Strokes of ancient history - on limited edition pens

Mumbai: Pens that don`t just write the story but tell it too... a Japan-based company has introduced in India a new series of limited edition fountain pens portraying ancient literature and the mysteries of the Maya civilisation.

The Sailor Pen Co has brought in the Chugu and Maya series, the former based on three chapters of the early 11th century novel "The Tale of Genji" and the latter depicting examples of the special hieroglyphic script from the Maya civilisation of Central America.

The pens are displayed at Mumbai`s William Penn - The World Pen Store, a chain of stores across India, including in the national capital and Bangalore.

Each Chugu pen tells a story with images related to a chapter of the novel drawn on them.

"There are only 50 exclusive pieces in the series available worldwide, each costing around Rs.70,000," Willian Penn managing director Nikhil Ranjan said.

"The Tale of Genji" tells the life story of the son of a Japanese emperor, known as Hikaru Genji, or Shining Genji. For certain political reasons, Genji is relegated to commoner status (by being given the surname Minamoto) and begins a career as an imperial officer.

The tale then concentrates on Genji`s romantic life and describes the customs of the aristocratic Japanese society of the era.

"Through the Chugu series we are commemorating the 1,000th anniversary of the classical piece of literature," said Sailor`s nib-designer Yukio Nagahara.

"The pens have been designed by Misako Azumai, a young Kyo Maki-e (an art technique) artist," Ranjan added.

The Maya series has 388 exclusive pieces. The script engraved on the pen comprises unique signs or glyphs (either `ogograms to express meaning or syllabograms to denote sounds).

Each piece, costing Rs.75,000, has 21-carat gold nib. The barrel and cap are made from solid sterling silver, said Ranjan.

The pens were introduced in India last week. Along with it, the company also held a two-day workshop, Different Strokes, ending Sunday. The one of a kind workshop, focusing on repair and customisation of nibs of fountain pens, was attended by 40-50 pen connoisseurs.

The sessions gave a glimpse of the painstaking work that goes into the making of each pen such as those in the Chugu or Maya series.

Conducting the workshop was nib-master Yukio Nagahara, who not only repaired broken nibs but also customised them according to individual requirements and writing styles.

Nagahara, 50, uses a grinder-cum-churning machine fitted with ceramic stone and hard and soft rubber that help to polish the nib.

Born in the historic city of Hiroshima, Nagahara learnt the art of nib making from his father Yoshinobu who is now 78.

Most Sailor fountain pens are fitted with different kinds of Naginata-Nagahara nibs made by the father-son duo.

Explaining the fine art of nib making through an interpreter, Nagahara said: "First, gold and other precious metals are melted and rolled into a plate. It is then crafted into shape and iridium-tipping material is carefully applied to the pen nib.

"Refinement and polishing are then needed to prepare it for the next step. At this stage, the perfect ink flow and nib elasticity is determined. With careful precision, the nib is severed along an exact vertical line."

"This process ensures correct air flow and flexibility unique to each Sailor nib. Finally, the top of the nib and the writing surface are polished and tuned to ensure the smoothest writing experience possible," he added.

Nagahara, who has perfected the art of nib making, is credited with the invention of the Sai-bi Togi, an extra fine nib, for a unique writing experience.

One of those who attended and watched carefully was Roosi Modi, a cinema owner from Pune who owns a range of high-end fountain pens. He came with five/six pens that were customised for him.

"I like the way Nagahara customised them (the pens). They write much better," Modi said, adding that he would look foward to buying work of art pens like those of the Chugu and Maya series.