Ben’s Pilgrimage to Bittner

One of our pen club members, Ben, recently returned from a holiday in sunny California – from San Francisco down the coast to Carmel and Dana Point and back up through Sequoa and Yosemite Park, returning to San Francisco.  Of course, the weather was great and the scenery beautiful,  but none of that mattered to Ben – he was on a mission, to scratch an itch that has been gnawing at him since first reading an article in the November 1995 issue of Pen World (reproduced below) about a stationery store called Gazebo by the Sea.  In 1989, Ben and his son had driven along the Monterey Peninsula on the famed 17-Mile Drive by Carmel runs through Pacific Grove to the Pebble Beach golf course, from the dramatic Pacific coastline to the majestic Del Monte Forest.   After reading the Pen World article and remembering his trip, Ben knew that he had to return their some day.  On his return to Carmel, Ben found that Detlef was no longer in the Gazebo but had instead had opened  Bittner Fine Pens in a more accessible location in Carmel.  Finally, Ben had the chance to meet and pay homage to Mr. Detlef Bittner, the man who had fascinated him since 1995.

As Ben tells us – I recognized Detlef immediately because he had hardly aged from his photo in Pen World and was dressed as sharply.  I was treated royally and allowed to write with some very expensive pens. … The least expensive pen I was tempted to buy was approx.  $300, which is not a problem for some of his customers such as Pierce Brosnan and Clint Eastwood (Editor’s note – Ben, such shameless name dropping!).  I put in a good word for our pen club and provided him with the address of our website, which his main employee Bob immediately checked out (verifying my credibility since I looked like an Iowa farmer dressed in a plaid shirt and ball cap) (Editor’s note – I can see that). Bob commented that it was a good looking website. …Detlef was very kind to compose a kind greeting to our club in beautiful script on his personal stationery and endorsed with a wax seal of what we presume is his coat of arms (reproduced below). … The store was FULL of Rhodia stuff and it is one of the few papers that he endorses – he couldn’t say enough good things about Rhodia.  He does not carry Noodler’s Ink because of too many complaints from customers re: pen damage.  Detlef said that his store sells good quality pens and does not want his customers’ pens ruined by the wrong ink (Editor’s note – those are Mr. Bittner’s opinions, which we respect;however, they do not necessarily represent the views of the London Pen Club or any of its members.).  The store does carry Private Reserve and the traditional ink brands too.

Thanks for sharing your adventure Ben, you must be a happy guy now that itch no longer needs to be scratched and thanks for being such a great ambassador for our club (although we really do need to have a talk about the club’s dress code while traveling!).  Finally, a very special thank you to Mr. Detlef Bittner for the hospitality that he showed to Ben and for showing us the art of writing!

Great friends are hard to find!

And we are so very fortunate to be friends with the Vancouver Pen Club (VPC).  It has come to our attention that the VPC is now famous (Pen World famous, to be more accurate)!  The VPC is featured (I mean, check out this picture – they’re the headliners!) in the February 2011 issue of Pen World about pen clubs. The article mentions a number of other pen clubs too (alas, we were not, insert crying face :~)).  We did, however, get mentioned by Glenn Marcus in his Pen Views (Thanks Glenn!  I have also written to Glenn to advise him that we now meet at Williams on Wonderland)!

We are happy to toot (or is that re-toot?) the VPC’s horn!  Our pen-caps off to Maja and the rest of the gang.  You’ve got a terrific club, keep it going! 

You may say I’m just a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I hope someday you’ll join us for a combined Vancouver-London meeting/party.  Wouldn’t that be something?!?!  If we really get lucky, the Calgary Pen Club (CPC) would also join us.  Just imagine that – someone better call the RCMP right now!  (Ed. note: I did not mean to suggest that we would have to call the RCMP specifically because of the CPC; rather, the need is a result of the explosive combination of all three clubs.)

P.W. Akkerman Anniversary Fountain Pen Inks

In the February 2011 issue of Pen World there is a great story about a pen store in the Netherlands that is celebrating its centennial anniversary (centenary).  P.W. Akkerman in the Hague is one of those old world pen shops that pen lovers wish they could be locked inside, by themselves, for a week or so.  One of the items that I noticed in the article was the line of inks created for the company’s centenary (and named after thirty locations in the Hague), including the picture of the bottle.  I just had to have at least one bottle of this ink – for the bottle moreso than the ink (as anyone in my club can attest, I do not need any more ink!)!  Each bottle is a whopping 150ml and costs 16.5 euros (about Cdn$22).

I “Googled” the website and found that it was in Dutch (not one of my strengths).  The Google translation helped but it was unclear to me whether the pen shop would ship to Canada (I was confident that I could find someone who understood my English) and the cost.  So I sent a polite note off to the shop’s general e-mail and promptly received a response from Paul Rutte (paulrutte AT vulpennen DOT nl).  Paul was exceptionally polite and terrific to deal with – of course, they would be happy to send their ink to Canada.  When I inquired how should I pay – credit card or Paypal – Paul kindly set up a Paypal account for the shop so that I could avoid having to make an expensive phone call to pass on with my credit card number (although it would have been nice to speak to Paul!). 

Our club ordered a total of six bottles and we are anxiously awaiting their arrival – Paul was concerned about the recent cold weather that we have been experiencing and so we mutually agreed to delay shipment until about a week and a half after I placed the order.  In the meantime, we did receive a couple of bottles (in error) – #15 Verhout Violet (translates to woody violet) and #23 Bekakt Haags (translates to Posh Hague).  Our official club photographer Rick snapped a picture of the brown bottle at last week’s meeting:

P.W. Akkerman Anniversary Ink - #23 Bekakt Haags
P.W. Akkerman Anniversary Ink - #23 Bekakt Haags

As Rick notes in the email that he sent to the club with the picture – “The Akkerman inks from The Netherlands do indeed come in a large and interesting bottle.  150 mL or 5 fluid ounces, with an very interesting section at the top of the bottle; when the bottle is inverted a ball (ed. note – a glass marble, no less!) in the neck of the bottle traps ink in the top section of the bottle, allowing you to fill your pen.”  Here is a picture of an empty bottle (a bit larger version of the picture in the Pen World article) that clearly shows the glass marble. 

Stay tuned for more pictures and swatches of these inks and the balance of the colours that we purchased (but have not arrived yet) –  #10 Akkerman LJizer-Galnoten, #5 Shocking Blue, #8 Diep-Duinwaterblauw,  #21 China Town Red, and #24 Zuiderpark Blauw-Green.