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Montblanc Lorenzo de Medici LE


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57 replies to this topic

#1 RedRob

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 04:44

I vividly remember when as a teenager I first saw pictures of the Montblanc Medici and Christie fountain pens. I was smitten and impressed. They have sowed the seeds of a fountain pen collection hobby that bloomed a decade later. One of the reasons I attended my first pen show in DC 2006 was hoping to see this Medici FP. With a price tag between 6-8k at the time, I had no intention of purchasing one, I just wanted to meet my idol in person. Well, nobody seemed to have a Medici at that show (what a disappointment) and I came back with two pens, one of which was a Montblanc (MB) Marcel Proust, considered the poor man’s Medici. I will put that assumption to test.

This review is based on my Montblanc Medici, which I have acquired through eBay at a very reasonable price for a good reason: it was far from collector grade and has required multiple restorations, by Ron Zorn, Richard Binder and John Mottishaw. (that is after Montblanc GmBH refused to restore the pen, letter on file)

This fountain pen was dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici, a Florentine despot and a major patron of the arts of the Renaissance. Wikipedia article.
There’s no question he deserved that in 1991 the first pen in the Patrons of the Arts (POA) series be named after him. At the 2006 DC Show I have spoken to Jonathan Steinberg who apparently once met with some of Montblanc’s top managers and used during that meeting a vintage MB from the twenties with a silver overlay. He not only made those managers aware of the treasure trove lying in the history of their company, but suggested to manufacture pens inspired by these vintage designs. One or two years later the Medici was released, then the Hemingway and the rest is history.

The Medici is a 146 based silver overlay pen. The plastic cap and barrel are covered by two eight faceted .925 sterling silver tubes, which leave cap top, section, ink window and piston knob exposed. These tubes are thin, which makes the Medici feel much lighter than a comparably overlayed Charlemagne and only marginally heavier than the Proust which uses only one overlay tube. Being light makes the Medici a pleasant writer, although when posting the cap it is not as well balanced as the Proust. It is still pleasant to write with a posted Medici, whereas the Charlemagne or Semiramis are too top heavy when posted to write more than a few lines.



The overlay tubes on the Medici are engraved by hand and the silversmith’s signature are etched on the barrel, not far from the piston knob. My pen bears the initials HP. For those of you who have a Medici, it would be interesting if as a reply to this topic you could share your silversmith’s initials. I wonder how many silversmiths have worked on this project and I deplore the fact that Montblanc has not used such handwork on other pens from the POA and Writers Edition (WE) series, relying instead 100% on automation. According to Montblanc the handwork makes every Medici FP unique as no two pens are engraved identically. I wonder if Rick Propas finds any noticeable difference in the engraving between his two Medicis.



The eight facets of the barrel alternate between a machined barley pattern and a hand engraved floral kind of weaving pattern. On the cap, a blank silver panel destined for engraving the owner’s name and including the assay marks and the LE number replaces some 80% of the weaving on one of the facets. Moreover, the clip is riveted by two bolts on another weaving facet of the cap which also has the brand engraving of Montblanc Germany. This is regrettable as two out of four weaving facets are thus sacrificed on the cap. It is the weaving facets that give the Medici its personality and they look nicer than the barley pattern ones. A beautiful feature of this pen however is the smooth transition from cap to barrel. Not only does the cap lip sit flush against the barrel, the facets align properly thanks to the four gated threads and best of all, the weaving pattern transitions seamlessly from cap to barrel in one continuous motion. Moreover this weaving pattern is not interrupted by cap rings. I do have a weak spot for pens with proper aligning patterns and the seamless transition in the Medici makes it that more spectacular.





When comparing the Medici to the Proust, the engravings on the former are shallower and there is less engraved surface. The Medici overlay thus lacks in contrast and depth when standing next to the Proust. It has however a more refined, subtle and feminine pattern than the Proust. To each his own, but I end up preferring the Proust’s.




I have always wondered which vintage MB has been the actual inspiration for the Medici. Pens 5 and 7 on page 259 of Andreas Lambrou’s book FPOTW looked close enough and recently I came across an eBay auction for a #4 MB safety filler with silver overlay which has been a revelation. I have taken the liberty to post some of the pictures from this ended auction here and I hope the seller will not mind. This pen from the 20s is the closest I have found to the Medici. Besides being smaller and having a safety filling device instead of a piston with ink window, the vintage MB overlay has all eight facets engraved with a barley pattern. There’s no weaving pattern. The Medici by comparison is a more refined and contrasted pen. Going from vintage to Medici to Proust, I feel one climbs a step at every stage.






