Visconti Homo Sapiens Dark Age Fountain Pen Review

I change my mind too often to have a true grail pen but a posh Visconti of some kind has been consistently on my wish list. None of them are cheap and I had to sell quite a few pens to be able to afford this one. Despite having gathered the funds by selling other pens, I still had some sleepless nights about spending this much on a writing implement. Am I glad I bought it? Read on!

Price: £475
Filling method: the “Visconti power filler” (a kind of vacuum filler)
Barrel options: same barrel but available with bronze trim (‘Bronze Age’) or steel trim (‘Steel Age’)
Nib options: 23k palladium in extra-fine, fine, medium, broad (this one), stub
Size: 14.6cm long, 13.3cm unposted, 17.4cm posted, 1.4cm diameter
Weight: 41g

The barrel is made from resin fused with lava from Mount Etna. Over 50% lava! This is claimed to make the pen virtually unbreakable but I’m not prepared to find out. (Besides, virtually unbreakable is quantifiably different to completely unbreakable.) What the lava does give the pen is a very high coolness factor. It also looks fantastic. There are little flecks in the material which give the colour some interest. It isn’t pure black. It feels a little stoney in the hand, too. It’s a great material: looks wonderful, feels high quality, and is a little out of the ordinary.

The cap pushes on to post. This is a large pen to start with and posted it’s very long and quite unwieldy. (My pen is the ‘oversize’ version. There was also a smaller ‘midi’ version but that will soon be discontinued.)

It closes with what Visconti describe as a bayonet system. It takes a fraction of a turn to cap or uncap yet is held closed securely. It’s a great system that adds to the feeling of quality while also being very practical.

The clip and trim are plated in ruthenium. This gives the pen a kind of stealth look and also gives it its name. Some people love the clip design, some people hate it. I’ve always loved it. It does work as a clip but you have to lift it up to use it: it doesn’t just slide over whatever you’re clipping it onto.

The nib is 23k palladium, again plated with ruthenium. Visconti have a terrible reputation when it comes to quality controlling their nibs so I bought mine from The Writing Desk because they test each nib before sending it out. Nevertheless, with drier inks I experience the occasional hard start, although this is getting rarer the more I use the pen. It’s rare but given that this pen cost more than my first four cars combined (admittedly a very long time ago) there shouldn’t ever be a single problem. Am I being picky here? I don’t think so, not when I can by a Lamy Safari for a thirtieth of the price and have it write perfectly every single time. All that said, it doesn’t happen often enough to spoil my enjoyment of the pen and the (broad) nib itself is bouncy and smooth and very wet, just how I like it. It really is a pleasure to write with, despite the occasional hard start. Somehow, it manages to give a little feedback while simultaneously simply gliding across the paper. It’s unlike any other nib I’ve tried and it’s gorgeous.

To fill the pen you unscrew the end of the barrel, pull it out, with the nib submerged in ink, and slowly push it back in again. To get a decent amount of ink it you need to do this a few times. Patiently. Sometimes I seem to get a full barrel of ink, sometimes I run out of ink after a couple of pages. It’s all very fancy but I’d prefer a simple and reliable piston filling mechanism over a finicky unpredictable ‘Visconti Power Filler’. It’s particularly frustrating because there’s no ink window so you have no idea how much ink you’ve managed to get in the thing.

This is far from a perfect pen. There are hundreds of cheaper pens that work better, in fact. It has its little foibles. Yet I’m glad I bought it, I’m glad I own it, and, to me, it’s worth what I spent on it. Why, I hear you ask? I have, after all, been disappointed by some expensive purchases in the past. The thing is, I keep wanting to write with this pen. I look for excuses to use it. Whenever I pick it up, the weight is just right, the way it feels to hold is special, it looks unique and gorgeous, and 99% of the time it writes beautifully. It’s like one of those friends whose occasional bad habits you overlook because they’re so much fun to be with.

Pros

Unique look
Nib is soft and smooth and wet and beautiful to write with
Made with lava!

Cons

Finicky filling mechanism
Occasional hard start
Far too long when posted

2 Comments

  1. Well done Ian, lovely job! I actually feel that the pen is also warmer to hold than plastic or resin pens (residual heat from the volcano? ). And if you ever get fed up with that hard starting I’m sure the Writing Desk will tweak it again for you…

  2. Indeed a marvelous pen! I had the opportunity to test one at Arteel in Leuven, Belgium and everything you say is true. The pen feels and writes like nothing else. When it doesn’t hard start…

    While hesitating, although the Visconti could’ve been fixed in no time, I compared it to the new Sailor 1911 Blackout with a bold nib (European medium) and… got the Sailor.

    Although I am a fan of Visconti, the Sailor was a looker, light but with enough weight and thus stability while writing,has a perfect size and the nib is just… something else! A juicy, smooth, 21 carat gold nib laying down a wet line without being a gusher. No hard stops or drying out during long writing sessions. And the Sailor can be used as an eyedropper out of the box: the thread of the grip section is long and fine and the grip has a rubber o-ring incorporated.

    That is not to say that the Visconti is bad, the Sailor won due to its design, writing experience, great nib and perfect size. In my specific context, I just didn’t see the Visconti being used on a daily basis as I already have a Dolcevista Oversized.

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