Prints & Cards
Legacy Heritage Victorian Series
by Jim Mamoulides 10/15/05
An Elegant Homage
Walter Sheaffer began the pen business that carries his name in his jewelry shop in Fort Madison, Iowa. He is credited with inventing the lever filling mechanism in 1907 as an improvement to the awkward filling systems in use at that time. This filling system eventually became one of the most common type of filling mechanism on fountain pens and can still be found in use today. He was granted patent rights in August, 1908. After testing his design with local writers, he launched the pen business in 1912, incorporating the company in 1913. Although the company started after the "official" end of the Victorian era, the influence of Victorian design was still strong in the early part of the 20th century, especially in the jewelry trade.
On August 1, 2005, Sheaffer announced the Sheaffer Legacy Heritage Victorian Series Special Edition to commemorate Sheaffer's founder in the art of the era in which he lived. This new short run sterling silver pen pen particularly celebrates the jeweler heritage of Sheaffer, with its fine and elegant Victorian Era design. It recreates the style seen on many Victorian Era silver and fabric items, with intricate filigree elements on a detailed barleycorn background. Sheaffer plans a run of about 400 fountain pens and 100 rollerball pens for the USA market, and more for the global market. The edition will not be numbered, and production will meet the demand orders placed by Sheaffer dealers by August 1, 2005.
It's also fitting that the Victorian Series Special Edition would be a Legacy model. Since 1959, the large Inlaid nib has been a strong Sheaffer design element, first appearing on the wide profile PFM (Pen for Men) and following continuously on key Sheaffer models for the next 46 years. The Inlaid nib, like the White Dot, has become one of the most distinguishing visual elements that identifies a pen as a Sheaffer. The Sheaffer Legacy, introduced in 1995, was intended to recall the original PFM and it has become the flagship of the Sheaffer line today. The Victorian Series Special Edition is the pinnacle of the Sheaffer Legacy Heritage line, carrying the Sheaffer legacy forward with a look back to nearly 100 years of innovation and tradition.
Sheaffer sent us the prototype Victorian Series Special Edition pen shortly after the official press release so we could review and photograph it. It's just simply a stunning pen, wrapped in a highly detailed repeated engraving pattern adorned with a current fashion palladium plated trim that combines a high tech monochromatic tone to strongly vintage design.
In discussing the elements of the pen with Sheaffer, we understand that the engraving work is being done in house on Sheaffer's own engraving machine. Sheaffer also currently offers other engraved patterns on Legacy Heritage pens, including the sterling silver Interrupted Barleycorn, brushed 22 karat gold plate King's Gold, and brushed chrome plate Emperor's Silver models. Each of those models incorporates an historic Sheaffer engraved design. The Victorian Series Special Edition, however, is the most intricate engraving work on any in-house Legacy model and rivals the work on the Classic Pens CP4.
The Victorian Series Special Edition pens begin as regular off the shelf sterling silver Legacy Heritage blanks, just as the Interrupted Barleycorn sterling silver pens. They are then engraved and fitted with palladium plate trim. The nib unit is the same palladium plate solid 18 karat gold used on the rest of the Legacy Heritage line.
As with the Interrupted Barleycorn pen, Sheaffer is only offering the Victorian Series Special Edition pens in two writing modes: as a medium nib fountain pen or as a rollerball pen. Because the Victorian Series Special Edition uses standard palladium plated 18 karat gold Sheaffer Legacy Heritage Inlaid nib units, any Sheaffer dealer could exchange the medium nib for a Legacy Heritage fine nib, if requested. For that matter, The Legacy 2 nib units will fit, if the rubber gasket is removed.
The Victorian Series is a limited production fountain pen and rollerball pen. Sheaffer expected a minimum USA production of 400 fountain pens and 100 rollerball pens, though the run will not be limited to those numbers. Each pen will be sold separately and is packaged in the same book opening case used for the Sheaffer Legacy Heritage Sterling Silver Interrupted Barleycorn pens.
