Like the Fiat 500 and 600, the Lambretta and the Vespa, the legendary Aurora 88 is emblematic of Italy’s economic boom.

On April 29, 1945, the German surrender of forces in Italy was signed at the Reggia di Caserta, mark­ing the end of five long, disastrous years of war that left widespread destruction and despair in its wake. The newfound peace allowed Italy to devote itself to the long, painstaking process of reconstruc­tion, soon bringing a fortunate time of prosperity known as the “economic boom” in the Fifties and Sixties, characterized by strong economic growth and technological development. These were the years of the Fiat 500 and 600, the Lettera 22 type­writer, the iconic Vespa and Lambretta scooters, the Lesa portable record player, the Grillo tel­ephone, the Fiat G.91 fighter jet, the stunning Riva motorboats and, of course, the silver 500-lire coin. As far as we’re concerned, it was also the period of the legendary, timeless Aurora 88.
The registered letter dated April 7, 1943, shown here, illustrates perfectly the looming anxiety and insecurity that permeated the country a few months before the Allied landings. Apart from the tone, the letter is written on scrap paper, which is blue rather than the usual corporate beige, and contains an important piece of information: while the company management was still based at the historic headquarters on Via Basilica, the plant is mentioned as being in Abbadia di Stura, clearly going against what has been claimed to date, namely that the business moved there after the fire caused by the bombing in the fall of 1943. This either means that the firm had already prudently decentralized production and therefore the subsequent air raids – the most serious of which took place on July 13, killing 792 people – did not affect production, but only hit the offices, causing them to be moved, or that the factory was bombed before April. I find the latter theory unlikely, given that the content and tone of the letter, which closes with a pathetic, delusive “We will win!”, suggest that the company was fully operative.
My theory is confirmed by the fact that during the post-war recovery the offices were situated at Via Arcivescovado 1, where they remained until August 1960, as documented by the archives. We can therefore surmise that the bombing that forced the management offices to move took place after April, when production had already moved to Abbadia.  Isaia Levi handed over control of the company to his nephew Giovanni Enriques, who remained in charge until 1961. The relaunch of the business was entrusted to the experienced Marcello Niz­zoli, a renowned designer and great interpreter of the so-called “Olivetti Style” whose creations went down in the history of the Ivrea-based company, particularly the portable “Lettera 22” typewriter, made famous by Indro Montanelli, and which I used to write my thesis.
The rest is history: the Aurora 88 was the Italian re­sponse to the Parker 51, imitating its style but with a more solid barrel and a more rounded shape, with an eye-catching contrast between the black barrel and metallic white end clip, with cap in Nikargenta. The strictly black celluloid and ebonite were initially used for the pen barrel. The ebonite was placed at the far end of the section and the barrel end.
The original model has undergone numerous changes over the years: thermoplastic resin for the barrel, gold plate for the cap, and a model plated entirely in gold, as demonstrated by the codes in the invoice dated November 29, 1955, featured on these pages. There are even some solid gold versions (low purity, 9K), which are not mentioned in the above document.
The 88 was also available as part of a set with a mechanical pencil. Boosted by its slogan “bella e Fedele”, i.e. “beautiful and faithful”, sales soon exceeded one million pieces worldwide and it remained the key product for many years thanks in part to the 88K and 88P versions.
The DuoCart cartridge pen was developed for the student market in 1954, with a similar design to the 88. But that’s another story.