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.