30 September 2010

Number 5

In the West, Swan is known as the brand created by Mabie, Todd and the Bard Brothers in 1884. But in Japan, Swan was a company created by Nobuo Itô in 1906. By 1912, this company had a number of pens in its catalog resembling those of Swan in Britain. Lawsuits followed in Japan, but Nobuo Itô got his way and Swan Japan became one of the leading pen companies in its country. In 1918, Itô’s Swan had 60% of the market share in Japan. It died, in actual terms, with the Second World War when its factories were destroyed, although some unsuccessful attempts to resurrect it took place in the 1980s.

The Swan Number 5.

This pen is an ebonite eyedropper, possibly from the 1910s. As was common in most Japanese eyedroppers, a safety valve was implemented “to avoid ink stains in their valuable kimono…” This valve sealed the connection between ink deposit and section.

The safety valve in this pen.

Cap, section, and barrel.

The barrel is nicely engraved with the company logo –blatantly similar to the Mabie-Todd Swan’s— and the inscription “THE ‘SWAN’ FOUNTAIN PEN MADE IN JAPAN A NO. 5”.

The barrel with the inscription.

A sticker adds the information that the nib is iridium tipped. The nib itself is engraved with a “WARRANTED” and, as shown in the picture something like “SWANFENKI4” whose meaning escapes me. It is possibly made of steel and is quite springy. An overfeed guarantees the correct supply of ink.

The nib with the overfeed.

The cap is very interesting, and makes this pen very Japanese. Its top end has a small sliding cap that hides a soft white stone in which to carve the personal seal (hanko, 判子). We should remember that East Asian countries do not rely on the signature but on personal seals to stamp your agreement or understanding in a document.

The white stone to carve the seal in.

From left to right, a cheap seal called mitome (認印) for informal occasions, the receipt of registration of the formal seal before the city hall, and my personal hanko, on the right.

This pen might have been a very convenient instrument in its time: after writing any text, the author could also sign it with his personal seal. He only needed the inkpad.

To ink… or not to ink?

After all I said some days ago, I have no option other thank inking this pen. “Por la boca muere el pez”, as we all know.

(Sailor Profit 14, burgundy color – Noodler’s Old Dutch Sepia)

Bruno Taut
Inagi, September 30, 2010
[labels: Swan Japan, Japón]


anele said...

Hoy en la comida me han hablado de esta nueva adquisición tuya. Tenía curiosidad por ver su aspecto y debo decir que es una pluma preciosa. Un bonito capricho.
Sólo por llevarte la contraria ... te diré "not to ink", ja, jaaaa.

Leigh said...

I'm glad you inked it. Now where is the writing sample? With that overfeed, and knowing it's a Swan, that must be a very flexible happy nib. :)

Bruno Taut said...

Not yet inked, Leigh--there are some others in line... But sure I will publish some samples even with my awful hand!

Anele, I think I will not follow your advice...

Thanks for commenting!


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