The nib of the Medici is a 146 nib with a heart shaped hole instead of the regular round hole and with a reversal of the plating pattern, the palladium plating covering the edges of the nib instead of the center piece. There’s no particular engraving on the nib yet as this appeared on the second installments of both the POA and WE series. Restoring my nib required removing the outer palladium plating so that the nib is now entirely yellow gold colored. I was initially going to send the nib to Daniel Kircheimer for replating, but have since changed my mind since it looks more like the vintage ones. Writing with a Medici nib is one of the most boring experiences in Montblancdom. There is a certain level of tooth in the tipping material, even after expert restoration, which combined with stiffness creates a somewhat irritating noise when writing. My nib has eventually undergone re-tipping into a 0.5mm smooth stub by John Mottishaw and it is now one of my most pleasant and practical writers. Rick Propas has apparently replaced the boring Medici nib with a Pelikan M800 nib in order to turn it into a user. I certainly understand him.




The MB star on the top of the cap is white, plain white like on regular MBs and not off-white like on the other limited editions and vintage pens. Unless I am mistaken, the plastic that MB has used on the piston turning knob and on the cap top is not their regular precious resin. It lacks the burgundy colored translucency, the shine of fiber glass and has a more matte surface and softer consistency. It does look cheaper, yes, but I expect it to be less brittle as well. I would not worry if the pen fell on the floor. Just like on the vintage models, both turning knob and cap top have longitudinal grooves reflecting from one end of the pen to the other and adding unity to the ensemble.




The overall design of the Medici looks better in pictures than in real life. The large shallowly engraved, poorly contrasted metal surfaces give the pen a certain look of tin! The pen reminds me more of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz than it does of Lorenzo de Medici. When one stops and pays attention to the subtleness of the weaving engraving, a certain refinement does exude from the pen and along with it the spirit of the Renaissance, but it is altogether too muted. There is also an obvious disproportion between silver surfaces and black surfaces. The black ends are too small and seem entirely disconnected by the silver in between. The Proust by comparison is a wonder of proportion and cadence between black and silver (if only they could have avoided those threads next to the knob). The Proust also has a subtle flare up near the top of the cap which makes the Medici look unimaginatively parallel.



In conclusion, I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by my long awaited meeting with the Medici. Design wise, it felt like a step down coming from the Proust. The Medici is nonetheless a nice hand-engraved silver overlay pen, the alignment of the facets is well done and the smooth transition from cap to barrel is unique for a pen lacking the usual huge step between barrel and section (can you say Humboldt?). The weight and balance are also quite rare for a pen using silver overlays on both cap and barrel. You will have to put up with a boring writing nib and a price tag ridiculously inflated by the fact this is the first pen in a series from the most successful company in the business.

PS I hope I didn't sound too critical.

Edited by RedRob, 05 December 2008 - 04:52.


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#2 sumgaikid

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 04:58

Great review and honest to boot! I have to confess that while I like the looks of the Medici(just like I
like the looks of the e-bay safety filler),I'm definitely NOT a fan of the price.

BTW,is the Medici a C/C or a piston-filler?

John
Irony is not lost on INFJ's--in fact,they revel in it.

#3 RedRob

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 05:03

QUOTE (sumgaikid @ Dec 4 2008, 11:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Great review and honest to boot! I have to confess that while I like the looks of the Medici(just like I
like the looks of the e-bay safety filler),I'm definitely NOT a fan of the price.

BTW,is the Medici a C/C or a piston-filler?

John


The Medici is based on the 146 and uses the same piston mechanism as the contemporary 146, the same section, the same ink window, the same feed and (almost) the same nib.

Here's a picture from fountainpen.de



Robert

Edited by RedRob, 05 December 2008 - 05:06.


#4 HDoug

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 05:56

Thanks for the detailed and beautifully photographed review. I'm not a gigantic MB fan but I lingered over this post for quite a while. The comparison with the Proust is particularly interesting.

