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The Pelikan M800 Souverän Fountain Pen- Why Do We Collect Them?

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#1 Quadratus

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 14:46

The Pelikan M800 Souverän Fountain Pen- a general collector's view

The Pelikan M800 series of fountain pens is one of my favourite, if not the favourite, type of fountain pen.  In this I am not alone, as many consider the beautiful writing instruments produced by this German manufacturer to be some of the finest ever produced.

But why?  What makes these pens so special?

Sharing my own experience in using fountain pens may explain my passion for Pelikan pens.  I write a lot- both professionally and privately.  This includes professional reports, fiction and non-fiction writing.  I earn my living as a lawyer, but am semi-retired now, which has given me more time to devote to a series of historical projects (on early Byzantine history, which is one of my long standing interests) as well as fiction (I recently published a book of short stories “Entertaining Mona Lisa” through Scriptus Books, available on Amazon or via scriptusbooks.com).

I personally prefer to produce a first draft by hand.  It is not that I am old-fashioned or that I avoid modern technology.  On the contrary I am fascinated by the changes the internet and portable devices like the IPad and IPhone have brought to our society.  The range of information one can access and the vast number of things one can do online is truly marvellous. And I am sure I appreciate this development even more because I am lucky to have lived in the age of the typewriter, to have seen photocopiers, faxes and emails come into our lives: it has been as profound a revolution as the invention of printing. But when it comes to writing something “serious”- fiction or non-fiction- I find that the connection between hand, pen and paper produces text of incomparably better quality than if one writes directly on screen.  Somehow, that subtle relationship between idea and expression is achieved much better through the handling of a writing instrument applied to place ink onto paper.  So I write the first draft in long-hand, then go through it manually (adding or correcting) and only then do I type up the manuscript.  Of course, while I am typing it up, I make lots of changes, but this second draft on screen is usually better by a distance than if I had composed direct on a two dimensional surface using a keyboard.

I suspect this may be because a pen is handled to create just one line of writing, where the movements of the hand are intimately connected to the brain- whereas typing involves some concentration on judging where to place the fingers on the keys.  By this I don’t mean that I am a two fingered typist, “pecking” at the keys: instead, I type as fast as most secretaries but still find there is always a small degree of concentrating on the physical process of typing that is absent when using a pen.  This is the fundamental reason why I write with a fountain pen.

But that immediately leads to the next question: which fountain pen?  Why not a ballpoint or pencil?  For me the answer is simpler: a pen has a weight and presence in the hand that a biro, ballpoint, roller or pencil simply don’t have.  I would be prepared to concede that a good quality roller might be acceptable, but I would miss the wonderful and subtle feeling of ink flowing down on paper…

But why the Pelikan M800?

Several years ago, I still wrote with a very good Waterman “Laureat” fountain pen, whose medium steel nib I had cut into a fine italic.  It was my constant companion and it would definitely have been a good thing for the family bank account if I had stayed there.

Unfortunately (and you who are reading this will remember the same process) I started investigating other fountain pens.  This is when I fatally came across Peter Twydle’s wonderful book “Fountain Pens“, (Crowood Press, 2009, see crowood.com).  Peter Twydle is probably one of the leading pen experts in the world and famous for his skills as a repairer.  In his book, he discusses the question “Which is the best fountain pen?” (page 145) concluding that the Pelikan M800 is “the pen against which all others should be judged”.  As he eloquently and persuasively writes:

“The one question people ask me more often than any other is, “What is the best fountain pen in the world?” My answer is always the same – Pelikan, and specifically, the Pelikan Souverän M800 .   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.  Also, the nib is just outstanding. Whereas other comparable manufacturers have rolled their gold thinner to extract more nibs per sheet, Pelikan has continued to manufacture a nib of the highest quality and durability in a wide range of nib points.”

Looking it up online, I saw that a Pelikan M800 would cost about £300.  (I am giving the prices in UK £ as I currently live and work in the UK). That seemed a huge and unreasonable sum to pay for a pen, a small object that I could easily lose or break by accident.  At that time, however, I was earning more than I do now:  although £300 is a lot of money, I could afford and justify it as a luxury instrument that would see constant use.  The pen I selected was the Pelikan M800 Blue and Black striped pen, one of the types of fountain pens that is always available.  Why that colour?  I was influenced by the photo in Peter Twydle’s book which showed a Blue Black Pelikan M800 with a gold clip and bands, and I followed his advice.

So I bought it (as I recall from the excellent online seller of pens “Mr Pens” see http://www.mrpen.co.uk/).

