayard’s fountain pens; the 1956 introduction of the Souverain Deluxe, with a hooded nib and a metal cap, failed to reverse the company’s fortunes, as did an abortive alliance with Stylomine and Unic to develop the BUC cartridge system. The company ceased operation in 1973. See also Stylomine, Unic.
Fountain pen
Bay State  1  (Bay State Pen Company) A pen manufacturer located in Mansfield, Massachusetts; founded at some time before 1893 by Philip S. Walker, William Wagner, and Paul W. Johnson. The company was dissolved by mutual consent of the partners in 1907, after which Johnson continued to operate alone at least until sometime after 1916, branding his nibs Paul / W. / Johnson / Mansfield / Mass. The company produced gold pens (dip nibs) and at least one fountain pen, an overfeed design called the Reporter’s Fountain Pen, which was written up in the February 1893 issue of The Shorthand Review.  2  (Bay State Gold Pen Company) A manufacturer of gold nibs for many New England pen makers, including Chilton, Crocker, Latremore’s Fountain Pen Exchange, Sterling, Superite/De Witt–La France, Walker–Davison, and possibly Ayer, Carter’s, John Hancock, LeBeouf, Moore, and Samuel Ward’s. The company was located in Boston, Massachusetts; it was founded by Paul W. Johnson after the 1907 dissolution of the Bay State Pen Company, and it remained in business until 1951, although it became reduced as pen companies failed during the late 1930s.
bbl A common abbreviation for barrel.
BCHR Black Chased Hard Rubber. The Conklin’s Crescent-Filler illustrated here is made of BCHR. See also chased, hard rubber.
Fountain pen
Beaumel (D. W. Beaumel & Co., Inc.) A pen manufacturing company located in New York City. Founded in 1901 by David W. Beaumel, the company made high-quality fountain pens and nibs under several brand names including Beaumel, Champion, Falcon, Graphic, Raven, and Rival. Shown below is a Beaumel-branded eyedropper-filling pen typical of the company’s production. (Do not confuse Beaumel’s patented sleeve-filling Rival pen with the overfeed eyedropper-filling Rival (illustrated at Smith, H.M.) made by D. W. Lapham until 1887 and thereafter by J. F. Bogart; although Beaumel also held the patent on the latter pen, the two pens were entirely different.) Beaumel held several patents for fountain or stylographic pens. He had been associated with Francis C. Brown (Caw’s) during the 19th century, and one of his patents was shared with Brown. The company also jobbed pens to other companies for sale under their own names. The Great Depression appears to have killed the Beaumel company; it went under in about 1930. Among the products of its last decade was a series of oversize celluloid flat-tops named Durabilt. See also Caw’s, Lapham.
Fountain pen
Beekman A sub-brand of the Diamond Point Pen Company, which was located at 102 Beekman Street in New York City. Beekman pens bore no brand imprint on the barrel or cap, but their gold-plated brass nibs were imprinted THE BEEKMAN PEN. Shown here is a Beekman coin-filler. The visible portion of the nib imprint says 14KT GOLD; concealed within the section is the word PLATE. See also Diamond Point, WARRANTED.
Fountain pen
Belmont A “house brand” used for pens sold by Rexall drugstores. Belmont pens were made for Rexall by several companies, probably including the National Pen Products Company. Shown below is a Belmont from about 1928. See also monogram, Rexall.
Fountain pen
Benco A sub-brand of the Benzion Trading Company of Copenhagen, Denmark, 1930s–1940s. Benco pens were button-fillers that were fitted with steel nibs made by Bock and bore a strong resemblance to the Parker Streamlined Duofold. See also Big Ben, Bock.
Berolzheimer See Eagle.
