51 and 88

This month I restored three 1950’s Aurora 88s and several Parker 51’s in succession. This combination is interesting because Aurora designed the 88 to emulate the Parker 51’s carried by the American soldiers in their return to Italy under the Marshall Plan. Yes, both have gold caps and black barrels, and both have hooded nibs, and both are exactly the same size. But the similarities stop there. Under their hoods (sorry, I’m also a car guy…) the differences are stark: the 51 carries an ink collector that fills into an open barrel; the 88 carries a piston actuated by a relatively fragile mechanism. How American, to build a high-functioning mechanism to fill and provide a large quantity of ink; how Italian to build a delicate mechanism that is a jewel. No one has ever accused a 51 of being a beautiful pen — handsome, efficient, sturdy, classy; but the 88, copied from the 51, is a beautiful, graceful pen. Finally, the older 51’s carried date codes to identify the quarter year of their mass manufacture; the 88 has an individual serial number to remind the owner that this one pen is yours. Italian pens are an acquired taste, but a wonderful, enchanting one…