Some early thoughts on the Aurora 88 fountain pen.

The origins of this, my latest pen purchase, probably go back a few years to when I first started to hear about Aurora pens, particularly the Optima, in other people’s blogs. It was not a brand that I had come across before. I also met an Aurora rep at the London pen show and picked up a couple of glossy catalogues of their then current collection of writing instruments. I learned that their gold nibs were all made in-house by their own craftsmen and women which is rare and admirable.

14k gold nib, Medium.

And then whilst visiting Italy on holiday in June, I found a pen shop selling Auroras, in the centre of Brescia. There I handled an Aurora Talentum in black resin, which was a good sized pen and felt very comfortable. However, my wife helped me to resist the urge to buy it on the spot.

Back story: the buying journey.

Back home I found myself browsing the internet for Aurora pens and I looked at several different Talentum models and watched a few reviews. I was pondering over which colour to go for and which nib.

And then came a summer sale on Iguanasell. It so happened that the Talentum models were not reduced but I found the Aurora 88, a well regarded and much longer-established model than the Talentum, dating back to the late 1940’s, with a generous discount of 35%. I particularly liked the black resin version with gold plated cap.

I shared this information with my wife, hoping that it would be a mere formality to obtain her approval that such a large saving represented good stewardship of our joint financial resources. However, she was not so enthusiastic as I and made a compelling argument that I had “so many pens” and did not have time to use them all. True. But it is an Aurora 88, with a gold plated cap! It is a piston filler, with a 14k gold nib, an Ebonite feed, an ink window and everything. And a hidden ink reserve! On paper, its size and weight called to me that this was an ideal pen that might have been designed with my preferences in mind.

However, by the next day, her position had softened to “Oh well, it’s up to you” which I took as a yes. I then leapt on the Iguanasell website again. The discount offer was available only whilst the pen remained in stock. It was still there. Free shipping from Spain and despatched within 24 hours. I deliberated briefly over which nib to chose and went for a Medium. Click. Proceed to Checkout!

The following day I received an email from Iguanasell that my order had been shipped and providing a tracking reference. There followed an anxious wait. First, I worried whether the Aurora nib, known for its feedback which is not to everyone’s taste, would suit me. I had not had an opportunity to test it out. What if it does not write as well as my Faber-Castell Grip? Secondly, over the coming three days I was a bit perturbed that the tracking reference (34 digits long!) gave the status “not yet received” by the couriers. This went on for three working days. Some doubts began to creep in about the veracity of Iquanasell’s fast delivery claims.

But then on the fourth day, the doorbell rang at 7.30am. I hurtled down to get the door, scattering furniture in my haste. It was the next door neighbour who had taken in the parcel for me, the previous day.

The unboxing.

I enjoyed peeling back the layers to get to my new toy. Inside the white polythene outer packaging, was a large brown cardboard box. Inside this, padded with bubble wrap, was the large glossy black cardboard Aurora box with the Aurora logo and my pen model details on the end, “88 BIG” (yes please!), “Gold plated cap and resin barrel.”

Inside this, was the actual gift box, a handsome black leatherette type with creamy coloured padded interior. And there was my pen, gleaming black resin and a luxurious gold plated cap with subtle guilloche design. Though I say so myself it looked absolutely gorgeous.

Aurora 88 (large) in black resin with gold plated cap.

Picking it up, it was lighter than expected. (It weighs 27g; around 15.5g uncapped plus 11.5g for the cap). I unscrewed the cap, (about one and a quarter turns) to reveal the 14kt gold nib. This looked to be superbly finished. There was a glimpse of daylight between the tines until the tipping material, which was generous, symmetrical and even. Looking head on, the tines were perfectly level. However I did note that the tipping was narrow where it met the paper. Turning it over, I got my first sight of the Ebonite feed.

Ebonite feed. This pen ticks all my boxes.

I got out a bottle of Aurora Blue and a Leuchtturm note book. The pent up anticipation in that first dip was immense. It wrote, smoothly and effortlessly. No skips. The pleasure and relief was all the more intense for having been anxious for a few days. No toothiness or drag as I had feared. However the line was more fine than I had expected, although I was perfectly happy with it. I enjoy having pens with all sorts of nibs. Perhaps, had I known that the medium would be this fine, I might have chosen a broad but I like it as it is. It does mean that with my usual style and size of writing, there is less filling in of my loops and this helps with neatness and legibility. The nib is sufficiently wet for my lefty-overwriting as well as underwriting styles.

I then tried the piston, which was smooth and easy. It took about 10 twists to lower the piston fully. I then filled the pen, following the recommendation in the supplied instruction booklet, to release about 4 drops at the end before turning the pen nib upwards and tightening the piston knob.

My new bundle of joy.