Betzler & Wilson (Betzler & Wilson Fountain Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Akron, Ohio; founded in 1892 by Joseph F. Betzler and Wesley E. Wilson. Initially producing high-quality eyedropper fillers branded “The Betzler Pen” for the trade only, the company had by 1906 added a self-filling pen to the line and was selling pens to the public. The self-filler, shown below, was possibly the only U.S.-made accordion type (U.S. Patent No 799,297) and was operated by a collapsible barrel-end plunger concealed beneath a blind cap, not by the lockring-like slider shown in Joseph Betzler’s patent. In 1914, Betzler & Wilson purchased the Cincinnati factory of O. E. Weidlich and moved its entire contents to Akron to expand the former’s operations. Shortly after that purchase, it took over the Akron Fountain Pen Company and assumed the latter’s name. It remained in business until it was similarly purchased and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, by the Kraker Pen Company in November 1916. See also Kraker, Weidlich (definition 1).
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Bexley (Bexley Pen Company, Inc.) A pen manufacturing company, founded in 1993 in Columbus, Ohio, by L. Michael Fultz, Howard Levy, and Steven Van Dyke to manufacture high-quality vintage-inspired fountain pens in the United States using modern technology. Bexley’s first pen, the Original (below, upper), was a button-filler inspired by the Parker Duofold; a 2016 model, the Demeter (below, lower), was closely modeled on the Conklin Endura. The company has held to its mission, offering a wide variety of Bexley-branded pens in acrylic and hard rubber as well as jobbing custom pens for various retailers. In 2019, Bexley changed ownership, becoming part of the Armando Simone Club founded by Emmanuel Caltagirone from the ashes of OMAS, which failed in 2016. See also Cable, OMAS.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
BF See button.
B&H See Byers & Hayes.
BHR Black Hard Rubber. See also hard rubber.
BiC (Société BiC) A pen manufacturing company founded in 1945 by Marcel Louis Michel Antoine Bich and Edouard Buffard to make parts for mechanical pencils. In 1950, BiC purchased László Bíró’s 1938 patent and began producing ballpoint pens, and is now almost entirely a manufacturer of ballpoints. BiC purchased Sheaffer in 1997; apparently finding that Sheaffer was not a good fit, it sold Sheaffer to A. T. Cross in 2014. See also biro, Sheaffer.
Bicks (Bicks Ink Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Chicago, Illinois; founded c. 1914 by Edward K. Bixby to market ink and trench pens made to his design (U.S. Patent No 1,109,033). Shown here is a Bicks trench pen. See also trench pen.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Big Ben  1  A brand used by the Benzion Trading Company of Copenhagen, Denmark. The company was founded by Niels Benzion, who had worked for the Wahl Company; on his return to Denmark, he set up an agency to import and sell Wahl-Eversharp pens and pencils beginning in 1933. Strict import quotas limited the quantities Benzion could import, forcing the company to design and sell pens of its own beginning in 1935. Prewar Big Ben pens were piston-fillers jobbed from H. Hebborn & Company of Heidelberg, Germany. Some models were faceted to resemble the Wahl Doric; others were round (shown below, upper). Among the available colors were celluloids in a pattern resembling the Shell pattern used by Wahl for the Doric Airliner. The brand survived at least until after World War II; later production included models with a 1950s-style squeeze-filling system. See also Benco.  2  A 23K-plated special edition of the Cross Peerless 125 (below, lower), honoring the Elizabeth Tower of Westminster Palace (the clock tower, housing Big Ben), which was so named in 2012 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. See also Cross, Peerless (definition 2).
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Big Four Term applied to the four most prominent U.S. pen makers: Conklin, Parker, Sheaffer, and L. E. Waterman. In about 1927, Wahl replaced Conklin as a member of the Big Four. See also first tier.
Big Red  1  Common name for the “ flat-top” Parker Duofold Senior made from 1921 to 1928; the pen is orange with black end caps, but Parker referred to its color variously as Chinese Red or Lacquer Red and said that it “rivals the beauty of the scarlet tanager.” The hard rubber Duofold illustrated here (upper) was made in 1924, shortly before Parker converted its production to Permanite.  2  The “official” name Parker gave to its nostalgic 1970s recreation of the original Duofold. This later pen was offered as a ballpoint or with a soft felt-type tip. To play on the nostalgic theme, Parker offered the Big Red both with a clip (illustrated here, lower) and as a ringtop, advertising the latter with a “Sheik and Sheba” illustration drawn in the style of John Held, Jr. See also Chinese Red, Duofold, Permanite, ringtop.
