Lion of the Blogosphere

Where to buy fountain pen stuff, and Moleskines

A comment to my post about the Lamy Studio fountain pen asked whether you can buy fountain pens in regular stores. The answer is pretty much “no,” it’s mostly an internet thing.

There used to be a huge fountain pen store in midtown Manhattan, Art Brown, but they closed down three years ago. Very sad.

I walked into Staples today. Despite a massive collection of writing instruments (mostly disposable), there was no bottled fountain pen ink to be found. I was surprised to see that they sold refill cartridges for Waterman and Cross fountain pens, but these only help you if you happen to own those brands of pen, and they are also a rip-off compared to bottled ink. You can get four times as much bottled ink for the same price.

Staples also has a very big collection of Moleskine notebooks. One of my favorite posts from the Stuff White People Like blog was the post about Moleskines:

But the the growing popularity of these little journals, is not without its own set of problems. One of the strangest side effects has been the puzzling situation whereby a white person will sit in an independent coffee shop with a Moleskine notebook resting on top of a Apple laptop. You might wonder why they need so many devices to write down thoughts? Well, if a white person has a great idea, they write it by hand, if they have a good idea, it goes into the computer.

Not only does this help them keep their thoughts organized, but it serves as a signal to the other white people in the shop that the owner of both instruments is truly creative. It screams: “I’m not using my computer to check email and read celebrity gossip, I’m using it to create art. Please ask me about it.”

So when you see a white person with one of these notebooks, you should always ask them about what sort of projects they are working on their free time. But you should never ask to actually see the notebook lest you ask the question “how are you going to make a novel out of five phone numbers and a grocery list?”

I wanted to buy one, but then saw the $20 price tag and had second thoughts.

Then I walked into Lee’s Art Shop, and confirmed that they have a decent selection of bottled ink as well as fountain pens. All at list price, of course.

You may think that Lee’s Art Shop is an art supply store, but actually it’s more of a furniture and lighting fixtures and gifts with a few art supplies in the back. I think that the art supplies (sold at list price) are actually just a ploy to get SWPLy wives of rich investment bankers to buy their expensive furniture and lighting fixtures. The art supplies create a patina of creativity around everything else they sell.

Once when I needed new lamp, I went in there and when I saw the $600 price tag, I went back home and ordered a lamp online for $100.

Lee’s Art Shop, of course, carries Moleskine notebooks (although a smaller selection than Staples), but they also have Clairefontaine and Rhodia pads and notebooks which are much harder to find. They have lots of SWPLy stuff.

I wound up buying a bottle of Shaeffer Skrip red ink because I don’t have any red ink and Skrip is recommended online as an excellent choice in bright red inks. (Most of my other ink is Waterman, which I recommend.) Skrip ink is manufactured in the Slovak Republic. I’m glad to see that it’s not made in China.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

Posted in New York City

19 Responses

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  1. I vaguely remember television commercials (1960s?) for Arthur Brown & Brothers. The Macy’s in Chicago has a Levenger boutique inside that sells fountain pens, so perhaps Macy’s in New York does too. I get an amazing catalog in the mail from Fahrney’s pens, which has everything you would ever need including travel inkwells, nibs for writing music, etc.


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  2. I do exactly the same, but on a white lined pad (purchased from Staples) and a cheap Asus. It works for me.


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  3. Shaeffer discontinued Skrip Peacock Blue when they moved production to Slovakia. You can still get some on ebay for $30 per bottle. I’ll switch to Levenger Blue Bahama when my Skrip runs out. It’s really sad. I took all my undergraduate and grade school class notes in Peacock Blue.

    Shaffer also discontinued the bottles with the side wells, so empty bottles may have value, too.

    bob sykes

    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  4. In the Army, the higher class officers tend to use moleskin and leather notebooks. With unlined or graphic sheet pages.The lower ranks use the issue ‘green book’ for notes often coupled with a heavy canvas protector, usually in camo.