As you can imagine I greatly enjoyed trying the new pen and writing a few pages in my notebook. It is about 130mm long when uncapped but I still preferred to post it. The cap is light and does not upset balance when posted. The cap threads are plastic and so should not mark the barrel, but this would not bother me anyway. The grip, when the pen is posted feels very natural and comfortable with my thumb over the ink window. It is so comfortable that you want to go on and on writing. And it looks so classy and elegant. It is a good generous size, without being huge and without being too heavy either.

There is also a smaller version of Aurora 88 which has similar styling but no ink window and is a cartridge-converter pen. I have since seen from YouTube reviews, that the Aurora 88 range was first introduced in about 1947. I have a lot to learn about Aurora and its history. It celebrates its centenary this year and so this seems like another good excuse to join the club of happy Aurora users.

So how does it write? What about the Aurora feedback? Well, mine writes very nicely indeed. Straight out of the box. On Leuchtturm paper, it feels smooth and well lubricated but not a gusher. I would say that the flow is spot on. I have now covered about fifteen pages and so any saturation in the feed from filling will have settled down. The sensation of nib on paper is very pleasant and pencil-like, neither too glassy smooth nor toothy and draggy. Together with the comfort and ergonomics of the pen, it makes you want to write more.

First inking with Aurora Blue.

It is also a design classic. Parker had its 51, Montblanc its 146 and Lamy its 2000. I learned from a video by Grandmia pens that the Aurora 88 was introduced as a competitor to the Parker 51.

I looked for the Aurora 88 in my old Aurora catalogue. At first I could not find it in the index, in the list of the Collezioni Prestigio, the prestige collections. And then I spotted the name Ottantotto, which I now know is Italian for Eighty Eight.

My wife likes the pen too. And I gave my whole-hearted support and encouragement to her purchase of some summer dresses in the sales and would never dream of saying “You have so many dresses.” What sort of a husband would say that?

19 thoughts on “Some early thoughts on the Aurora 88 fountain pen.

  1. Great review and story! I have an Aurora 88 Black Mamba on pre-order, awaiting its delivery sometime in September. Aside from its textured finish, the mechanics and nib should be just as you described so I anxiously await its delivery. I am also a lefty, though I have recently trained myself to write underhanded, so I usually find a medium or fine nib to be best for my handwriting. Broads are just too wide.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou for reading! I hope you can bear the wait until September for your 88.
      I am more naturally an overwriter but I rotate the paper about 60 degrees anti clockwise rather than bend my wrist. This is ungainly to look at and people think I am going to write upside down. I do practice underwriter style a lot with elbow at my side and am improving but it is not so comfortable and it is hard to keep to a straight line and keep my upright strokes perpendicular.
      Many pens have insufficient flow for lefty overwriting but happily the 88 is not one of them.


  2. That guilloche cap looks stunning! As always a great story — I was right along with you every step of the way. Very glad you got a perfect example, too… and that nib really shows off your handwriting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Felicitations on your Aurora 88 BIG. I have an Aurora 88 Piccola, or SMALL, with the gold-plated cap, and I enjoy it very much. My own 88 also has a medium nib, and I, too, found it just that bit too narrow, though not so narrow that I can’t see its virtues.

    For years my 88 earned accolades at a lunch group in San Francisco whose principal figure, the distinguished printer Jack Stauffacher, had relationships with good design in Turin, where Aurora was founded. Jack loved Olivetti typewriters, the work of Marcello Nizzoli, who also designed the 88, and he was a disciple of the great Italian fine printer Alberto Tallone, whose family firm still exists in Alpignano, a suburb of Turin. My 88 used to bring all that to a kind of imagined life at the lunch table.


    1. Thank you for your interesting comments. Certainly the nib on mine is producing a very fine line, particularly when no pressure is applied. It does write effortlessly and when watched with a loupe, the ink flow is wet enough to write but perhaps not juicy enough to bring out the best richness and shading of many inks. I have tried several different inks in it this past weekend, currently on Montblanc Irish Green. It is a beautiful pen but the writing width is not what I had expected.


  4. …it is a truly wonderful pen! That golden hood makes me daydream! Congratulations on your purchase! Now I’ll tell you a story: I own a strange Aurora 88, bought several years ago in an old stationery shop in a small town; a stock fund. When I got home, I noticed, looking at the nib with a lens, that the AURORA writing was missing at the base. Panic. My heart stopped beating: I had bought a fake Aurora.
    On the other hand, after a long search, I discovered that I had a small rarity: one of the first Aurore 88s with a long-pronged nib. “Only after customer protests did Aurora re-emerge the writing at the base with a new nib, but with short prongs, more rigid.
    If I tell you that it is a flexible nib, do you believe it even if it is not written anywhere?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe the Aurora 88 model dates back to the 1940’s. Mine is a modern version but yours sounds a very lucky find.
      Yes the gold cap next to the black glossy barrel is extremely beautiful. This is probably the most elegant pen that I own.


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