ONE OUT OF THE BOX Back

A Nannelli pen from the ‘30s, a survivor of the 1966 Florence flood, resurfaces.

At 42R Via dei Cimatori, between Piazza della Signoria and Piazza del Duomo right in the heart of Florence, there’s a store with a sign that reads Nannelli. It’s tiny place with two display windows: the one on the right full of lighters and the one on the left full of vintage pens. And it really is small: just big enough for the owner, Andrea Nannelli, and one customer. But like they say in Tuscany, the smaller the barrel, the better the wine. 
The surname Nannelli has long been associated with fountain pens in Florence. Omar Nannelli, Andrea’s Uncle, operated a factory that made pens with the brand name Omar. And his father, Ivaldo Nannelli, operated a number of stores under the name “La Casa della Penna” in Florence, Montecatini and Viareggio (both also in Tuscany). 
The 1950s crisis caused by the introduction of the ballpoint and, in particular, the flood that devastated Florence in 1966 meant that almost all of the family’s production machinery was lost. All that was left was a single lathe, which Andrea still uses today for repairing fountain pens.

 

The reason I’m giving you this brief history relates to something that happened a while back. I was looking through a few pens that I’d almost forgotten about, which I’d bought who knows where and who knows when, when I saw one that caught my eye. (I would mention that my passion for pens dates back more than 50 years, to a time when - at least in Italy - there wasn’t the knowledge we have now thanks to books, magazines and so on. Let’s not forget that the first Italian book on fountain pens, Enrico Castruccio’s La Penna, was published by Idea Libri in 1985.)
I remembered having read something about this pen, so I searched and searched and eventually found it on page 24 of the May 1995 issue of Stilomania magazine. Under the heading Nannelli fountain pens I read, “Perhaps we’ll never come across one of these.” But I had. In my long, never-ending and passionate search for pens, I’d found one - even though I didn’t know it at the time.
This pen is beautifully made. Its dimensions are identical to the Parker Duofold Lucky Curve, with sharply tapering ends like the streamlined model. The cap is hard rubber, while the rest of the pen is black celluloid. 
The clip, also in the Parker Duofold style, is simply marked “18 kr.” Beautifully engraved on the barrel are the words “Nannelli,” in cursive script and “Firenze” in block letters. The nib is marked “Nannelli 14 kt n 3” and, somewhat puzzlingly, “made in England.”

 

The pen can be dated to the 1930s. At that time, the very successful Parker Duofold served as a model for many Italian manufacturers, particularly those just starting out. I’m planning to give the pen to Andrea Nannelli. Since the few he owned were lost in the 1966 flood, it should become something of a family treasure. And I guess he’ll put it in his display window for everyone to see as they pass by. I’d now like to say something about pen collecting in general. 
Lately people have only been looking for pens by the most famous brands, the most attractive models, the rarest colors and, naturally, the ones with the highest list prices, presumably buying them for their investment value. But I’d like to say that this has nothing to do with a love of fountain pens: there’s an infinite number of pens out there that deserve our attention because they bear witness to the history of the pen and changing tastes. 
My hope is that this true spirit of collecting returns. I’d therefore like to make a proposal for a new series of articles in this magazine under the name “One out of the box.” It doesn’t matter if the pens covered are worth a lot of money. What counts is that they should enrich our knowledge and reinvest collecting with its most authentic meaning.