The Jules Verne
is also the Mont Blanc
2003 Writer's Edition limited edition fountain pen
. It is a writing instrument that is perhaps designed more to be owned than to be used; however, it's difficult to hold that against it. WARNING:
I bought one of these, and therefore, this is a biased review.
The Jules Verne was manufactured in both fountain pen and rollerball variants by Mont Blanc; it was sold (still is, as of this writing) either as an individual pen or in sets comprising one pen of either type with a pencil variant. This review describes the fountain pen, of which 16,500 were made and individually numbered. I own pen #7,469. 14,500 rollerballs were made.
The pen itself is quite heavy. It is done in deep blue lacquer, with a guilloche pattern on the barrel and cap set within the coating which is reminiscent of ocean waves, especially when the pen is turned under light. The highlights of the instrument are of platinum-plated steel, contributing to the weight. The screw-on cap, which is quite heavy of its own accord, has a single understated decorative bevel on one side, suggestive of a porthole. Engraved on the cap, next to the mounting for the clip, is the pen's serial number; opposite the clip is an engraved facsimile of Jules Verne's signature.
The nib is 18-karat gold, plated with rhodium for rigidity. Completing the nautical allusions of the pen's design, the nib has a fine engraving of a 19th-century diver's helmet on it. The top of the cap is black resin, into which is set the traditional ivory Mont Blanc six-pointed star.
Although I've only owned this pen a short while (a few weeks) I have made a point of carrying it about as a daily writing pen for much of that time. Admittedly, part of this is due to my needing to show it off; partly, however, it is because I hold some notion that I own fountain pens to write with them - and write with them I do. It nestles quite comfortably in my T-shirt pocket or from my shirt collar; the screw-on cap and unitary barrel ensures that (unlike some of my other pens) it is almost impossible for this pen to separate and fall from my shirt.
Filling the pen is a new experience for me. All my pens to date have been cartridge-fill pens which accepted reservoir converters; filling them has involved removing the barrel and manipulating the converter itself. This pen, however, cannot accept cartridges, and is only piston fill. To fill the pen, the steel cap at the back of the barrel is unscrewed several turns. This depresses the piston into the reservoir, decreasing the available space within; the nib is then dipped into the inkwell, and the screw cap is tightened. This retracts the piston, pulling fresh ink through the nib into the reservoir. A prudent user will then hold the nib just above the surface of the ink and 'unscrew' the cap again until ink begins to dribble from the breather hole on the nib; at that point, invert the pen and tighten the cap the remainder of the way. Then, when the pen is re-inverted to write, any air left in the reservoir will shift to the back.
So far, I have only used Mont Blanc black ink. This ink is not my favorite, after having used it for a few weeks; it is a tad 'cooler' in tone than I'd like; it runs a bit, bleeds slightly, and has almost no waterfastness. The bottle is really well done, however, with a fill well at the front! I plan on buying some nice Pelikan or Aurora blue-black and refilling the Mont Blanc bottle with that ink.
Although my pen has a 'Fine' nib, I'd be forced to call this more of a 'Medium.' I am told by those more experienced with fountain pens than I that Mont Blanc nibs are a bit bendy and hence allow more ink to flow, making a wider line. The weight of the pen likely doesn't help here. By the time I purchased mine, more than halfway through 2004, stocks of this pen were quite low, and I had to have one shipped in; they were unable to find an Extra-Fine in the channel, and Mont Blanc's offer to replace the nib with the size of your choice anytime during the year of issue had, unfortunately, expired.
On the plus side, however, there is a great deal to like about this pen. It is a commanding presence in the hand; even I, who like my pens heavy, have had to avoid placing the cap on the back of the barrel during use as that makes it simply too top-heavy. Without the cap, however, it's just right for me - heavy, but not overbearing, and with the weight nicely balanced between thumb web and fingertip. Although I thought a manual-fill pen would be a pain, it's not - it actually outlasts the cartridges, and more importantly, the action of the reservoir ensures that there is always fresh ink near the nib. The formation of a slight vacuum in the cartridge during use tends to cause the ink in my other pens to 'withdraw' from the nib while they are in storage, leaving the nib and channel to dry out quickly and gum up. Irritating. Not so the Jules Verne; the one time I left it alone for a week, it produced a smooth, beautiful line the moment I touched it to paper.
The nib is slowly 'breaking in' to my hand. I have noticed that in recent days, my handwriting has started to acquire more variety of line widths, indicating that either I am learning the weight of the pen or that the nib has started developing 'learned' bends along my usual writing angles - or, more likely, both. I recently wrote a letter, entirely by hand, for mailing to a friend...something I haven't done in, oh, years. It was a pleasure, and much of the pleasure was due to this pen. I have, I will admit, been stopped once on the street and asked if that was, in fact, a Jules Verne (one of the 'advantages' of living in a snotty intellectual burg) which led to fifteen minutes of companionable pen chat.
Would I recommend this pen? I don't know. I don't think I'd recommend paying what I paid for it (I paid U.S. retail 'street' at an authorized dealer - you can look it up). I'm of the firm opinion that there are reasons to pay more for objects of quality, especially instruments one will use; however, in this pen's case, I think that I could easily find a pen that performed as well for perhaps $250 or so. I think a great deal of the price is strictly for the ivory star on the cap and the 'limited edition' number on the hardware. Other pen companies make (in my opinion) better pens; while this is certainly one of the best pens I own (if not the best, which it may be) it is also far and away the most expensive. Why did I purchase it? A good question, which has several answers...a gift certificate to the Mont Blanc store being one of them! Also, having a bad week, needing to pamper myself, yada, yada. Lots of rationalizations. I didn't own a Mont Blanc, and felt that I should at least have one, if I was going to have pens. Sure, I should probably have just gone and gotten the Meisterstück 149 standard, but that pen is made of resin and is incredibly light. I hate light pens. (Update: okay, I'm wrong. I now have a Lamy 2000, which is a light Makrolon-bodied pen, for everyday writing, and I love it entirely too much. I still hate light Mont Blancs, though...maybe it's just that they look too pompous to not have any heft behind them?)
Besides, how could I not own a pen named for the 'Father of Science Fiction?'