22 January 2018

La Visconti Giapponese

Sometimes reading the pen is truly helpful. Well, mostly always.

At the past Madrid Pen Show I saw the pen on the photograph.


A Visconti. A Visconti?

On it, the signs on the box and on the clip did not really match with the pen itself. The logo of Visconti and the plain inscription on the clip contrasted with the basic structure of the pen—a Japanese eyedropper coated with red urushi. The nib, or rather its engraving, provided the final clue—it was signed by GK, Kabutogi Ginjiro, and the pen is, most likely, a Ban-ei made by Sakai Eisuke (lathe work), Kabutogi Ginjiro (nib), Tsuchida Shuichi (assembly), and Takahashi Kichitaro (urushi coating).


A Ban-ei pen with "nashiji" decoration. Nib signed by Kabutogi Ginjiro.

The additional literature included in the box describes, in Italian, the virtues of the “lacca giapponese” (urushi, of course) and speaks of its long history. It also includes instructions on how to fill and use the pen. Finally, it declares that the pen was part of a limited edition of 100 pens per year, but it does not disclose for how long. This particular unit was made in 1990 as it is numbered as 007/90... out of 100 pens made.


So, what was Visconti doing at that time? How come this very Japanese pen showed up under an Italian brand?

Visconti started its operation in 1988 and immediately contacted the Japanese lathe master Kato Kiyoshi, with whom Visconti would later collaborate in the fabrication of some models, including some versions of the Ragtime. And it is also at this time that Visconti contacted Sakai Eisuke and his team.

Apparently, there was at least two series of pens made by the Ban-ei group for the Italian brand. The first one, to which the pen shown today belongs, had a golden ring on the cap. As was mentioned before, Visconti released 100 units per year and there are records of at least two batches: 1990 and 1991. About the colors, some sources say that there were pens in ro-iro (black) urushi, but I am only aware of pens made in shu-urushi (red) as the one here shown. The clip inscriptions are either "VISCONTI" or "URUSHI".


The GK-signed nib of the Visconti Ban-ei. Note also the inscription on the clip: "VISCONTI".

A second series of Ban-ei pens were produced at a later date—1993 or 1995. On this occasion, the pens carried no rings and came in three colors: black (100 units), red (100 units), and green (50 units). The units I have seen have their clips engraved with the word "URUSHI", but there might be other other texts on them.

Some people speak of a third batch of pens previous to the first series here described. They could have been prototypes and test products later marketed by Visconti.

These are the dimensions of the pen I found at the Madrid Pen Show (2017) that belongs to the first series, and was made in 1990:

Length closed: 145 mm
Length open: 126.5 mm
Length posted: 176 mm
Diameter: 16.5 mm
Weight (dry): 25.3 g
Ink deposit: 3.3 ml


The cap ring carries the unit number of the series over the production year. This particular unit is the 007.90: number 7 (out of 100) made in 1990.

It is interesting to note that these Japanese Viscontis seem to predate those Danitrio-commissioned (::1::, ::2::) that are much better known. However, these Visconti pens remained essentially anonymous, as was customary on Ban-ei pens, and the Italian brand did not even declare where they had been made.


Of course!—we all know by now that GK was a magnificent Italian nibmeister… But reading the pen helps to know what you had on your hands beyond what labels and inscriptions might say.


Platinum 70th anniversary, green celluloid – Sailor Yama-dori

Bruno Taut
Nakano, January 17th 2018
labels: Ban-ei, Visconti, Danitrio, Italia, Japón, nibmeister Kabutogi Ginjiro, maki-e

4 comments:

Jyrki Muona said...

There is indeed at least a third series. I have a pen like yours, marked 82/91 with URUSHI on the clip. The package is an even black Visconti square box with deep rad interior. A rolled sheet of paper is included with some information - not naming any pf the real producers of the pen. Both the package and the paper roll remind me of another Visconti pen I have, Ponte Vecchio.



Bruno Taut said...

Jyrki Muona, thanks for passing by and commenting.

I think your pen is just like mine, and you just reminded me of the alternative inscription on the clip--either Visconti or Urushi. I also think yours is no. 82 of the 100 units made in year 1991. Just my guess, anyway.

Thanks for passing by. Cheers,

BT

Anonymous said...

Hello,
Thank you for your great description, which is helpful for me. I bought the same fountain pen today, marked with 70/91 and Urushi on the clip. The package is also black with an red interior and a rolled sheet of paper. Now I have no idea how to fill this wonderful fountain pen. Could you give me an advice, please?

Kind regards
Susan

Bruno Taut said...

Susan,

Thanks for passing by and commenting.

The pen is just an eyedropper. So, to ink it you need to unscrew the section from the barrel and fill this with the help of a syringe or the like. To use the pen, you need to open the valve manned from the tail. Just a a couple of turns will suffice.

The weak point of these pens is the back seal. Keeping the deposit filled with water when the pen is not in use would help to keep in good conditions.

Check this, please: https://estilofilos.blogspot.jp/2012/04/shut-off-valve.html

Cheers,

BT

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