Fountain pen
Ballpoint pen
Binde A German word (pronounced BIN-duh, plural Binden) meaning bandage, used to denote the (usually colored celluloid) wrapper fitted around the barrel of a vintage Pelikan or similar pen. The Pelikan 100 shown here has a marbled green Binde.
Fountain pen
Binderizing Term for tuning and smoothing a pen’s nib using techniques developed by Richard Binder; first applied to the process by users of such pens, the term has become common parlance in the pen community.
biocide See fungicide.
biro (principally European; usually pronounced BYE-ro in the U.K., BEE-ro on the Continent) Another word for a ballpoint pen, taken from the name of Hungarian journalist László Bíró, who patented the first modern ballpoint in 1938 (U.S. Patent No 2,390,636, issued in 1945). See also ballpoint.
bishop’s hat (also cardinal’s hat) A style of cap band, so named by dealers and collectors. The design consists of a pair of triangles, overlapped so that the general effect is that of a bishop’s or cardinal’s mitre. Used on the Montblanc 12, 14, and 74, among others, the bishop’s hat also appears on the Ferme pocket pen shown here, which has a nib resembling those on certain vintage Montblanc pens.
Fountain pen
Black and Pearl See Pearl and Black.
Black Band “51” See “51”, Red Band “51”.
Black Bird See Blair.
Black Giant A huge eyedropper-filling pen featuring a No 12 nib, produced by Parker in the early 20th century. Now rare and highly desirable. Illustrated below is a Black Giant, with a Duofold Senior (“Big Red”) for comparison. See also giant, Red Giant.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Blackletter (also Gothic script or Gothic minuscule) A group of script styles used throughout Western Europe c. 1170-1500. Originally written with a reed or quill cut to have an oblique italic tip, Blackletter scripts are notable for the equal widths of their horizontal and vertical strokes and for their sometimes elaborate ornamentation (applied primarily to majuscules and usually executed with a ”crow quill” nib). Johannes Gutenberg’s Bible is printed in a Blackletter style called Quadrata (shown below, upper). Although elsewhere it gave way to humanist and roman styles, Blackletter continued in use for the German language, often as a Bâtarde or Fraktur style, until roughly the middle of the 20th century, and it is still commonly used for formal documents such as diplomas. See also Bâtarde, calligraphy, chancery, crow quill, Fraktur, italic, oblique, Quadrata. ¶ Blackletter scripts are frequently — and erroneously — lumped together under the “Old English” name. Shown below (lower) is the Blackletter style that is customarily referred to by calligraphers and printers as Old English.
Blackletter exemplar
Blackletter exemplar
bladder See sac.
Blair (Blair’s Fountain Pen Company) A fountain pen manufacturer located in New York City; founded in 1885 by Scottish immigrant John Blair and closed down after Blair’s death in January 1914. Based on Blair’s patents, his company made eyedropper fillers (Blair’s Popular Fountain Pen, U.S. Patent No 426,021, issued April 22, 1890), self-filling pens (Blair’s Nosak Fountain Pen, which used the pen’s cap as part of a multistroke pump-type filling system (U.S. Patent No 1,006,050, issued October 17, 1911), and stylographic pens (Blair’s Red Robin and Black Bird Ink Pencils, U.S. Patent No 734,116, issued July 21, 1903). There was also a stylographic pen (Blair’s Fountain Pencil) fitted to accept either ink or cartridges that made ink when the pen was filled with water (U.S. Patent No 620,216, issued February 28, 1899); one cartridge was claimed to last for a year. It is likely that Blair contracted with jobbing manufacturers for his parts and actually only assembled the finished pens. Among Blair’s trademarks were Black Bird, John Hancock (dip pen holders), Record Security, and Red Robin.