Doug

#5 Brian

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 08:28

A great review. No, a fantastic review full of exploration into the details of this somewhat elusive MB. And no, I don't think you are being critical. After all, a big part of the joy of owning these tiny treasures is in knowning about them; how they balance and feel in the hand, the aesthetics and little details that make them a joy; and how well the line they put down inspires you. And considering all this takes some effort and thoughtfulness that comes out in this review.

FWIW, here's something critical to say about the Proust: I find it tedious to use. While I love the aesthetics I do not like the cap threading as it takes way too many turns. The treads on the end of barrel for posting also adds to the unnecessary ceremony of preparing to write... smile.gif

Edited by Brian, 05 December 2008 - 08:36.


#6 QM2

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 08:53

These are the most informative photos of the Medici I have ever seen. Thank you so much, and especially for the comparison with the Proust and with the vintage MB. Beautiful, beautiful pens!

I was also delighted to see that I am not the only one to modify "high-end" pens to italics and to refer to them as "practical writers". After the complex sequence of operations your nib went through, the .5mm stub sounds perfect.

Your commentary offers great insight into the world of MB acquisitions for those who actually use the pens.
Coolest review I have read in a long time.

QM2

#7 goodguy

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Posted 05 December 2008 - 12:17

Thank you Robert for yet another wonderful review.
We dont always see eye to eye in our approach to pens (like the Nobile) but I must tell you from my very limited knolage of the Medici I agree whole heartly with every word you wrote.
I never truly understood why people go gaga over this pen.It is a wonderful pen but a bit overly popular in my eyes.
I love much more the Proust and if value wouldnt be a factor I would choose the Proust everyday over the Medici.
Now all I must do is find the money to get a Proust hmm1.gif .

Thanks thumbup.gif

Edited by goodguy, 05 December 2008 - 12:18.

Respect to all

#8 RedRob

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 01:53

Thank you all for the overwhelmingly nice comments on this review. They make me want to take the time and write more reviews.

I have to agree with Brian that the 2.5 turns requires to open the cap and the 2.5 turns required to post it on the Proust are time consuming and can be irritating when using the pen at work. Another pen I have which requires as much ceremony before writing is the Aurora Nobile with its safety filling system and its small knob. I can also imagine eyedropper fillers where one has to open the valve to be as tedious. The Medici requires only 1.5 turns to uncap and having four gates in the threads and 8 facets, the latter will align no matter which gate is engaged (I wish Omases were like that).

QM2, I'm with you on using all pens as everyday writers, even the expensive ones. An uninked pen is a sad thing, not unlike an unplayed musical instrument. It may well be beautiful, but its true value comes from its use. The 0.5mm stub is not only characterful, it is also convenient for everyday writing at work, for notebook entries, for quick notes, for cards... pretty much for everything except side notes.

Goodguy, if my review has spared you the search for a Medici, then I am glad. I can understand someone would buy a Medici to complete his collection of the POA series (say Darius), but I feel there are more worthy pens among the POA than the Medici. I for one prefer the Charlemagne among the POA and the Proust among the WEs, and would recommed looking for those before a Medici.

Robert

Edited by RedRob, 06 December 2008 - 01:55.


#9 Titivillus

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 02:11

QUOTE (RedRob @ Dec 5 2008, 08:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
...An uninked pen is a sad thing, not unlike an unplayed musical instrument. It may well be beautiful, but its true value comes from its use....


Can I use that as my signature, you have summed up my entire focus of buying pens in a few words!

Kurt


#10 QM2

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 11:11

QUOTE (RedRob @ Dec 5 2008, 05:44 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
it was far from collector grade and has required multiple restorations, by Ron Zorn, Richard Binder and John Mottishaw. (that is after Montblanc GmBH refused to restore the pen, letter on file)


I forgot to ask you this: Why did MB refuse to restore it? This surprised me, as it is not a vintage pen and I had thought that they were pretty willing to restore their pens for a fee. Furthermore, what did they suggest you do with the pen, since they do not recognise independent restorers?

Just to be clear, I am not trying to bait you to criticise the company; I am genuinely curious and find your experience relevant to my own collector's path. In the unlikely scenario that I ever have a chance to get this pen, it would be in the same condition as you found yours in. So knowing the company's views on such pens would be useful.