When the pen came, I was amazed.  This was a pen of a totally different level of excellence in writing that I had ever experienced before.  It effortlessly outclassed the Waterman Laureat.  The medium 18 carat gold nib on the Pelikan wrote perfectly out of the box, its size and weight fitted my hand perfectly.  Truly this was a Mercedes-Benz of the writing world.

Of course, this was the start of a long and expensive journey “down the rabbit hole” of pen collecting. It did not take me long to start thinking that perhaps I should have another pen to use a different colour than the blue ink I had loaded into the Pelikan Blue Black M800.  I then came across Ray Walters who had a stall on Thursdays in Spitalfields Market which was near where I worked.   Ray is an excellent and charming salesman and I quickly found myself buying several Pelikans and a couple of Visconti Van Gogh Maxi size pens (now sadly discontinued but I will post a review about them soon).  He has a website at https://www.vintagea...dernpens.co.uk/

Before I truly realised what was happening I was the owner of a growing pen collection, mainly of Pelikans…

 



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#2 Tseg

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 17:46

I have 3 Pelikan's, an M120 Iconic Blue, an M800 Renaissance Brown and an M1000 green stripe.  They are nice, but I'm not sure I have a passion to get another.  Pelikan has been effective in their use of issuing special editions, I'll give them that... it probably goaded me into getting an M800 more quickly than I intended.  I'm personally challenged to buy a duplicate pen, just in a different color/design.  I prefer to experience the diversity of other pens/pen makers.  My Pelikans are frequently inked, but not particularly my "go-to" pen, rather a stable back-up.



#3 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 20:38

A friend graciously gave me his old M800 green stripe with ‘80s F nib. He didn’t use it anymore. It’s my only Pelikan and a really well-made pen. The nib, however, is far from what I personally look for. It’s an F, yet it writes a very broad line that might be mistaken for a big, fat M. And the way it writes lacks... let’s say character, tactile response, something to set it apart. It’s a little... bland, I guess. It puts lots of ink on the page but I don’t seem to be able to really express myself with it. There’s a lot of Deutsche Gründlichkeit involved but not much passion. If that makes sense. I’m looking for an expressive EF nib to put in it because I really want to use it more.



#4 carlos.q

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Posted 17 February 2020 - 22:14

In my experience older 14c and PF 18c nibs are more expressive than modern nails.



#5 Quadratus

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Posted 18 February 2020 - 19:45

Thank you all for your comments.  It is interesting to read other pen users' reaction to the Pelikan range!

 

I agree that their nibs are variable, with a tendency to be broader than the classification they are given indicates: I have a fine which writes like a medium/broad, but I also have fines which write like true fines.  Personally I find that the broad nibs Pelikan produce too wet and broad a line- but I know some people prefer Broad or even double Broad Pelikans. I have in fact got two M800 nibs which have been cut to fine italic size and they write wonderfully.

 

I agree the old style Pelikan nibs were more flexible than the modern ones, but as a daily and extensive user of fountain pens, I personally prefer a good, reliable fine nib of the sort Pelikan makes. Sailor 21k medium or medium-fine nibs and the wonderful old Visconti duo tone fine nibs are also wonderful, in terms of their precision and flex, too, but for constant writing the steady reliability of the Pelikans wins for me.

 

It is very much a matter of taste and writing style.  



#6 jarodzz

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Posted 19 February 2020 - 06:51

Enjoyed every word of your story.

On my way to getting a Pelikan, haven't decide between 600 or 800. 

 

Is it true that modern Pelikan Nibs write on a stub side?

With different width when horizontal strokes and vertical strokes?



#7 Intensity

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Posted 19 February 2020 - 07:15

That was true of older Pelikan nibs.  The most recent ones have round tipping, except for nibs labeled with “I” for italic (such as IB).


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#8 Quadratus

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Posted 20 February 2020 - 23:25

Choosing between a 600 or an 800 is tricky. The 600 tend to be light and graceful in the hand but, for my tastes, can lack “heft”. However, they are great for long writing sessions.

The 800 are girthier and have a solidity about them that I personally find wonderful, as I have quite large hands and find a substantial pen better for sustained writing. But not so large that they become oversize pens- which is one of the reasons I find a lot of the newer Viscontis simply too bulky to use.

My advice is to find a pen shop to try them both out or to find a friend who has both types or maybe go to a pen club- (fountain pen users tend to be only too keen to win over someone else to the hobby!)

But regarding nib sizes, Pelikans tend to be write one grade thicker than expected, so that their “fine” nibs tend to write more like a medium etc.