bleeding Excessive absorption of ink into the fibers of the paper, sometimes to the extent that marks are visible on the reverse side of the paper. Pens adjusted to write extremely wet are more prone than dry writers to produce bleeding; other causes can be paper with long, loosely packed fibers, ink with an excessive amount of surfactant, or a nib that is so sharp it catches and tears the paper fibers. Compare with feathering; bleeding is essentially feathering in the third dimension.
blind cap A small cap, usually screw-threaded, that covers the actuator in such filling systems as button (illustrated here by a Parker Duofold Geometric) or Vacumatic. See also filler.
Blind cap
blobbing See flooding.
Bloody British Burgundy (also Blood Red) Common name for a color used for the Aero-metric version of the Parker “51”, in English production only. Bloody British Burgundy (below, left) is distinctly lighter than most versions of burgundy. According to legend, it was not used in the U.S. because Kenneth Parker’s wife Mildred, who had a degree in the arts, was consulted on the color choices for the Aero-metric “51” and refused to allow the color to be used because it looked like blood. Shown for comparison (below, right) is the Burgundy that was used in the U.S.
color chipcolor chip
bloom See Radite (definition 2).
Bloser, Elmer W. See Zaner-Bloser.
blotter Absorbent material, such as unglazed ceramic or (more usually) a special highly absorbent paper, used as shown here to remove excess ink from paper in order to avoid smearing when insufficient time is available to allow the ink to dry naturally. Blotters are made in several forms for use in differing situations; see also advertising blotter, desk blotter, rocker blotter.
Using a blotter
blotting See flooding.
blotting paper See blotter.
blow A type of filling system; operates by pneumatic ink-sac compression. Blowing air into the pen through a hole at the end of the barrel squeezes the sac. View filling instructions here.
Filler schematic
Blue and Black Modern misnomer for the color illustrated below, used in 1932 on non-Lifetime Balance pens by Sheaffer. The color, as produced, actually contains no true black, and Sheaffer’s name for it was simply Blue. The areas that appear black are a very dark blue, whose color can be observed where one of these areas lies adjacent to a white streak such that the white is subducted under the blue. This material is prone to discolor, however, and when it discolors the dark blue areas almost always fade to a hue that looks black even under bright light.
Color chip
blue-black An ink color originating with iron gall ink, whose blue component (indigo) fades to leave black as the ink’s iron salts oxidize. Modern fountain pen inks are colored with aniline dyes; since there is no true black aniline dye, these inks usually assume a greenish hue as the blue dye fades. See also iron gall ink.
Blue Cedar (also Cedar Blue) One of the more collectible high-cachet colors used for the Vacumatic-filling version of the Parker “51”; shown below. The color initially appeared in Parker advertising as Blue Cedar; some later advertising shows it as Cedar Blue. Blue Cedar seems to have been particularly subject to color variation between manufacturing lots; some pens have a noticeable greenish cast while others are distinctly blue. See also Buckskin Beige, Nassau Green, Yellowstone.
Color chip
Blue Diamond A trademarked identification device applied to certain Parker pens from 1939 to 1948. The Blue Diamond was initially applied to pens priced at $8.75 or higher; it indicated a lifetime warranty until the U.S. Federal Trade Commission prohibited the offering of a warranty if a fee was charged unless the fee was described in type the same size as the warranty statement itself and in close proximity to it. On pocket pens, the Blue Diamond is located on the shoulder of the clip, near the end attached to the cap; on desk pens, it is on the barrel or on the band encircling the barrel (shown here on a 1941 Striped Duofold desk pen).
Blue Diamond on barrel band
blue-green ripple See ripple.
