For quite a long time I have been a little uncertain about the “grail” pen thing. No doubt the concept is a valid one — what I am referring to is just how it might relate to my particular thinking on the subject, and perhaps what my grail pen might actually be. Further, given I have often struggled with that very question — whether I even have one at all.
Occasionally I think about the where I might start in search of such a pen, and it is usually when reading others thoughts on the topic. For example, the post published earlier this year by Dr Jonathon Deans at Pen Economics on this very topic, in which a fairly clear conclusion is reached about the author’s grail pen — a pen which subsequently has been added to said author’s collection. Another more recent post by Thomas R Hall on Penucopia, describes the amazing and lengthy process of coming up with the design of, and having manufactured, a custom designed grail pen from scratch.
If you have not done so, I would highly recommend reading both posts, which are quite different in nature, yet together in many ways encapsulate the concept of a grail pen, in that the technical and emotional aspects may carry equal weight — yet we all are no doubt influenced differently by each.
The notion of grail
In times gone by, when the question arose (podcasts, discussions, or blog posts) as to what my grail pen might be, truth be known I could never really come up with an answer.
The first possibility of course is that my journey of discovery in the pen world, though I’ve logged a few miles — has not gone far enough to uncover a suitable candidate. The more I think about the concept though, the more I lean towards a second possible scenario: in the truest sense of what a grail pen means to me — I already own it.
Although most have a good idea of what we are referring to in speaking of a “grail” pen, the online Oxford Dictionary offers two meanings for grail. The first, a reference to the cup or platter used by Christ at the last supper, and a second, more relevant one to the topic at hand:
A thing which is eagerly pursued or sought after
Simple — but accurate. It’s the pen we so very much want, the one that draws us towards it — the one calling our name. The pen we will go to great lengths in seeking out and acquiring — dare we call it a quest?
In considering the grail pen, I wonder what particular criteria need to be fulfilled for inclusion in this much sought after group. Clearly this will (and should) be different for everyone, and any list of check boxes relating simply to pen specific criteria, will likely not be enough — however for some it might.
There is something else. Some other significance, meaning, or purpose. Again you will find evidence of this in both the posts I’ve mentioned above.
Writing a post like this one can sometimes pose new questions of yourself, or perhaps expose some new realisations. In doing so, my thinking has been clarified somewhat on the notion of a grail pen, and what it represents most clearly to me.
Are there are any pens out there I’ve always wanted or dreamed of owning? One out there calling my name that I simply have to seek out, plan for, and buy? A pen I am constantly coming back to, over and over?
At the current time the answer to those questions is no, however there is one pen which repeatedly springs to mind in considering them.
I still vividly remember the feeling of how badly I needed to have this particular pen. Of repeatedly entering the pen shop and fawning over it in the display case, then going home to come up with a strategy to save and eventually make a purchase. Whether the pen was worth the price1 was never in question.
In some strange twist to all this, the only pen that has ever engendered these sorts of feelings in me is already in my collection. I’ve written a little about it before: my Montblanc Meisterstück Classique. It was a gift from my now wife of 18 years on our wedding day. It was also my very first fountain pen.
To those who would suggest there is a difference between “sentimental value” and “grail pen”, I certainly don’t disagree with you, however prior to having that pen in my hand, let me tell you, it was a quest, and a pretty obsessive one. For a number of years I had wanted a great fountain pen, and it always had to be a Montblanc.
In the many years since, my preferences and experience with fountain pens have certainly evolved, and granted, there are better performing and more attractive pens both “out there” — and for that matter, in my own collection as well. However I know how much it meant to obtain that pen, how much it means to me today, and what it will continue to mean in the future.
Not that I’m saying there will never be another, although at the current time I would still struggle to answer you if asked what pen I might buy were price and availability unlimited. Personally, my search for a grail pen is certainly more Monty Python than spiritual at the current time. That said, the search only needs to go as far as my pen storage drawer to find at least one that I know of.
To those who are yearning for, planning a strategy to acquire, and actively searching for their grail pen, I wish you every success in finding it. I consider myself pretty lucky to conclude in all likelihood I already own mine.
- A$435.00 circa 1997 ↩︎