Our newest pen in the shop: the Pelikan M400 Brown Tortoiseshell.
We’ve been thinking about carrying Pelikan in the shop for a long time – their beautiful inks in the Edelstein line and their 4001 series, but mainly about their pens.
Pelikan is a pen and ink manufacturer most well known for their line of piston-filler pens that begin with M and end with a hundred, like M200, M400, etc. They range in size (typically the larger the number, the larger the pen: the M1000 is the largest pen and it’s a big one), and colours in the barrels + caps.
Pelikan has a standard black pen with a green ink window, and a few other colours in their regular line, but they also release some special editions every once in a while – they’ve had beautiful pink or blue or aquamarine finishes.
I’ve been a Pelikan user and fan myself for a while, but it’s always a bit more complicated to bring a new line into the shop, and so it’s always just been something to dream about.
If you didn’t know this about me, I have a thing for brown pens and brown inks – earthy and warm and has a bit of a vintage sense to it. Many of my favourite pens are either brown or clear, and quite a few of my favourite inks are in the brown family, although I will take blue-greys + warm greens as well.
Many years ago, Pelikan released a Brown Tortoiseshell, and I’ve been dreaming of finding a vintage Pelikan Brown Tortoiseshell in the wild for about as long as I’ve been interested in fountain pens. I occasionally haunted eBay and had it on my list for Scriptus for the last two years, but never had the right timing to get one.
A few months ago, though, when Pelikan announced they were re-releasing the Brown Tortoiseshell in the M400, Jon and I had a serious meeting, over dinner, and likely with some peas flying around, unattended.
If ever there was going to be a pen for us to bring in to introduce this line to our shop, it would be the Brown Tortoiseshell M400.
It is everything I dreamed it would be. For me, I think it epitomizes a timeless pen – one I could use for journaling and letter writing, taking notes or signing invoices. It’s elegant and subtle and classic.
The Pelikan M400 Brown Tortoiseshell is a piston-filler with a super smooth 14K gold nib and a stunning brown cellulose acetate finish – the strips of gold and brown and black are so rich and vibrant while still being understated enough to use in any situation.
The M400 is a lightweight pen, and it feels just right in the hand – you can post the cap on the back if you need to, but I write without it posted since I have smaller hands.
It has the classic Pelikan bird on its top finial, and the Pelikan clip as well. The screw-cap and piston knob are dark brown resin, and the trim is 24k gold plated.
Pelikan pens are best-known for their reliable and well-engineered piston mechanisms – this pen holds a ton of ink, and the mechanism itself is flawless: smooth and stable. Pelikans are pens that can hold up for a lifetime or more of writing, and I have no doubt that I will be using this pen for years and years to come.
I think the real selling point for me is the beauty of the body, the striations of gold and brown and black and orange. It is truly one of the most beautiful pens I own. The depth and shine and subtle lines of everything earthy and gold all mixed together are just too much for me to resist.
As you turn the pen, you can see the light reflecting in the lines, and because the barrel is just slightly translucent, if you hold it up to the light, you can see the piston mechanism and the ink inside.
The nib itself is stunning – it’s a two tone 14k, and it has the Pelikan logo along with its classic grooves along the nib. I am generally indifferent to nib creep, but I love the way ink looks in the grooves of this nib.
Of course no matter how gorgeous a pen is, it always comes down to writing performance. The pens I reach for the most are the ones that write the best.
Pelikan’s nibs are super smooth, and I basically have not stopped writing with mine since I got it. It hasn’t skipped yet, and does well even after a minute or two or more of being uncapped.
I like wet pens, the wetter the better, and Pelikans tend to write on the wet side, which also makes them just a bit broader. I got a fine for mine, which ends up being just right for me since I sometimes find it hard to choose between fine and medium. I do have a few broads, but I find the fine/medium line much more versatile in my day to day use. How boring! I know.
This is a writing sample of Diamine Ancient Copper from my Fine nib in a Stalogy notebook. (Above is actually Rohrer + Klingner Sepia, as I took these pictures at different times.)
This M400 Brown Tortoiseshell is stunning. I’ve had it for almost a week, and I have already designated it as my soulmate (along with Super and Jon): its piston-filling mechanism, its smooth + wet nib, its tortoiseshell finish – it’s a dream.
We have extra fine to broad – as we bring in more of the Pelikan line, we will also be bringing in spare nib units, but we don’t have those available right now. Because this pen is a special edition, I’m not sure if we’ll be able to order more – my understanding is that quantities released in Europe have already moved quickly, but this pen looks pretty great in our case while we have it.
These days have been fast and furious, it seems. Along with all the new stuff coming in – Hobonichi, the Lamy 50th Anniversary LX + Black Amber 2000, Pelikan… – we’re starting to feel the fall coming back to us, and Caleb’s classes have begun again.
The day we got our shipment of Pelikans was a bananas day in the shop (a Friday! good things come on Friday for us), so I only got a chance to break it out and ink it up after the shop closed, when we had dinner at the park. I literally had irrational thoughts of our distributor selling out or not receiving this special edition at all. That is how crazy I was over it. I guess crazy is the operative word in that sentence.
It sorts of sums up our days – thrown together dinners on a blanket at the park, new pens and boxes and bottles of ink jostling around in the wagon: family and notebooks and crackers and cheese and Birkenstocks under the sun.
As of right now, I’m typing this out over the pen counter in the shop after hours, night outside and half the lights on inside. Caleb is squatting on the floor, way past bedtime, naked except for his shoes, filling up the tins of single Palominos from the boxes, concentrating hard, one pencil at a time.
I sometimes laugh because I think he’s learning his colours by sorting the 602 and the pearl and the Blackwing Palominos into their various cans, and matching ink boxes onto their shelves by the colours on their boxes. Before we know it he’ll be counting out change from the till.