Requiem for a great ink

About ten years ago in a small stationery store in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro, I found one remaining bottle of one of the best inks ever made: Parker Penman Mocha.

The Parker Penman line of inks was designed as a deluxe line and introduced in 1993. According to Leighton Davies-Smith, an ink chemist with Parker, the inks took more than two years to develop. These inks were very much talked about; as the story goes, some colors contained pigment (in addition to dye), which could stain or clog pens. Well, I myself never experienced any difficulty with the wonderfully beautiful Penman Mocha ink.

Much appreciated was the Sapphire blue ink, which I do not know first-hand, but on a trip to New Orleans I had the chance of talking to Patrick, who, together with his wife and daughter, runs a very charming pen store on Royal street called Papier Plume, and mixes inks to match customers’ orders, and who told me that this was a really very special ink, one which he had already recreated for demanding customers.

The very pretty bottle and the original box of the Parker Penman Mocha ink, bought in 2006.

I have cherished this ink ever since I got it. My tastes run a lot towards muted brown inks, and I was very lucky to get that ink. Because that was the one and only bottle available, I use it only sparingly – I want it to last another ten years, at least…

In the box there is a leaflet explaining all there is to know about the ink. Particularly, the bottle has a conical plastic insert that allows one to fill a pen down to the last drop in the bottle. The booklet explains how to use the insert.

A precursor of the current “Ink Miser” (see text).

This was such a good idea that today there is a similar product (sold separately to fit some ink bottles, such as Noodler’s) called “the Ink Miser“. It is sold, among others, by the Goulet Pen company.

The bottle is also ahead of its time. Today, luxurious jewel-like bottles have been introduced by Pilot (Iroshizuku), Caran d’Ache and Pelikan (Edelstein). Bat back in 1993 (up to 2000, when Parker discontinued those inks), apart from Montblanc only Parker had those precious bottles. The cap featured the logo (a silhouette of a man holding a huge pen like a spear) embossed in a bas relief, and the bottle had the same logo and the name of the ink in gold foil.

But the quality of the ink, its properties, remain unequaled to this day. Very well saturated, a deep, rich coffee brown, so serious looking that it can be used for any professional kind of writing, the ink makes me nostalgic of that era. The ink dries fast, shades well and its color is really distinctive. If I look hard, I may find some similar inks, walnut colored – but none is an exact match.

Because I live far away from places where strange and rare ink brands are readily available, my choice of inks that can be found locally is rather limited – or too expensive. So, in order to stretch out the life of this very well appreciated ink, I have resorted to Montblanc Toffee Brown ink as my standard brown. Although not a perfect match, this ink serves the purpose: a dark and professional-looking, serious brown.

Left: Parker Penman Mocha; right: Montblanc Toffee Brown.

The picture does not really show the difference between the inks, but there is a definite difference.

Here’s a picture of the inside of the lid:

True dark, saturated strong coffee brown.

Anyway, the other two brown inks I use are the Pelikan 4001 brilliant brown, a pure light brown with no red undertones, very subtle, very delicate, and excellent for lighthearted writing with my very excellent and unique Compactor Buschle pen (a Brazilian made pen that I really need to write about), one that I cherish, made of Makrolon resin; and Sheaffer brown, a very saturated brown, solid in color, reddish and loud – good for marking students’ papers when red is too loud.

Well, I really hope this bottle will last another ten or twenty years, for it is unlikely that I will ever come about another bottle of that bygone ink…

Write always, with faith and joy.

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