Parker 51: Minimalism for Better or Worse

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Sometimes it seems that I only like pens that other fountain pen fanciers hate.  But not on purpose!  It just turns out that way.

Which brings me to the Parker 51.  The humble 51.  The oft-derided 51.  The allegedly boring 51.

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11 thoughts on “Parker 51: Minimalism for Better or Worse

  1. People who don’t like it say “it writes like a ballpoint.”

    Funny that. I said almost the same thing recently on FPGeeks, that I considered the 51 to be the “Bic of fountain pens”. Of course I was referring to the writing characteristics and experience of use. As far as the design goes, I tried to love it I really did, but in the end I just found it uninspiring. From an engineering point of view it is very interesting. I don’t buy pens to marvel at their engineering though, I buy them to write things. You know, there are times when I wonder just how influential the hype around the 51 has been: that there may be people out there who say they like it because it is expected of them. That is why I bought mine originally, because everyone said I should. I’ve had six. I have one left. Soon to be none. YMMV is, as ever, so true.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say, and I’m glad you said it. I’ve bought pens because of hype and realized that they weren’t for me, too.

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    1. Well you are very kind to allow me to disagree with you, which is not particularly hospitable of me.

      I really love that there are so many different preferences, and so many different pens. It is so much more interesting this way.

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  2. Huh. Odd, that – it seems like I meet people who are fans of 51s more than any other vintage pen! (I’m speaking mostly of offline stuff, online pen communities skew otherwise, and fewer collectors). But I also think your bias is showing, tipping us off to the meta-minimalism of the Lustraloy caps. But while a silver Metro may have a band around the middle as it’s only adornment, think of all the variations of cap designs on 51 gold caps! Mind boggling! (My fave is a cedar blue Vac with an “alternating straight – wavy line” pattern. Beyond the brilliance of the functional design of the pen, which no one has truly surpasses, one has to marvel at the panorama of ‘styles’ Parker was able to bring to that design and still be “minimal”. A brief perusing of a site like parkercollector.com and the array of 51s would convince anyone of the potential in such a benign design.

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    1. You are right, of course: I am not talking about fountain pen collectors.

      And I agree that we’re all biased, fans and non-fans. 🙂

      I did say that I preferred the stripped-down Lustraloy cap. But don’t get the wrong idea: I like them all. I just don’t own the rarer caps. Not because I dislike them. Because I don’t have the money.

      Yes, those are the ones that many collectors seek. And they seem to be acknowledged as “nicer” by a broader range of people in general. Maybe that underlines your point about bling? And are those the least minimal? One could say so. I think that is sort of an extension of what I was trying to say.

      I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I love the pen myself, and I think it’s beautiful. I also understand that there are many who don’t. Vive la différence.

      You said no pen is perfect. I might not agree. 🙂 But I’d say no pen is for everyone. 🙂

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  3. While today’s user and collector of fountain pens may seem to favor bling and overdesign, I’d posit that there are *still* a lot of 51 fans out there, and still trends for that mode of style. Take the nib out of the question, for instance, and could you have a more minimalist approach than the Pilot Metropolitan?

    The funny thing is that I resisted this pen for a number of years, partly *because* the collectors I knew favored it. However, the true reason was deeper and as plain as the nose on it’s face: I could never stand the arrow clip. It was, and still is (to my eye), out of place on the rest of such a streamlined beauty. Yes, I realize it was the true icon of the Parker brand, but look to the Aurora 88 from years later for simple, elegant clips to compliment a sleek body. Well, no pen is perfect. 😉

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    1. Jon, forgive me, but I actually would say that the Pilot Metropolitan is not minimalist. It is larded with ostensibly decorative touches, like the pattern bands, that are not there for anything but to “dress up the pen.” Good pen and a great deal, though.

      Taste is subjective. No one is going to change anyone’s mind. You do a good job of explaining why you don’t like it. I actually sympathize with 51 non-fans; it’s a totally reasonable point of view (or views). I just don’t feel the same way. No one is “wrong.” And I think you know I am not adverse to bling in my pens. 🙂

      Oh, yes, there are 51 fans. But we are are a smaller group, and sometimes on the defensive, among all of the non-fans. 🙂

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  4. Hi Laura, I’m answering your penpal letter and wanted to see what you were talking about! 😀

    I have to say, I’m a big fan of the 51 not just for its unique shape and minimalism, but also for the way the nib on mine happens to be tuned. It harmonizes well with my handwriting and feels… hmm, really sympathetic to the plight of a lefty. Some pens are–I don’t know the word for it. Sort of italic, but not oblique. Like my Lamy 2000, for example. Its horizontal lines are much thinner than its vertical lines, which can be frustrating, even though I love the shape and Bauhaus minimalism of the pen!

    Do you own all the pens you’ve photographed on here? You write to me so often with Lamy Safaris–I’m really surprised to see a Montblanc on here!

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    1. I love the 51 and its nib, too, and I think “sympathetic to the plight of the lefty” is a great way to put it. Though I am not a lefty, I find it a really straightforward and easy-to-use nib. My left-handed mother used one. I think, though, that ironically that easy quality may contribute to the “ballpoint” analogies.

      Do I own all the pens photographed here? I would have to take the Fifth in case my husband ever reads this. And I’d tell him not to look at the Aurora Optima post. 🙂

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