#11 georges zaslavsky

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 15:47

quite a nice pen and interesting story
Pens are like watches , once you start a collection, you can hardly go back. And pens like all fine luxury items do improve with time

#12 errantmarginalia

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 16:14

Bonjour, Robert, and thanks for the review. That Proust is really the only MB I like. For some reason, I particularly love the Proust mechanical pencil. Thanks again,
David

#13 omasfan

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 17:56

Very insightful review, Robert. You have quite an exquisite collection. I agree with you and previous posters, that the Proust is just so much more elegant and successful with respect to its design and appearance.

#14 RedRob

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 17:58

Kurt, be my guest.

David, I have to agree that the Proust MP is one of the nicest designs in pendom, modern or vintage. The Proust set is well worth its price.

QM2, here's the letter from MB, and for your information, there were no traces of glue on the pen. The pen was merely damaged beyond MBs willingness to work on it. When this happens, they invent a reason to void the warranty. What is also interesting in this letter is that they apparently no longer have spare Medici nibs in stock. MB has graciously replaced a Christie nib for me in 2006.



PS They got mixed up in naming the pen. This may well be a lapsus and as such a possible indication that a Da Vinci is on its way. Speculation.

Edited by RedRob, 06 December 2008 - 18:05.


#15 hari317

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 18:21

Thank you Redrob for introducing me to these works of art by Montblanc. A very balanced, honest and informative review with great pictures. Also I wish to thank you for sharing that regret letter from Montblanc. It speaks volumes...



In case you wish to write to me, pls use ONLY email by clicking here. I do not check PMs. Thank you.

#16 omasfan

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 20:22

Ok, no traces of glue on the pen, as you say. If that's true, then MB's customer service is really creative at finding arguments to reject your claim. Poor service to say the least. Yes, it speaks volumes... It is also a sign that the people behind MB are not dedicated pen lovers but a bunch of bureaucrats...

#17 troglokev

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Posted 06 December 2008 - 21:13

Leonardo de Medici? Now that speaks volumes.

#18 Michael R.

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 14:19

Many thanks for your review and comparison as well as the pictures; this is a rarely reviewed pen smile.gif


Let me try to summarize my thoughts about this pen – ignoring the fact that it is the first true LE edition pen from MB and not commenting on collectibillity and price/value.

The Medici never has been my favorite POA pen; I liked the Octavian much better looking at catalog pictures (today my first choice would have been the Carnagie). BUT this was only until I had the chance to handle a Medici in real life and buy it for a fair price several years ago.

Taking a closer look at this pen it now is the most unique LE edition pen to me MB ever produced.

The main reason is the hand hammered/engraved overlay which looks much more interesting and valuable to me compared to any or at least most modern LE pens.

I have to agree that the plastic used on the Medici does not look like the regular precious resin at all. It indeed looks more simple, maybe even cheaper but for sure it feels more durable. In combination with the solid sterling silver and the high quality construction the Medici is one of the “great for everyday use” LEs.

Did you also notice that the Sterling Silver looks much colder and grey (more like platinum) compared to the soft glowing, warm tones of the Sterling Silver used on the regular edition Solitaire pens?

Your comparison with the Proust is very interesting! I totally agree with the fact the the Proust is more impressive or eye catching but to me this is only true for the first impression.

While the Proust is - without a doubt – one of the most beautiful WE pens, to me it always looks like a look-alike, something new which quotes design-elements from the past...which is OK because many of the newer WE from Montblanc quote design elements from the past and look great (including the Proust). I see the Medici as a well made, modern time replica of the original MBs from the 1920’s as shown on the pictures of your review.

The Medici is much more quiet, much more subtle in appereance - different personal tastes will matter on this a lot – but comparing both side by side will rank the Medici much higher for me. The overall design seems to be less decorated compared to the Proust. The lack of any other metal rings or decorations proves that it is possible to make a beautiful pen without any fancy decorations which many expect from such expensive pens. I have to agree that the blank indicia on the cap is unnecessary; I’d prefer they would have just engraved it like the other facets as well.


My Medici came with what I think is a “fine” or “extra fine” nib. Initially it wrote on the dry side and a little bit rough wiht almost no flex – just like any other MB from that period of time with a fine nib. All it needed were some minor adjustments to the flow (nib tweaking) and smoothness of the nib; now it writes a nice stead fine line with constant ink flow. I kept the little roughness of the nib's tipping as I actually prefer some feedback over glass-smooth nibs.

My experience with the writing quality of LE MB pens is that one should not expect more or less than you would expect from any regular edition MB – some will fit your likings right out of the box and some will need adjustment as the LE pens share the same nib and feed constructions (only changing the design of the imprint).