Stub nibs have recently been reintroduced by Pelikan but at a price. They now produce italic broad nibs (IB). Personally I have had good results buying broad nibs and then getting a nib meister to cut them into fine rather than broad italic nibs. I have been very pleased with the result.

#9 Marcwithac

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 01:54

Great post.  As a lawyer who writes only with fountain pens and uses pens for drafting documents, keeping notes and editing, I too appreciate the way pen, ink and paper help liberate and amplify one’s creative juices.  I would also observe that different inks, nibs and papers work better for different styles of writing.  As for the Pelikan M800, I view it as a solid workhorse.  It is often one of the pens I grab when traveling.  And while the nibs can indeed be “nails”, a good nibmeister can help add character and comfort.



#10 MHBru

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Posted 21 February 2020 - 04:44

Well said. My first fountain pen was an m800 blue stripe... Then a red stripe then an ocean swirl. All gorgeous workhorses. Then a ductus that i also love. I also have a 205 thats ok by comparison. No question that the 800s are the best production pens available.

#11 WLSpec

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 02:10

I don't have one, but I've heard the size and weight of the pen is wonderful, and with the classic and famous Pelikan nib on it and the new LEs that come out every so often, it is a favorite.



#12 Gobblecup

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 04:36

I agree with the assessment of the OP in terms of the nibs, though I also love the M1000. Each nib offers its own expression, for most purposes the harder "nail" nibs of the M800 are ideal. However, the bouncy feel of the M1000 is its own experience, one I enjoy for novel writing and drafts that I spend hours writing. I am one who enjoys the Broad, IB, and Double Broad nibs. I also get most of mine ground to a cursive italic. In the vintage category I have some OBB and OBBB nibs, these are lovely for a change of pace. With flexible nibs I rarely take advantage of the offer of flexing them. So my most flexible fine nibs just write plain fine lines most of the time.


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#13 Anders23

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Posted 22 February 2020 - 07:32

I had got a 805 blue stripes basis one of the reviews here. It did not disappoint :).

The nibs may not be special like the vintage collection, but it fits comfortably in my hands with its perfect size for me and I also do not need to post the pen.



#14 Winslo

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Posted 07 March 2020 - 17:35


"...Somehow, that subtle relationship between idea and expression is achieved much better through the handling of a writing instrument applied to place ink onto paper...."

 

Hi,

 

I am a rookie when it comes to fountain pens, (started early 2019). I not so much a collector, I like think myself as a pragmatist. Which is funny and antithesis to a fountain pen user. You would think I would just pick up any writing implement necessary for the deed. But there is something special about writing with a good pen, a fountain pen… something you don’t realize until you become aware of the feed back from a pen especially if you do a lot of writing. Most people don’t know why I use fountain pens and it is hard to explain to them because they just don’t get it, but the ones that do, fall into the rabbit hole.

 

The Pelikan M805 Blue  Stripe puts me in a good spot. I love the writing experience with this pen, the way it glides across the page. The aesthetics initially attracted me to this pen but the cost gave me pause but I finally gave in and have no regrets.

 

Pelikans may not be everyones “favourite” pen but it is mine.

 

 



#15 Mercian

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Posted 10 March 2020 - 22:29

Well, I have owned an M205 for several years, and I have found that pen to be a well-made and extremely reliable implement.

But last week I spent an enormous (for me) amount of money on buying my first 800-series Souverän - an M805 with a ‘Fine’ nib.
Obviously, I am still very much only in the ‘honeymoon’ phase of ownership of it, but I have to say that the feel-in-hand of my 805 is an order of magnitude more luxurious than that of my M205.

 

I find its extra heft and girth to be very pleasing, and I (like one other person whose review I have seen) even get a little of frisson of joy from the hollow little sound that the cap makes whenever I take it off the pen or put it back on.

 

I have loaded my M805 with Pelikan Edelstein ink (Olivine), and I find the sensation that I feel as its smooth gold nib glides across the page on its little blob of ink (which stretches out as one makes one’s letterforms on the page), effortlessly supplied by that large feed, to be a haptic joy.

 

Perhaps the best thing that I can say about my pen concerns its construction.
To me, my M805 feels extremely well-built, and perhaps even ‘over-engineered’. It feels to me as though it will certainly last for longer than the rest of my life. In that respect - quality of construction/perceived reliability - it puts me in mind of my 1954 aerometric-fill Parker “51”. I cannot think of a higher compliment that anyone could pay to a modern pen.

