Fun with Fountain Pens

We talk a lot about what kind of pen or pencil to write in your Bible with, so … don't try this at home. It takes a brave soul to try a fountain pen in a Bible. As I mention at my other blog, I'm a bit obsessed with fountain pens, archaic though they may seem:


When I do write in a Bible, I tend to use a Pigma Micron on a ballpoint, avoiding anything that can apply "wet" ink. In theory, though, using a fountain pen in a Bible shouldn't be a problem. After all, the Allan's Journal uses Bible paper and holds up just fine to FP ink:


On the left you can see various examples of ink in use (as well as a sad testament to what happens to one's cursive when one starts writing in block letters during junior high). On the left, note that while you can see the writing through the reverse of the page (just as you would printing in a Bible), none of the ink has bled through. Now, if you're inclined to try this, my recommendation is that you use a Fine (F) or even Extra Fine (EF) nib. These put less ink on the page and give you a cleaner, finer line, allowing you to write smaller, in proportion to the small print in the typical Bible. 

For more thoughts on fountain pens, check out "The Craftsman's Pleasure in His Tools."

21 Comments on “Fun with Fountain Pens

  1. Love the Brown Pelikan. That’s a good looking pen.
    I’d recommend using drier ink brands such as brown and green shade J. Herbin or Pelikan along with a F or XF nib.

  2. Thanks for the tip, Noah. I’ve been using a mix of Noodler’s Ottoman Azure and Heart of Darkness because I can’t find a blue/black I’m happy with, but the nib creep is annoying. Maybe I need to go back to J. Herbin (which I abandoned only after watching my writing disappear when it came in contact with water — I have an irrational fear of that sort of thing.)
    The gray Pelikan was my first ever FP, bought in West Germany back in the 80s, and now I’m returning to Pelikans after a long absence. I bought the brown on clearance a few years ago — great pen. Now I’m intrigued by the white 205s.

  3. Nice pens. I especially like the brown Pelikan. I have several Pelikans and really enjoy them. I’ve never been brave enough to try them in one of my bibles yet.

  4. My Large Sailor 1911 Fine point with Iroshizuku Kon-Peki or Tsuki-yo makes an incredible fine line. The Allan journal seemed to do better with that combination than the Cambridge Wide Margin. But I still reverted to the pigma micron for the Cambridge Wide Margin. I might use the Sailor with the Allan Journal since I just prefer to write with a fountain pen over a pigm micron if at all possible. In fact, I prefer fountain pens over computers and I’m a computer engineer! 😉

  5. I have three Safaris: red, yellow, and white. They have different sized nibs and I use them mainly for clipping inside briefcase pockets, since the clips are well-designed and strong. Because I love aluminum as a material, I also got a Lamy Al-Star. Unfortunately, while it looks like a metal Safari, the clip design is different and not as effective. If I could only have one Safari, I’d go with the white one. Or the yellow. (Clearly I like yellow, as you can see in the photo.)
    There are left-handed fountain pens, Jerry, so you’re not without options.

  6. Aquamarine Lamy Safari is pretty nice. I bought one for my wife. But the Fine nib of a Lamy is still a bit wide for writing in the Bible. XF is getting there, but the Lamy XF is a little bit toothy. I wonder if you could confidently write in a Bible with delicate paper with that amount of tooth.
    I would say venture to say that the Japanese nibs are probably going to be superior for fine writing in a Bible. Sailor, Platinum, Namiki, or Pilot should have some really nice smooth fines for writing in a Bible.
    I have a Pelikan M425 XF and it’s smooth and fine, but it has much more flow and puts out a thicker line when compared to my Sailor 1911 Fine point. The Pelikan line will especially bloat on some of the Bible papers out there. The Sailor 1911 is a little more controlled in that respect and doesn’t bloat quite as much since it already puts out a thinner line and the flow is a little less.
    I think the bigger issue is bleed through. All the fountain pen inks seem to just soak right into the paper and you can clearly see it on the other side. While the pigma micron ink seems to do a better job of staying on the top layers of even thin paper. The wide margin Bibles will probably fair better with fountain pen ink, but even then, the results will be more pleasing with the Pigma micron when you check the other side of the paper.
    I certainly would like to hear of any success experienced with an ink / nib combination that works. Perhaps a custom flow adjustment and ink combination would be needed. J. Herbin or Pelikan Brown / Green was mentioned. Has anyone experienced better results when compared to a Pigma Micron?