Thank you a lot for your comment on the engraved initials on the pen. I’ve seen HP most of the time just like on your pen. The pen pictured in MB catalogs looks more like arabic lettering rather than readable initials. Mine shows the initials Bo which look rather crude and a little bit out of place compared to the quality of the engraved pattern. First I thought that the previous owner scratched those (or had those being engraved semi-professional) into the overlay by himself before I learned about the individual lettering of each silver smith smile.gif

I’ve asked this question from time to time on pen shows and forums but never got any useful answers so I’m still stuck with the three possibilities mentioned above. I‘ve once heard the rumor that there are 9 or 10 different engravings which have been mentioned in a document which was given to the dealers when the pen was released 1992. I have never seen this document!

I will try to post a couple of pictures of this pen so we can compare engravings as well as the images from the original catalog.


Let me end with a conclusion which is exactly the opposite of yours blush.gif ; this is what makes your honest review so interesting – I enjoyed your criitical thoughts about this pen – it’s a matter of personal taste.

Because of the pen being less decorated and striking compared to most modern LE pens, you have to see (and feel) the Medici in real life to enjoy its true character. I think it looks better in in in real life than on pictures thumbup.gif .

I hope your Medici still will get used (and enjoyed) as a daily writer!


Cheers

Michael (I will keep you updated on the engravings)


PS: The reaction of Montblanc not wanting to touch your pen is strange. Did you need any other restorations besides nib works?

PSPS: I have do not problem with nib modifications on expensive LE pens either; I even reground some of them by myself smile.gif


#19 RedRob

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Posted 07 December 2008 - 17:49

Michael, first of all thank you for your comments and for sharing your point of view. I feel you have added considerable value to the Medici review by completing it from another angle. You were right that my starting this review was a matter of personal taste.

I have to agree with you that indeed, the engravings on the Medici are more subtle and more refined than on the Proust (it is not unlike comparing French to German Roccocco). There is also something to be said about the simplicity of the Medici and above all, one of its nicest features, which is the uninterrupted pattern in cap and barrel. I have undervalued simplicity by finding that the Medici engraving lacked in depth and the overall design lacked in contrast compared to the Proust. I can understand that the Proust may be felt too rich and cluttered compared to the Medici.

I do think however that the Proust suffers injustly from being released after the Medici and in larger numbers. I wonder how they would compare if they were released simultaneously (one as POA and the other as WE, say the opposite).

You are right that the handwork makes the Medici unique among the other POA and WE pens. I also notice that your nib wasn't, let's say, satisfying from the start and that it required tweaking.

Thanks for shedding some light on the silversmiths who worked on the Medici project. I was wondering if based on the pictures of my pen you could notice any difference between HP's and Bo's engraving style. One day, during a pen show, we'll have to get these two pens together to compare engravings.

I have to agree that the Octavian is a beautiful pen, however I have yet to see one in pictures or in person where the overlays align from cap to barrel. I would have to say that my favorite POA is the Charlemagne.

Lastly, I have to say that I have enjoyed the Medici only for a couple of months so far. I may thus still be in that "first impression" stage where the Proust is more impressive or eye catching than the Medici. Who knows how I will feel about them one year from now. Meanwhile you can rest assured that after the Binder overhaul and the Mottishaw retipping of the nib, I have every reason to use this pen as a daily writer.

Regards,

Robert

PS There were no traces of glue on the barrel. I had asked MB to change the damaged nib, the scratched ink window and the abused plastic ends of the pen. The glue was in my eyes a sorry excuse. Mind you that MB has offered my uncle and me excellent service on nib exchange, shattered cap replacement and piston lubrication with countless other LEs. After the Medici experience I still feel they are providing good customer service, but there is only so much you can ask in terms of complexity.

Edited by RedRob, 08 December 2008 - 01:17.


#20 Michael R.

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Posted 09 December 2008 - 17:23

QUOTE (RedRob @ Dec 7 2008, 10:49 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Thanks for shedding some light on the silversmiths who worked on the Medici project. I was wondering if based on the pictures of my pen you could notice any difference between HP's and Bo's engraving style. One day, during a pen show, we'll have to get these two pens together to compare engravings.

Regards,

Robert


Dear Robert,

Many thanks for your reply.

Here are some quick images:







...more later

Michael






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