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Pelikan M800 Brown Black- A Review And A Comparison With The M800 Tortoise

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#1 Quadratus



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Posted 17 February 2020 - 12:31


So recently I succumbed to temptation.

I had privately taken a resolution that I would be restrained this year- no new pen buying except in the most exceptional circumstances, as I already have over 50 fountain pens (some of high quality and therefore high price…)  On the perfectly rational basis that I can only write with one pen at a time, I decided that now was a moment to stop adding and even to start selling pens that are seldom used on eBay…  If that sounds like a familiar inner thought cycle to you collectors among my readers, then you are right.

However, the tempters par excellence of Hannover keep producing wonderful new pens and Pelikans are probably my favourite writing instruments (with Sailor coming a very close second).

But, as my wife wearily says, I can never resist a bargain. This time it was a really fantastic price (over 30% off the normal market price) for the new Pelikan M800 Brown Black.  I resisted as long as I could until the eBay vendor was down to his last one and then pressed the “buy” key…

I don’t need another M800 having accumulated over a dozen in the past decade. So why?…

The simple reason is that I loved the looks of the pen.  It was elegant, sophisticated, luxurious.  I had the money and it was a real bargain.  But I think there is a deeper reason.  Owning the pen would give me great pleasure- that is surely justification in itself.  To those who say that I don’t need another fountain pen, I will quote King Lear when he is taunted by his rapacious daughters who object to his retaining a retinue of knights after he has abdicated: they are too expensive, they are rowdy and he really does not need an entourage of attendants now he has retired from the throne.  His reply is heart-breaking:

O reason not the need!

Our basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous.

Allow not more than nature needs,

Man’s life is as cheap as beasts.

(King Lear, Act 2, scene 4). 


Shakespeare must obviously have been a pen collector…

I -we, all of us- collect things not because we actually need them, but because we like them.   I like pens so I collect them.  That, to me, is justification in itself.

So why this particular new Pelikan?  Several reasons.

  1. It is a very attractive pen.

It is admittedly conservative in looks and design, but that’s Pelikan for you.  As Peter Twydle wrote in his wonderful book “Fountain Pens“, (Crowood Press, 2009, see crowood.com): “Since Pelikan made their first fountain pen in 1929, the overall concept of their quality pen range has changed very little. The traditional design and the filling mechanism with its enormous ink capacity has stood the test of time and, instead of being subjected to the whims of fashion, has been content with just a steady refining and improvement.” 

Here a few pictures of the M800 Brown Black. Placed under a desk lamp and it glows with rich autumn hues.  Marvellous.




I thought it would be interesting to show the Brown Black next to its close cousins the M800 Blue Black, Green Black and Red Black.  This new Brown Black is clearly following a tradition and, in my opinion, this is one of the most attractive Pelikan has produced.  The Blue Black is elegant, the Green Black is traditional and the Red Black is sophisticated, but the Brown Black has that rich glow, especially in good natural light, that gives it an antique or classical feel, as if it had been designed by a Greek sculptor. 

  • p1140081.jpg?w=1024
  • p1140085-1.jpg?w=1024


  • It is a very practical fountain pen

The Pelikan is one of the most practical fountain pens ever designed.  

They are so easy to clean, especially as you can unscrew the nib unit.

I have quite large hands (I can stretch an octave plus two keys on the piano without difficulty) and I find the Pelikan M800 posted or unposted equally comfortable.

Just as important, the M800 has a huge ink reservoir- about 1.37 ml or the equivalent to about two standard cartridges.  A fill will last me 4-5 days of active writing, often longer. However, that may reflect the fact that I tend to use “fine” nibs: a “broad” nib would go through an ink reservoir faster.

The Brown Black, like all the series, has slightly translucent stripes so that you can check how much ink there is left by holding it up to a light.  There is nothing more irritating than not having an ink window, or having to unscrew the body to check the converter to see how much ink is left.

  • Reliability

Pelikans have great quality control.  By the time the pen leaves the factory, it will work flawlessly out of the box.   That cannot be said of a lot of fountain pen manufacturers who sell pens whose nibs often need adjustment.  This is not acceptable if you are paying £300 ($390 or €360) or more for a pen…

Comparison with the Pelikan M800 Tortoise

A lot of collectors have voiced objections to the Brown Black on the grounds that it is very similar to the “Brown Tortoise” that came out as a limited edition in 2013.  I am fortunate in owning both pens, so set out a few photos below to show the difference between the two. 