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  5. I found the “Fountain Pen Hospital” store in the financial district to be very very nice. They have a huge collection of fountain pens.

    I ended up with a Cartier pen, because I really like the way it looked. (it was kinda overpriced tho, like most Cartier products) Anyway, I’ve been using it at work, for years now. It writes very smoothly, since it has a Cartier “medium” nib size, which is more on the larger size. Very good for signing. The main problem with fountain pens is that they don’t fit that well with my use case scenario. I have to take some notes, then use the computer a bit, then take more notes, etc. With a fountain pen the ink may dry up on the nib, which sucks, so I have to close it every time, which sucks big time.

    Another problem is that the paper nowadays is really bad. I generally use the yellow books that are made for notes. Most inks are bad, but I found that Bernanke Black to dry up very fast even on the bad paper. It’s really super fast drying ink made for left handed people. Still it doesn’t dry up quite as fast as I want. It does take a few seconds. But definitely, it’s good enough. Without this ink, the fountain pen would have been unusable.


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  6. I’ve had Moleskine notebooks before. They’re very nice and expensive, so you kind of feel bad about actually using them and writing in them.

    The problem is that there’s nothing in between Moleskine and the regular notebooks, which suck. Regular notebooks that you find in most stores are either those terrible metal spiral notebooks or those cardboard composition book notebooks. They’re also usually lined terribly. It’s either those notebooks or crappy notepads. It’d be nice if they had better notebooks than these but not as high end and expensive as Moleskines.

    What would you recommend for a starter fountain pen and ink? Nothing super high end or anything, just a good one for fountain pen beginners?


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

    • Pilot Metropolitan and Pilot Prera (you can swap the nibs between those pens, so if you get a good Metropolitan nib you can put it into the more expensive and nicer Prera). You want to buy Pilots in Medium nibs, which are equivalent to Fine nibs on European pens.

      And the squeeze converter that comes with the Metropolitan sucks, buy a “CON-50” converter for a few extra dollars.

      And buy bottle of Waterman Serenity Blue ink. It’s a basic blue color, fine for business writing (where you’d use a blue pen) and it’s highly regarded on the internet as a reliable problem-free ink.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

    • Piccadilly notebooks are about 1/3 the price of Moleskins. They also look basically the same and are sold at most Barnes & Nobles.


      February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  7. “The art supplies create a patina of creativity around everything else they sell.”

    great theory, i like it


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  8. Typical SWPL maneuver to want to be seen toting yet another obsolete physical item like the moleskine, when every consumer laptop or tablet nowadays has a perfectly fine notepad/drawing app that come shipped from the factory. On Android the app is called called SNote, I don’t know what the app is called in Mac/iOS but I know it’s in there.

    You can type, write with your included stylus (android), use a Wacom USB pen or just use the mouse or mousepad. And in that instance you can probably use OCR to convert your handwritten words to computer text (or even voice) later on with one easy step.


    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

  9. Until quite recently I thought that Moleskine notebooks were covered with mole skins.



    February 20, 2016 at EDT pm

    • Not to mention them sharkskin suits.


      February 21, 2016 at EDT am

      • To be fair, they do make eel skin wallets and ostrich skin boots. As it so happens, they used to make coats from mole fur in the early 1900’s. Moleskin fabric resembles mole fur. Which is how it got the name.


        February 21, 2016 at EDT am

  10. For drawing a cheap $3 target sketch book is fine. And a #2 pencil is all one needs to draw..

    Bryan Bell

    February 21, 2016 at EDT am

  11. Joon Stationery was a nice (but tiny) pen shop that had two stores in Manhattan. They closed both a few years back.

    Lewis Medlock

    February 22, 2016 at EDT am

    • Yes, that sounds familiar. Did they have a store on Lexington and one in Grand Central?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 22, 2016 at EDT pm

      • Yes, those were the two locations.

        Lewis Medlock

        February 22, 2016 at EDT pm

  12. […] I discovered these surfing the web after I blogged about Moleskine notebooks a few days ago. […]

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