Identification guide and features:
We received the Sheaffer Victorian Series prototype in August, shipped by courier so we could give it an early pre-release review. Sheaffer shipped the pen to us packaged in the small Prelude leatherette clamshell box, complete with a rollerball section and a nice hand written note. Although I had seen the early prototype in photographs a few months earlier and was very excited to get my hands on the actual pen. Pre-release photos of the pen were a little stark and cold. This is because sterling silver has a tendency to photograph either starkly cold or invitingly warm, depending on lighting and background. The early photos were cold, no doubt due to lighting.
Having experience with the current top of the line Sheaffer Legacy Heritage Sterling Silver Interrupted Barleycorn and the Classic Pens CP4 Washington and Richmond pens, I knew how warm and inviting those pens were in person. My biggest concern before seeing the pen in person was whether the trendy monochrome look, accented by the palladium plate trim and nib, would work on a pen with lacey Victorian engraving.
This concern was completely dispelled when I opened the box. In person, what could have been a cold, single tone pen is actually a handsome and elegant new take on the venerable Legacy profile. Sheaffer has created a pen with elegant beauty, where the same color trim causes the detail of the Victorian era pattern machine engraved on the cap and barrel to jump out, rather than be challenged by a bright gold cap band and clip.
The design is an ornate, alternately repeating set of oval windows and filigree is set in a sea of fine, light barleycorn. The pattern on the cap and barrel is reminiscent of patterns that might be seen on Victorian era wallpapers or silverware and works nicely on the canvas of the sterling silver cap and barrel. The engraving is deep enough to give full detail and tactile feel, but not so deep so as to distort the image. The pattern is a lower relief, less geometric, and less vibrant and busy than the Classic Pens CP4. It may be more ornate and decorative, but it is gives a sense of calm, rather than a sense of constant motion. Deep engraving of a simple pattern, as on the Sheaffer Legacy Heritage Sterling Silver Interrupted Barleycorn pens, emphasizes the pattern, but would make the Victorian pattern look heavy and awkward. The combination of high detail and lower relief give the pen a lacy elegance.
The choice of palladium trim rather than more traditional gold plate pushes the trim to the background, framing the pattern, rather than creating a visual conflict between bright gold on the heavy bar clip and wide cap band and the dense engraving in the sterling silver cap and barrel. That turned out to be a good choice, leaving the pen a single harmonious silver color and yet real eye candy that emphasizes the design.
In the hand the Victorian Series pen feels cool and full of tactile wonder, but it quickly warms up, as all solid sterling silver pens do, into full bodied writing jewelry. Sterling silver has the wonderful quality of developing a patina and warmth with use that will give each pen unique character over a lifetime of use. The engraving has a nice tactile feel without any sharp edges from manufacturing, a sign of high quality production.
The Legacy Heritage Victorian Series Special Edition is a large and moderately heavy pen, with full sterling silver construction. Each pen is 5 1/2 inches long capped and 6 inches with the cap posted on the end of the barrel. It's large around and it's a hefty pen in the hand. The cap snaps securely onto the section and sits snugly on the barrel end when posted. It's as well balanced as all the other pens in the Legacy Heritage line.
The Victorian Series has all the features expected from its Legacy Heritage pedigree. The clip has the excellent Sheaffer innerspring feature for a secure ride in the pocket of most fabrics. The Victorian Series uses the standard and excellent Sheaffer Legacy nib units, which have the classic Sheaffer feel: smooth writers, leaving wet, even lines on every kind of paper. The fountain pen can use a removable converter or Sheaffer Skrip cartridges, which come in a rainbow of eleven colors. As with the Legacy Heritage, the fine nib is firm, while the medium is softer, with some give.
The Legacy Heritage Victorian Series Special Edition is a worthy flagship for the Sheaffer line, combining the recognizable traditions of a nearly one hundred year old company with a modern look. Some collectors may wish that Sheaffer had decided to number an limit the production of the pen, but the final production of this pen may well be lower than many of the numbered and mass produced limiteds seen today. It's not as pricey as many limiteds and certainly beautiful enough to stand with most of them. If you like a substantial pen, the warmth of sterling silver, wrapped in a beautiful vintage design, then the Victorian Series pen will be a winner. I recommend catching this one while it remains available.
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Last Update 10/15/05