 

In ‘utilitarian’ terms, it has a large ink capacity, an ink window, and its nib unit can be simply unscrewed from its body and exchanged for one of a different width. This also makes it very easy to clean the pen out, or to re-lubricate its piston (whose action is, I have to say, remarkably smooth).

Several different widths of nib are still available today, and more options used to be available.

Some people find that the current nibs lack ‘spring’ or ‘flex’, but Pelikan has kept the same specifications for its nib-units’ screw threads, so one of the more-flexible M800 nibs from the early- and mid-1990s can still be fitted to the current-production pens (if you can find anybody who will sell you one of their earlier nibs!).
 

Subjectively, I like the pen’s shape and I have managed to get one in a colour scheme that accords strongly with my own æsthetic preferences, so that too gives me pleasure.

OK, so my pen isn’t as pretty as the 2013 M800 in ‘Brown Tortoiseshell’, but then what is? And at least I didn’t have to pay more than £1500 for my pen :D

That said, if I ever win a huge sum on the National Lottery, one of my first purchases will be a ‘Brown Tortoise’.

 

Does anybody need to spend this much money on one pen? Probably not. Æsthetically, you might prefer the appearance of other pens to that of an 800-series Souverän.
But, if you can afford to buy one, I doubt that you will find any pen that is better made, or more practical.

Worryingly, I can see myself wanting to acquire several more of them in the future!

 

 


Foul in clear conditions, but handsome in the fog.

 

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#16 cgreenberg19

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 15:39

Amazingly, I've been able to resist the urge to buy every M800 that comes my way with only two in possession.



#17 Old Salt

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 16:05

Thoughts about the M-800

  • Pelikan has over done it pumping out all these special editions.
  •  Nibs are good, but not what they use to be.  The same is true of Montblanc nibs.
  • There is a reason the M-800 is called the writer’s pen.  Regardless of whether it’s the latest color, or special edition, the pen is a workhorse.  Dependable, durable, good in the hand, and easy to  maintain.


#18 TheDutchGuy

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 16:45

 

  • ...the pen is a workhorse. Dependable, durable, good in the hand, and easy to maintain.

 

Very true! And I’m not even a Pelikan fan.


Edited by TheDutchGuy, 18 March 2020 - 16:46.


#19 gerigo

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 17:04

A counterpoint perhaps?

 

I have been a collector for close to 8 years now and have amassed quite a number of pens. I have my go to always inked favorites like my Sailor KOPs, Montblanc Bespoke 149s and Visconti Pininfarina (Don’t ask). It might seem like I am the worst sort of snob, but  I also love my preppies, petites and also my Pilot 78s.

I know what I look for in a fountain pen is a mixture of design, appearance and performance. If the pen is only beautiful, it means nothing to me. That’s why while I can occasionally afford one of the cheaper maki-e pens, pen that are simply art aren’t as attractive to me.

I have purchased pens and have had them sit for quite a few years unused before I either get to them again or my skills has caught up enough to be excited about them again. Example: I have a Monteverde Regatta Sport I purchased very early on that I am reigniting a love this very week  for  because the recent change to JOWO nibs. These replacement nibs have brought a second life to otherwise a mediocre pen. A quick nib switch and suddenly it’s become an amazing pen. Quirky looks with a nice stainless steel nib.

The only brand I seem to not be able to ignite ANY passion is Pelikan. It was one of the brands I purchased early one, really buying it because others espoused its qualities and also at that time, Pelikan still had nibs like IB and BBB nibs to be had. I have over 25 of them but I just can’t connect with them. Cerebrally these should be the type of pens I love. Just a couple nights ago, I took out an M805 Stesemann and switched it with a broad nib to see whether I will be suitably moved. Wow, not only was the broad nib bad, (it did not write… AT ALL), the design does nothing for me. Maybe it was just that the broad nib simply will not write that has turned my opinion of the pen.

I have often contemplating selling all of them, but I know I have this curious behavior of needing time to appreciate some pens. What would you do if you were in my shoes?



#20 Bobby Check

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Posted 18 March 2020 - 17:10

Ah...Pelikan pens.
 
I agree. These are great pens.
 
I own more Pelikan fountain pens than I am comfortable mentioning. I too am a lawyer and consistently write notes with a fountain pen.
 
The M800 is a consistent work horse. My favorite is the M800 tortoiseshell with a median nib that I had custom stubbed. Of course I have three others with different finishes.
 
I also love the softness of my M1000 with a fine nib.
 
I have found that these pens are consistently excellent, with wonderful quality control.
 
Bobby

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