A little bit of history Classics fans know that Latin pops up everywhere, and perhaps even more appropriately so when the brand in question is Italian. Stipulae originally sprung from the same root as ‘stubble’, perhaps denoting thin reeds for writing or perhaps, as Mick suggests, the custom of breaking a twig to indicate consent to all the terms of a contract – the stipulations. The third Renaissance was in love with all those retro references, and nowhere more so than Florence, home to this day to a fountain pen brand called Stipula. But its output is hardly ever seen in Blighty; so we wanted to find what such a pen was like in the flesh.
How it looks This one looks seriously classy, we think. There’s a touch of bling on the clip, but it gets away with it, and the dark honeyed tones of the material would contrast beautifully with a gold nib if it had one – which it doesn’t, but more of that later. The Etruria Magnifica Miele Selvatico, to give it the full title, is most certainly a beauty – as one would expect with any objet d’art which shares its name with a suburb of Stoke-on-Trent (surely the Etruria they had in mind).How it feels Girthy but nicely balanced; unless you have a very strong preference for slender pens, this should do you just fine.
How it fills This is a straightforward cartridge/converter job, and none the worse for that.
Crucially, how it writes… But here’s the rub. A pen of this provenance deserves a really great nib, preferably one with a bit of life in it – which often requires gold. This is a steel nib, without much bounce, and it’s paired with a feed which could do with the services of a good urologist. The 1.1mm italic tip lends a bit of character, and with a very wet ink it can make an interesting mark on the page, but a nib this broad does take a bit of fuelling and with standard ink this can struggle to keep up. Sadly, our reviewers were less than entirely bowled over.
Pen! What is it good for? It’s good for admiring at a distance, and grand for waving around and looking artsy. Sadly, it’s not always so brilliant for writing with.
VFM If you can find this pen on sale at all, it will set you back at least €195. That seems quite a bit for a steel-nibbed pen, and as the writing performance was less than universally acclaimed the claim on your pocket money might not be the strongest.
The only way is ethics There isn’t much to go on here, but as far as we can gather the pen’s made in an EU location with adequate labour rights, and the packaging is a bit bulky but hardly over-the-top in terms of materials. Not bad.
If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… There are plenty of other Stipula designs, which are perhaps worth tracking down on continental retail sites. For a modern Italian brand which can be sourced easily in the UK, try Leonardo.
Our overall recommendation Try before you buy; the looks are terrific, but performance may not be exactly to your taste.
Where to get hold of one The other side of the Channel, in short; UK retailers have largely opted not to carry Stipula at present. This meta-review references:
Thanks to Manuscript, Stipula’s UK distributor, for the well-travelled sample.