  7. My cousin and I were at a theological conference and the Pastor Steven Lawson signed his book for us using a fountian pen. At first we thought it resembled a quill!

  8. I love my fountain pens too. I’m a big fan of fine smooth nibs which leads me to prefer the Pilot 78G, a discontinued pen. My more expensive Pilots, Pelikans, Lamy, and Waterman are all sitting uninked because I find their nibs to be too broad. I can’t imagine using fountain pens to write in my Bible, other than fine Japanese nibs.
    I have the same problem as Mark, I keep looking for the perfect pen so I keep buying ones I find imperfect.
    Recently, I’m loving the Pilot Frixion extra fine point erasable gel pen. This makes no sense as the ink disappears if it get too hot or can be rubbed off. I’m generally a Heart of Darkness fan because I don’t want the words I’ve labored over to disappear. But writing my novel with the Frixion pen is strangely comforting to me because I can erase, still knowing my work can accidentally disappear if it gets hot. I am seduced by the smoothness of the pen and the legibility of may hand writing when I use the dangerous pen.
    I’m planning to use the brown pigma micron I use to draw on fabric for quilts in my new Clarion KJV when it arrives. I’ve decided to make updates of the archaic and obsolete words in the margins. Hope I don’t regret it… Or rather, hope the Clarion will come in the NKJV so i don’t have to write in my Bible at all!
    I’m another one who prefers composing with pen and paper not chips.

  9. I am a Vintage FP collector, with my oldest being a 1917 Sheafer 34 Black chased hard rubber, dry XF nib. I have found that most modern pens that have an ‘XF’ nib write like a Fine, and I wouldn’t use them on Bible paper.If anyone uses a FP on Bible paper, it should be a dry-writing XF nib. Waterman’s blue-black ink is one of the finest inks out there.

  10. Nice post. I’ve found that a Namiki Falcon FP with a semi-flexible fine nib and Noodler’s “Lexington Gray” ink work very well for marginal notes in most all of my Bibles.

  11. Awesome post! Can you tell me where you get your Allan’s Journals?
    I’d love to have a blank book with onion skin pages.

  12. I love the way stuff written with a fp looks. But as a lefty they scare me. Oh and block caps in notes. Takes me back to jr high geography in the 1980’s. I will give mr. D this it is much faster to take notes that way.

  13. Noodler’s Bernanke Black or Blue flat out dries just about instantly. I write with a Lamy Al-Star with a XF and use Bernanke Black and it works OK in my Cambridge WM for a few words here and there. That being said, if I’m going to go all out and fill the WM up I pull out a Zebra. 😉

  14. I am also a fountain pen lover, but struggle to find the right combination of paper, pen, and ink. Thanks, all, for sharing your stories. I do underline in my bibles using a fountain pen. Most nibs are too broad. As a lefty the slightly larger nib helps, but it does make it harder to annotate in margins. I have tried Noodler’s Bernanke blue (true, it dries instantly), but it seems to be too thin and makes my Fine nib write more like a Medium nib. Anyone else notice this?
    Currently I am using a vintage #12 Conway Stewart in my Pitt Minion. What could be better than to use a vintage English pen with a Cambridge Bible? This is a beautiful combination! The pen itself is fairly compact so it just seems to fit the Pitt Minion. I’m using Noodler’s black and it works very well for underlining and notes. I also have the matching pencil with a hard lead so if I need to write lots and lots I can switch over to that and go very small.

  15. Do you still recommend the Pigma Micron for writing in Bible? I cannot seem to find one in a ballpoint. If not what is your current recommendation for this particular task?

    • Pigma Microns are excellent, but they’re not ballpoints. Pencil is easiest, I’m also partial to Fisher Space Pens and other pressurized pens. Always test on a safe page before using, though.

  16. Oh, me, to stumble upon a fountain pen page here! I’ve become a bit enamored of them in the past couple of years. Not much rhyme or reason to my small collection, which ranges from a disposable Preppy to a gold nib Platinum Century 3776 I found for half price. Some of my favorites, though, are the Pilot Metropolitans, which are also a great value. I accidentally wrote in my journaling Bible with my Metro F nib (which is more like a Western XF) and Diamine Majestic Blue ink. No problems! I use a 005 or 01 Pigma Micron, though, and some Accu-Gel highlighters in the journaling Bible. For other uses, I enjoy writing with my fountain pens.

    I immediately spotted your little Liliput in one of the ESV Readers Six-Volume Set reviews the other day. 🙂 It’s one of my more unusual pens.

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