Blue Streak The model name that L. E. Waterman assigned in 1939 to its Type 2 Ink-Vue pen, Model 511 (shown below, a 511G), and an identically styled lever-filler, Model 513. The design featured a body pattern with a pearlescent ground divided by longitudinal pinstripes of white; the pinstripes are bordered by narrower stripes of an intermittent dark blue, giving the pattern its name. See also Ink-Vue.
Fountain pen
Bock (Peter Bock AG) A nib manufacturer located in Heidelberg, Germany; founded in 1939 by Peter Bock. The company, managed as of this writing by Wolfgang Bock, also produces feeds and threaded housings to create complete screw-in nib units with both gold and steel nibs. The Bock logo, seen below as copied from a nib, is a leaping buck antelope on a mountain background, within a circle. See also JoWo, Schmidt.
body The main portion of the pen; everything except the cap. Sometimes mistakenly called the barrel. See also barrel.
Bolles  1  (Wm. Bolles Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Toledo, Ohio; founded in 1903 as the Standard Self-Filling Pen Company by William Bolles, had been renamed by 1906. It remained in business as late as 1926, by which time it had been renamed the Wm. Bolles Dollar Pen Company but was probably no longer in the hands of Bolles himself. The company began by offering a sliding-barrel “sleeve filler” called the Wm. Bolles Standard Self-Filling Self-Cleaning Fountain Pen (U.S. Patent No 737,697). In this design, the barrel was to be slid completely off the back of the sac so that the user could squeeze the sac by pressing on lengthwise metal bars attached around its circumference. By 1907, Bolles had come up with a slightly better design, the Wm. Bolles Self-Filling Non-Leaking Fountain Pen.  2  (Wm. Bolles Dollar Pen Company) One of several names under which brothers Major F. and Elmer L. Skidmore operated their Toledo, Ohio, company. In 1923, the company was named in a Federal Trade Commission complaint alleging fraudulent manufacture of pens intended to resemble those of Conklin; the Skidmores denied operating as the Bolles company while admitting to the use of several other company names. See also Skidmore.
Bonded (Bonded Reservoir Pen Company, Inc.) A co-brand of the Postal Pen Company of New York City. Bonded pens, produced for sale through sales agents and priced at $3.00 (of which the agent received $1.00), were essentially identical to their Postal siblings (additional information and photo at Postal), even to the extent of substantially identical logo imprints hot-stamped on the caps. Shown below are the two brands’ logos, photographed from pen caps. (Photos enhanced for clarity.) See also Postal, Transo.
Postal and Bonded logos
Boston  1  (Boston Fountain Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Boston, Massachusetts; founded in 1904 by Charles Brandt on assets acquired from the Colonial Pen Company. Brandt’s sons Charles E. and George F. were also involved in the business. The elder Brandt held seven pen patents, five shared with August Eberstein (later a founding member of the Simplo Filler Pen Company, which became Montblanc), one shared with his son George, and one shared with David J. La France. ¶ Boston Fountain Pen called an early pen model the Boston Safety Fountain Pen because of the pen’s “non-leakable” design, which featured Eberstein’s patented fixed inner cap (U.S. Patent No 764,227). Note that the word “Safety” was never included in the company’s own name. ¶ According to the most authoritative sources, Boston Fountain Pen was acquired in 1917 by the Wahl Adding Machine Company (subsequently renamed the Wahl Company), although a few of Boston’s people — including George Brandt — appear to have gone over to the American Fountain Pen Company (subsequently renamed the Moore Pen Company). The acquisition of Boston Fountain Pen brought valuable design features to Wahl; pens built using Eberstein’s inner cap and comb feed (U.S. Patent No 750,271) — but not the Brandt/LaFrance lever filler — became the foundation of Wahl’s Tempoint line. Boston’s lever design also influenced the later Wahl lever; shown below is a Boston sterling silver overlay ringtop. See also Colonial (definition 2), comb feed, non-leakable, Wahl.  2  (Boston Pen Company) A pen manufacturing company located in Boston, Massachusetts; founded in 1894 by a group of investors. Boston Pen produced the Victor Pen; but before the end of 1896 manufacture of the Victor Pen had moved to the New York factory of Lapham & Bogart.
