"Humanity can live without science, it can live without bread, but it cannot live without beauty. Without beauty, there would be nothing left to do in this life. Here the secret lies. Here lies the entire story."
The Montblanc Writers Edition Dostoevsky fountain pen was released in 1997 with a 'limited' number of 16,300 fountain pens. It is a suitably moody pen for a writer who often plunged the dark depths of the human psyche, yet it's moodiness comes with a terrible beauty too. When Montblanc get their designs right, they really do get them right, producing miniature little works of art that are entirely functional and a true joy to own. I love this pen, but it has had a somewhat tragic history with me that has only recently resolved itself - more on that later.
I bought this pen on the second hand market several years ago at what I thought was a very good price. The price of this pen (along with the Voltaire I was eyeing at the same time) seems to have significantly increased over the last couple of years. I'm not entirely sure why that is, but they do seem to be a little rarer than they once were which is perhaps pushing the price up, often well over the thousand euro mark which I would consider to be a little painful on the old purse. The pen came with its original packaging; a cardboard box shaped like a book with a black satin inlay where the pen rests. Many people like the boxes but I can't say I'm a fan. They are fine but not something I can get excited about. I think it's a shame they never include a copy of the author's work. This pen originally came with a fine nib that was quite soft, but didn't offer flexibility and expression, but it did have a curious, very slightly stubbish aspect and was quite different from a lot of other Writer's Edition nibs. I liked it and loved the feel, length, weight and balance of the pen posted. The concave grip is small and a little thinner than most Montblanc's, but comfortable. Sadly, I dropped it one day. The nib didn't appear damaged to the eye, but it did compact the left tine making it a little like an awkward oblique. It wasn't going to be something I could repair and in spite of my attempts to continue writing with it I had to admit defeat. Then someone here on FPN mentioned that they sent off their Agatha for a nib exchange and promptly got one. I decided to risk the same and plumbed for a double broad nib. I didn't have high hopes of getting it, but two weeks later the pen was returned with a double broad nib, re-gilded signature on the cap, re-plated gold on the top of the clip, a blemish removed from a cap ring and the whole pen polished and looking like new and all for less than the price of a Pelikan M1000 nib exchange. I am impressed by their customer service.
Now to the pen. It's a back resin pen with an ivory snow peak on the cap (the older WE's in an old fashioned vintage style tend to have ivory coloured peaks rather than a pure white - a nice touch) and has a stormy blue ink window (minus the facets). The cap, grip and piston nob are plain, but the barrel of the pen has an engraved pattern reminiscent of either Imperial Russia or a riff on Russian folk material designs (depending on who you read - Montblanc say it's a nod to Imperial Russia). The furniture is gold plated with similar geometric designs of x's and diamonds that are found on the barrel. The clip narrows down to a ball that houses a rather moody looking sapphire. The screw cap comes off with three turns to reveal an 18K gold nib with an imprinted geometric design that is similar, but different to the barrel and cap bands. The cap is domed in a vintage style and the piston nob is a touch flatter with a metal (brass?) piston mechanism. The pen posts securely. The details are: 5.75 inches capped, 6.30 inches posted and 28g in weight, filled. The author's signature is on the cap, to the right of the clip, and gilded in gold. The pen is a piston filler that is smooth as butter and fills easily - you can fill it by dipping the nib only so you don;t have to immerse the whole nib and section.
The double broad nib is quite crisp. On the sample above it was written on slightly poor paper so it soaked in slightly. The BB nibs have a beautiful quality; incredibly smooth and very wet with a stub aspect and a true joy to write with. I normally buy fine and extra fine nibs, but I do love these double broad nibs. Be aware that now and again you can get one that has quite a lot of oils residue in the nib housing that can make the nib either a slightly hard starter or skip slightly when first writing. A good and thorough flush will rid you of the residue and the nib should write like a dream.
I am very fond of this pen. I love the old vintage nods that Montblanc really does so well. It's a joy to use and own and a fitting tribute to Dostoevsky. Probably best described as a terrible beauty.