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Vintage Italian Pens
Some lesser known Italian pens from the 1930's and 1940's
by Dario Giorgi in Rome

INTRODUCTION

It is an accepted fact that the "fountain pen" originated in the U.S.A. Since the early years of the last century, there were many different American pen companies producing very lovely and solid pens. Both the American design and the American ink filling techniques were always innovative. These had a leading role for companies of different countries, particularly in Europe.

In Italy, during the late 30s, at the onset of the Second World War, the American patents were not always respected, either by the Italian Government or by Italian companies. It's for this reason that, during this period, some minor Italian pen companies 'borrowed' the American technical innovation in order to produce very lovely and well made pens.

I would like to take the opportunity to show you here some pictures and give some information concerning these minor companies.

THE PEN.CO MANUFACTURERS

On the basis of my knowledge, Pen. Co was based in Vicenza and was founded by Rossi brothers. Although it was an Italian company, the founders chose an "American" name to be engraved on their pens. It was probably in order to give major importance to their products. One of the most famous Pen.co's pen was a model which was named "53" (below).

Pen Co "53"

The Pen Co "53"

Particularly, the Pen.Co's pen shown above is 5,1 inches long. It appears to be clear that the Pen.co borrowed both the Sheaffer's touch-down ink filling system and the Sheaffer's triumph nib (right).The Sheaffer like nib of the Pen Co "53" It was for this reason that Sheaffer asked the Italian tribunal to sue the Pen.Co. The tribunal found in favour of Sheaffer and Pen.Co ceased the production of this model. The penalty was very high and it for both this financial reason and the arrival of the "ball-point" pen that the Pen.co ceased to exist. When I am writing with my Pen.Co 53, I feel I am using a lighter version of Sheaffer's touch-down pen. This is an useful characteristic expecially when I must work all-day with my pen. Another difference with respect to Sheaffer models is that the nib of my Pen Co appears to be fairly flexible.

THE SARATOGA PEN COMPANY

As far as I know, the Saratoga pen company was based in Milan and was founded by Mr. Mario Webber. It is noted that Mr. Webber imported Parker pens to Italy for many years.I read that Webber produced vacumatic ink filling pens which had two-tone arrow nibs. The illustration on the left shows the Saratoga's "arrow" nib. It is clear that Saratoga co. 'borrowed' the Parker's "arrow" nib. Nevertheless, it is not a "two-tone" nib.

The Saratoga Nib

THE TIBALDI

This famous Italian pen company was founded in 1916 and it was based in Florence. During the 30s, Tibaldi produced very well made pens. One of the most important models produced by Tibaldi was the "transparent" model (below).

This pen was made of wonderful transparent celluloid. The barrel can show a helical transparency. In particular, the Tibaldi's pen shown above is about 5.1 inches long. At the onset of World War II, Tibaldi borrowed the Parker Vacumatic ink filling system, with some modification. In order to fill it with ink it was first of all necessary to unscrew the plunger at the end of the barrel and then depress the plunger several times (below).

The diaphragm size is the same of Parker 51 vacumatic. In order to remove the filler unit it's necessary to unscrew the small celluloid's cap posted at the end of the plunger. After removing this small cap, it's possible to observe a small screw. This screw represents the key to remove the Tibaldi's filler unit.

VINTAGE ITALIAN PENS AND THE "HOODED NIB"

In 1941 Parker introduced the "51". It is generally accepted that Parker "51" is one of the best pens ever produced. In particular, the hooded nib allows the pen to use faster dryng ink. In Italy, during the 40's, there existed some pen companies which borrowed the "hooded nib". The illustration below shows two lovely celluloid pens.

Blue striated Montegrappa (top) and Astura lever-filler.

The first is a blue striated, button-filler, Montegrappa. The second is a lever-filler Astura which was a company based in Turin. The hooded nib was also borrowed by other important pen companies, such as Tabo which was based in Bologna.

CONCLUSION

I hope you have found the information about these minor Italian companies useful and the pictures interesting . Although many of these Italian pens were inspired by American pen design, in my opinion some of them seem to be very well made pens in their own right.  

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