Fountain pen
bowl See trumpet.
boxed lever See lever box.
BP See ballpoint.
Brain See Niagara.
brass A yellow alloy of copper and zinc, containing at least 50% copper. Specific brass alloys contain admixtures of other metals (e.g., tin, lead, or aluminum) to adjust mechanical properties or corrosion resistance. Electroplated brass is commonly used for metal pen parts such as trim rings and barrel ferrules, and it was formerly used by manufacturers of cheap nibs (see illustration at WARRANTED).
brassing (adjectival form brassed, as in “a brassed clip’) The wearing away of a filled or plated metal surface to expose the base metal beneath (usually brass, hence the term). Illustrated below is the brassed lever of an Eversharp Skyline. Brassing should not be confused with corrosion, which results from chemical action. See also corrosion.
Brassed lever
breather hole  1  (also vent hole) A hole, frequently made in a decorative shape such as a heart or a crescent, that pierces a nib at the end of the slit, ostensibly to improve air flow but also to relieve stresses that tend to crack nibs at the relatively highly stressed area around the base of the slit. Breather holes are sometimes dispensed with on firm nibs, which are stiff enough to resist the bending forces imposed during use. See illustration at nib.  2  A hole in the side of the cap, placed between the inner cap and the cap lip, whose purpose is to prevent the formation of a partial vacuum that would draw ink out of the pen into the cap during the brief time when the cap is being removed. See also inner cap.
breather tube A small tube that is inserted into a hole in the back end of the feed and extends from the section into the ink reservoir; permits complete filling in pens that require multiple operations of the filling mechanism (Aero-metric, Vacumatic, etc.). Also allows controlled transfer of air within the barrel, to reduce or eliminate the tendency to leak at high altitude. The feed and breather tube of a Parker Vacumatic are illustrated here.
Feed and breather tube
Brown, Francis C. See Caw’s.
brown paper bag A method, supposedly for smoothing nibs, that involves making figure-eights or similar motions as if writing, with the nib on a piece of a brown paper bag. This method does not produce a smoother nib; it grinds paper fibers into the microscopic interstices in the tipping material, producing a smoother sensation until the paper is washed out again by the detergent action of the ink. The technique, because it produces free-floating paper fibers, can also result in clogging of the feed.
Buckskin Beige (sometimes colloquially “Tan”) One of the more collectible high-cachet colors used for the Vacumatic-filling version of the Parker “51”; shown below. Buckskin Beige is rather fragile, and the repair of Buckskin Beige pens calls for great care. Buckskin Beige is similar to, but darker than, Cocoa, a color used on the Aero-metric version of the “51”. See also Blue Cedar, Cocoa, Nassau Green, Yellowstone.
Color chip
buffer A device designed to counteract or minimize the effects of change. When applied to fountain pens, the term usually refers to features of a feed, such as fins, that provide an enlarged capillary surface to hold or release ink as needed to even out irregularities of flow.
bug See hallmark.
bulb A type of filling system; operates by mechanical squeeze of bulb at end of barrel. View filling instructions here. See also Postal.
Filler schematic
Bulkfiller See Conid.
bullet-bottom Collectors’ slang for a single-jewel Parker “51”, whose barrel end is smoothly tapered to a shape that resembles a bullet. Because Aero-metric “51”s are all single-jewel pens, “bullet-bottom” implies a Vacumatic-filling pen. See also single jewel.
bullet pen  1  A pen made in the shape of, and roughly the same size as, a rifle cartridge; primarily a hard rubber eyedropper filler produced during World War I, such as the Salz “Army & Navy” pen shown below. These pens were sold to civilians as reminders of the troops Over There and also as gifts to be sent to men serving in the military.  2  A term applied to the Fisher Space Pen, a pressurized ballpoint, in reference to its streamlined shape.
