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2003 Issue

Compiled by
Bruce Gventer

We start this month with a continuation of last month's theme and journey to a site all about Ukiyo-e, or the Pictures of the Floating World. We will also take a look at a train site as well as a bit about pens. Let me know what you think about these "virtual" sites. Please email me at  Hope you enjoy.

Pictures of the Floating World

            Pictures of the Japanese Floating World, or Ukiyo-e, started in the enchanted city of Edo (see last month's column for a virtual tour of Edo), known today as Tokyo. I have learned that some of the prints were originally made to advertise theaters, teahouses, brothels, and such, as well as to represent nature and landscape paintings. This site which has, been put together by Hans Olof Johansson, was started in 1996 and is a gold mine of information on the art and the artists of Ukiyo-e.

            Start off in the gallery, where you will find a listing of artists that are included on the site. In this section are eight popular subject categories such as actors, animals, festivals, and even Sumo wrestlers. There is a miscellaneous category too. Below that are some popular themes that were painted in a series of views.

            If you have a question, you can use the site's search engine feature to look for the answer. If you don't find it that way, you can post your question on the site and check back to see if it has been answered. There is also a listing of other sites that have information about Ukiyo-e.

            Something you might find enlightening is the section on artists’ signatures. Did you know the signature of the artist is meant to show who designed the image, and is not taken as proof of an original print? The signatures are kanji characters, and this page provides a list of the common ones. Right now the list is not complete, but Mr. Johansson hopes to complete this extensive task at some time in the future. He does provide another web site that you can visit that offers more signatures for you to study.

            There is also a great links page that leads to many other websites about the Floating World. Mr. Johansson wants to keep updating the links, so if you know of any other good sites, drop him an email. He offers a very good description of the sites linked to his. At the very bottom of the links page is Mr. Johansson's "The Odd Link.” It appears to be a web-cam view of the Panorama Hotel, but I got this message, "The AXIS ActiveX Camera Control, which enables you to view live image streams in Microsoft Internet Explorer, could not be registered on your computer." So let me know what you think about "The Odd Link.”


           All aboard for the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (SDMRM), which is the world's largest operating model railroad exhibit. There are four enormous scale model layouts in the museum. They use the O, HO and N scale to depict the trains of the southwest railroads

            There is also a hands-on toy train gallery for children and a collection of artifacts of interest to train buffs. The Museum offers a virtual tour movie, but I just got the sound with no picture on my system.

            The exhibits include the Cabrillo & Southwestern in O-Scale, the San Diego & Arizona Eastern in HO-Scale,the Tehachapi Pass in HO-Scale, the Pacific Desert Lines in N-Scale, and some others. There are links to model railroad clubs and to other related web sites. HO scale (1/87th actual size) model of this joint Southern Pacific - Santa Fe line with nearly curve-for-curve and switch-for-switch accuracy.

Old School Pens

           Alison Brown is the webmaster here. She is a 43-year-old mother of two from Suffolk in the UK. Her husband, Gordon, does the repair and restoration of the pens. Most of the pens in their collection have been restored to full writing condition and are enjoyed as everyday writing instruments. They specialize in snorkel pens made by the Sheaffer Pen Company. The Browns feel Sheaffer designed and produced some of the most distinctive and reliable pens ever made. They also sell Parker and Cross, Namiki, Conway Stewart, Mabie Todd, Wyvern, Mentmore, Burnham, Cesare Emiliano, Waterman, Wahl and Eversharp.

            Alison feels the Sheaffer Snorkel has a innovative design both quirky in appearance and reliable in operation. The filling mechanism is different from anything else on the market. "To fill the pen you turn the end of the barrel, which is actually a separate knob, anticlockwise and from the underside of the nib a slim tube will start to extend. This is the snorkel. Keep turning the knob until it clicks, which indicates that the snorkel is fully extended. Dip the tip of the snorkel - not the nib - in the ink and then pull the knob up. The knob is connected to a stainless steel tube about 8mm in diameter, which is the piston that will compress air in the barrel. Once the tube is fully extended, push it all the way back down again while keeping the tip of the snorkel in the ink. You'll see bubbles of air being expelled when the piston is pushed down. When the piston is all the way down, the pen will start to fill with ink. Keep the snorkel in the ink for about 8 seconds to allow it to fill completely. Turning the knob clockwise will retract the snorkel. The beauty of this system is that there's no need to wipe surplus ink off the nib after filling, which is why Sheaffer's designed it." She goes on to explain further the inner workings of this extraordinary design.

            Alison provides a detailed description scale for her pens, from Mint to Fair/Poor with exactly what she means when she uses each descriptive term. Another thing I like about retail sites that Alison does here is she tells you when the site was most recently updated. So if this is your hot collectible you know if anything new has been added.


And a Pen Museum

          The Pen Museum is Arthur Twydle's collection of more than 3,000 items, which he has collected for more than 50 years. His workshop section offers a large stock of spare parts. His purpose is to offer a full fountain pen repair service, and to sell collectible and vintage pens suitable for everyday use. He has also reproduced some of his articles about pens. He says he is happy to provide advice and more information about the pens shown on his site. He suggests you read his article “Choosing A Fountain Pen.” He sells Parker, Pelikan, Sheaffer, Waterman, limited and special editions and he has ink in stock.

            Arthur began work in the pen business right after WWII. His first specialist pen shop was opened in 1949. From there he built a chain of pen shops in Northern England. He trained in pen repairs at the major pen company factories. He has retired but still spends a lot of time restoring pens. His son, Peter, now runs the family business and this website. He trained in fountain pen repair with the Parker Pen Company in 1964.


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Two actors, 1887, image from Hans Olof Johansson's site.


Safety Pen with retractable nib from the 1920s, this one with precious metal overlays make it extremely rare.


White ceramic pelican used to display Pelikan pens. 53⁄4-inches tall, the name 'Pelikan' is embossed in gold on the front. A pen fits through the hole in the beak.