"Wonderful chunky bottle. I shall be keeping it long after the ink has been drunk."
Says a commenter at the Amazon page for No-Shellac India Black Fountain Pen Ink, and it does look good, judging from the bottle.
But it's a touchy business, looking for a serious, dark black ink that will work in a fountain pen. I'm seeing a wellspring of positive opinion for Noodler's Black Waterproof Fountain Pen Ink. And then there's Pelikan Drawing Ink, #518 Black Fount India, which calls out to me because of that name, Pelikan, which that's what got me searching for ink in the first place: I was thinking about that Pelikan fountain pen that I lost 30 years ago.
I'd used that pen to take notes and doodle in the margins throughout law school, 1978-1981....
Maybe I wouldn't have scored so high on so many law school exams if I hadn't inscribed my scattered thoughts with such powerful ink. If I'd written in Bic ball-point or Flair felt-tip like so many others, maybe I wouldn't have been able to launch myself into lawprofessordom.
Admitting I'd lost that empowering Pelikan, I went to the University Bookstore, which had a glass case full of pens. I chose a Mont Blanc pen that (like the old Pelikan) had a 14k gold nib. It never flowed quite the same way, but for a while it handled the thick India ink. It got me through Amsterdam. And it worked for the 1996 political conventions:
Those were different times. Different... and the same. An expert could observe that the delegates didn't respond much to foreign policy because "We have no enemies." An interviewer could be surprised that a journalism expert watched not only C-SPAN and the networks, but had the Internet going too. And yet Democrats were railing about guns in terms of military-style weapons and the only decent use being hunting, and Republicans wanted to intone a list of traditional values.
But the Mont Blanc got draggy after a few years of India ink. The whole point of the fountain pen was to transcend friction while leaving a super-solid line, to make it as easy as possible for you your hand and, simultaneously, your eyes. I wanted that feeling of ease. I wanted the Pelikan I had in law school! I switched to disposable India ink felt-tip pens. Those scraped over the surface of the paper in such a horrible cloddy way that it pains me to look at the notebooks I made with them, like this image of a bust of Voltaire, seen at the Louvre (and blogged before, with complaints about the pen):
I'd forgotten — and that old post reminds me — that I did later buy another Pelikan pen and then, immediately lost it. It was hard not to believe it would turn up, and then, gradually to shift into thinking I only deserved a good fountain pen if I could find that one, which is surely somewhere in the house. Then I got to blogging and digital photography and paid less and less attention to not drawing as a problem.
And yet, today, I was walking along the lake path — my favorite walk — thinking about leaving lawprofessordom — Altexit — and thoughts of the Pelikan returned to my mind. Why shouldn't I buy a new Pelikan? It's easy enough to find on Amazon. No need to go peering into glass cases minded by sales clerks who don't really want to talk about 14k gold nibs and fountain India with someone who cares too much about such things. I ordered the pen. I ordered the ink. I've got plenty of incomplete notebooks.