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
Fountain pen
bulletproof  1  An adjective describing a pen so well built that it can withstand hard use bordering on a complete disregard for the pen’s well-being, e.g., the Parker 45 and Sheaffer No Nonsense.  2  An adjective describing an ink that becomes utterly ineradicable when applied to paper. To be truly bulletproof, an ink must be formulated so that its coloring agent (dye) bonds chemically with the fibers of the paper and cannot be bleached out.
bullseye Having the appearance of a target with concentric rings, like the iris and pupil of an eye; e.g., the conical “jewel” on the blind cap of a Parker Speedline Vacumatic (as illustrated here), which is fashioned from the material of the cap instead of a separate piece. Sometimes difficult to distinguish. See also jewel.
Vacumatic bullseye
Burma One of the “exotic” celluloid colors (Burma, Cathay, Jet Black, Kashmir, and Morocco) offered on the first generation of the Eversharp Doric. Burma is chunks of gray streaked with silver, as shown below. See also Cathay, Doric, Kashmir, Morocco.
Color chip
Burnham (H. Burnham and Sons) A pen and pencil manufacturer located in London, England; founded c. 1920 by Harry Burnham to make hard rubber fountain pens, especially retractable safeties (which brought it into competition with Conway Stewart, who remained Burnham’s principal competitor until the latter ceased operation). The company was known for the high quality of its pens, which were nevertheless inexpensive. By 1929, Burnham offered an extensive lineup of fountain pens, stylographic pens, and mechanical pencils, as well as gold-stamp imprinted advertising novelties. During the 1930s, the top end of the product line featured RRHR pens of very high quality. As with many British companies, World War II’s need for war matériel put a damper on pen manufacture by restricting production to 25% of prewar output, but by 1947 the company was back in business making pens and pencils, and it soon introduced some lower-priced models that used interchangeable nibs compatible with the Esterbrook Renew-Point. From that time until closing its doors in the mid-1960s, Burnham was known for its beautiful marbled plastics. See also Caw’s (definition 2), Conway Stewart, Renew-Point.
burping See flooding.
Burp Pen See Ventura.
butanone See methyl ethyl ketone.
butt cheeks See baby’s bottom.
butterfly nib A cheap nib design used for third-tier pens, primarily in the first half of the 20th century. A butterfly nib is made of steel without iridium tipping; the tips of the tines are shaped somewhat like halves of a lollipop and folded down to provide a rounded writing pad, as illustrated below. See also rolled-under nib, spoon nib.
Nib diagram
buttery An adjective used as a reference point for the writing qualities of an ideally smooth nib.
button (also stud, chiefly British usage) A type of filling system; operates by mechanical ink-sac squeeze. A button at the end of the barrel bends a spring-metal pressure bar to squeeze the sac laterally. View filling instructions here.
Filler schematic
Byers & Hayes (Byers & Hayes Company, Inc., also B&H; misspelled in several late-1920s labor union publications as Byers & Hays.) A fountain pen and pencil manufacturing company located in New York City; founded in 1916 by John E. Hayes, formerly manager at Aikin Lambert, and George T. Byers, a New York manufacturer of fountain pens and pencils. Products included gold and silver pencils, eyedropper-filling and self-filling fountain pens, clips, and a variety of novelties such as toothpicks. Pen models included a rifle cartridge-styled pen (similar to the Salz Army-Navy pen shown at bullet pen). The company also jobbed pens and parts, with or without custom imprinting, and did chasing work for other manufacturers. The company appears to have survived into the 1930s.

  1. The FTC’s original 1945 ruling forbade “unconditional” warranties altogether if there was a fee. L. E. Waterman and Parker challenged the ruling, but Waterman withdrew its petition in 1946. Parker fought on, and the resulting 1948 court judgment softened the ruling, allowing such warranties if the fee was described in type the same size as the warranty statement itself and in close proximity to it. (The prohibition remained on the use of the word “unconditional.”)  Return

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