  • p1140064.jpg?w=1024
  • p1140071.jpg?w=1024
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The Tortoise is above the Brown Black in the first two photos but below in the third.

In my view, the two are different but they are close cousins.  The Tortoise has stripes ranging from black to red to dark brown giving a very unique result: the Brown Black has a regular dual colouring that verges towards the bronze.  I like both but I can perfectly understand why those who already own the Tortoise have passed on the Brown Black. 


I am delighted with my new Pelikan.  It makes a fine addition to my collection and has become one of my daily writers. 

I know I cannot really justify yet another M800 but sometimes, as a charming Italian aristocratic lady once said to me “Why should life be a punishment?”


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#2 WLSpec


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Posted 17 February 2020 - 14:02

Wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

#3 honore



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Posted 21 February 2020 - 15:41

Great article, thank you!

#4 Sk8rcruz


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Posted 23 February 2020 - 02:36

I love the use of references to support the emotion that goes in to making a pen purchase! The Brown Black M800 is one of the most unique designs, in my opinion.  Definitely a color changer in the light-great pictures. Thanks

#5 DilettanteG


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Posted 23 February 2020 - 03:58

Delightful review, I especially loved all the rationalization (that I'm sure all of us collectors do) to justify new purchases. Also, I'm a sucker for a "bargain" as well. I think for me it was a 10% off Cult Pens coupon and no extra charge for a stock IB nib.


I couldn't really tell from these pictures, but the Brown/Black stands out from the rest of the standard 800 line up as the non striped sections are a lovely chocolate brown, rather than black. I don't know if that is also true of the 2013 Tortoise as I don't own one of those. :crybaby:


I did buy the K800 Brown/Black ballpoint and it's a really enjoyable set, especially in their brown, gold, and brown croc print monogrammed Smythson case. Great for daily carry. I've only got an octave reach myself, but the K800 is a perfect size, quite similar to the width of the M600 pen. The M800 can feel a little big in my hand, but I think as I get older I appreciate the wider grip.





#6 jchch1950


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Posted 23 February 2020 - 08:20

A new colour , a different nib ,to own a complete set, and many other reasons to buy a new pen.Pen collecting is a permanent challenge. Congratulations on your new Pelikan and thank you for compare it with the Tortoise one. :)

#7 sebastel23


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Posted 23 February 2020 - 09:41

I don't know if that is also true of the 2013 Tortoise as I don't own one of those. :crybaby:

the tortoise ones come with a very dark brown section/cap/knob, which is so dark that you need quite some light to distinguish it from black. plain sunlight, for example.
the brown on the brown/black on the other hand easily shows its chocolate flavour in the artificial light of light bulbs.

brown croc print monogrammed Smythson case.

very nice case. thank you for showing.


#8 namrehsnoom



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Posted 23 February 2020 - 12:02

Great review of a really nice pen. You do full justice to this beautiful pen. I was tempted myself when the pen came along, but the M800 size is just too big for me. I own only one M800 - the Grand Place, which I just had to have bacause I’m from Belgium. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed that this finish will someday come to the M400 size. If it does, I won’t hesitate for a second.

#9 whichwatch



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Posted 23 February 2020 - 14:52

Very nice review.  Here is a shot in different lighting comparing my Black Brown with the 2013 Tortoise.  I believe FPN software reduces the size but you should be able to click on the picture to enlarge it if you want to look closer.



#10 lmboyer


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Posted 24 February 2020 - 11:33

So gorgeous - wish I could get one!

#11 rudyhou



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Posted 25 February 2020 - 10:34

Very nice review.  Here is a shot in different lighting comparing my Black Brown with the 2013 Tortoise.  I believe FPN software reduces the size but you should be able to click on the picture to enlarge it if you want to look closer.






#12 Marcwithac


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Posted 25 February 2020 - 18:13

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this review.  In addition to buttressing my own rationalizations for buying pens when I definitely do not "need" to add to my collection, the review expertly and eloquently explains why the Pelikan M800 is one of the very best overall pens one can buy.  I would reluctantly add (and this was implied by the reference to removable nib units) that another positive attribute of these pens is the ease with which one can swap one nib for another.  Well, I've got to go now - I need to start hunting for another M800.

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