In recent years I have become a fan of Aurora fountain pens. Certainly my black and gold Aurora 88 with its medium nib and my red Aurora Optima with an oblique broad, are among the most prized in my accumulation. But neither of these was the first Aurora that I had bought. That honour goes to the Ipsilon.
It is true to say that I did not immediately take to the Ipsilon. The buying experience was memorable and hard to beat. My wife and I were on holiday in Italy in July 2018 staying near Lake Garda and took a bus for a day’s visit to Verona. There I found a delightful fountain pen shop called Manella, in the via Guiseppe Mazzini – a pedestrian thoroughfare in a shopping district and thronged with tourists like myself heading from the stunning Roman amphitheatre, towards the Case di Giulietta, to visit Juliet’s famous balcony from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
The shop was easily spotted by its vintage Pelikan pen sign. Unfortunately it was closed for the day (or so I thought) and I contented myself with looking at the displays in the window and peering into the shady depths of the shop within.
Some hours later, on passing the small shop again, I was thrilled to discover that it was now open and went inside. I asked to see a red Aurora Ipsilon which had caught my eye in the window. The genial proprietor seemed pleased to have a keen customer and I was eager not to leave empty handed! He told me that he had a larger selection in his other shop close by and so locked up this one and took me to see it, in an arcade literally just around a corner but off the beaten track. It was much less cramped and had displays of leather goods as well as pens.
As for the Ipsilon, he recommended a superior version being of lacquered metal and which had a14k gold nib. He showed me a new edition, in a marbled dark blue and black lacquer and with a fine nib, which seemed to tick all the boxes as a suitable souvenir from Italy. I added a Pelikano to my purchases and the proprietor kindly included an orange ball point pen for my wife. Genius.
The Ipsilon comes in various different versions. From an old catalogue, I see that the metal lacquered model was also available in a marbled tortoise or grey finish. It is a cartridge converter pen, taking the Aurora proprietary cartridges. A useful tip is that Parker Quink cartridges also fit and are easier to come by. It has a snap on cap, which also posts securely with a polite click, to make a very comfortable package. The pen measures about 137mm closed, 118mm open (slightly short for my preference) but a decent 148mm with cap posted. It weighs about 31 grams, being 19g when uncapped and 12g for the cap alone.
After such auspicious beginnings, you would think that I would be delighted with my new Italian fountain pen. However, perhaps for a combination of reasons, I did not bond with it sufficiently in those important early weeks after purchase. On close inspection of the nib under a powerful loupe, I noticed some mystery parallel lines or scratches across the face of the nib. Perhaps it had been held in pliers during or after the plating process. These were only cosmetic and not visible to the naked eye. Secondly I had an unfortunate experience with the included converter, which seemed to be leaking and made a mess. With hindsight, I should have been more systematic in my diagnosis of this problem but I was further put off the pen. Thirdly, and perhaps the biggest issue was that the fine nib was rather on the dry side for my liking. And so, rather embarrassingly, I put the pen away and hardly looked at it for three years.
Fast forwarding to last autumn, by which time I was enjoying my Aurora 88 and Optima, I got out the Ipsilon again. I have been revisiting lesser-used pens and tweaking the nibs with brass shims in some instances, now that I have gathered a little experience and confidence in this area. Often it is a very quick and easy fix to just open up the tine gap very minimally, to improve ink flow, lubrication and smoothness which makes a big difference to your experience with a pen.
I also bought a pack of Parker Quink blue black cartridges (reduced in a sale at WH Smiths) which fit perfectly, removing the risk of leaky converters. The colour is an ideal match for the pen. And the mystery striations on the nib plating no longer bother me at all. There are bigger things to worry about in life.
The net result is that I now have an enjoyable and reliable pen and a trio of Auroras, with fine, medium and oblique broad nibs. It is currently filled and always starts up immediately. The moral of this little tale is not to overlook the bonding phase when you have a precious new fountain pen arrival. But even if you do, all is not lost and you and your pen may still achieve fulfilment at a later stage.