Travels with pens: York, and a visit to Signatures

For once, I’m packing pens for a trip that’s not work-related. Yes: I’m on holiday in York!

This trip ran almost back-to-back with my trip to Miami. My Conids and Geometry served me well in the US, and I took them home joined by my latest acquisitions, the Karas Re-Entry Starliner XL and Wahl-Eversharp Decoband.


My Geometry makes every flight into a first class journey.

Further thoughts to come, but right now I’m a little mixed on both of my new arrivals. The Karas is equipped with a #5 Ti nib, which has a curious flat feed, came with a huge tine gap and was generally poorly set up to the point of dripping on the page. I’m sure it’ll be nice with some fettling, but for now I’m disappointed.

The Decoband was perfect out of the box, although the Superflex nib is completely misnamed. The nib instead reminds me very much of the Pelikan M1000, huge and with plenty of bounce, but no flex as such. What I’m not sure of is the size and weight of the pen as a whole. On the page, it feels really, really big.

I have a few pens incoming – notably a Conway Stewart Winston and a second Desiderata Soubriquet – but I’m starting to wonder why I even consider buying more pens. I’m so blessed that most new purchases now are either boring (too similar to my previous purchases) or in some way impractical.

Anyway, next stop, York.

I’m leaving both my new acquisitions behind, and this trip I’m taking an entirely different set.

These are “comfort pens” to me, all easy-writing and fun. I’ve been particularly enjoying the Visconti and Onoto, but as I write this I’m on day three of the trip and every single pen has had a good run already. The sign of a great selection.

The Faber and Montblanc are housed in a Nock Tallulah, my latest pen case, picked up when I was in Miami (after some postal shenanigans – thanks Brad!). And a wonderful thing it is, too, nice and narrow, so it slips into any bag. The rest (barring the Kaweco) are in a Sinclair. I am a true Nock fanboy.

I’m also taking some new paper: the Stalogy 365 A5, which is serving as my diary.

My Spring Hobonichi Cousin ran out at the end of March, my third complete year of Hobonichis. I decided that buying another Hobo wasn’t the right decision for me: I leave everything but the day-pages unfilled, which seems a huge waste. So I have started a Stalogy 365. I’m really enjoying it so far. I have to write in the date at the top, but the overall book is much slimmer than the Hobo, while the paper and general construction feels very comparable. I’ve found my Hobos are too fat to take on a trip – I try to pack light – but the Stalogy is nice and thin.

Signatures of York

As regular readers will know, I like to visit pen shops when I find myself in a new city. York has one, and it’s called Signatures.


I spent 20 minutes or so there, and I chatted to one of the owners for a little while, who was very pleasant and welcoming, and happily let me dip a preowned Lamy when I asked.

I’ll have to be honest: despite the warm welcome, the overall experience left me a little depressed. The shop felt like a bit of a time-warp from around 15 years ago. It mainly stocked the traditional brands of Parker, Cross, Waterman, Sheaffer and Lamy, and the inks on show were Skrip and Lamy. Alongside the pens were some letter openers and similar accessories (and some cookbooks, oddly), but I didn’t see anything in the way of paper.


The shop is arranged as a ring of glass cabinets over threadbare carpet, which meant there was little to explore and nothing to pick up and try without asking first. If I was new and getting into fountain pens, and nervous in a specialist shop, this would have put me off.

Signatures has a good selection of vintage pens, which were on consignment from a local vintage dealer, and there was a case of some rare pens, including an Omas Galileo and a special Montegrappa in the same resin as my Extra The Sea.

Overall, the selection was a bit spare, and the prices were on the high side. The back-story is that the owners are waiting to retire, basically, and kept limited stock of what would sell. I get it, but there wasn’t much in the shop to get me excited, and I left without even buying a bottle of ink.

It made me appreciate what a joy a good pen shop can be, and how we need to look after the few that are left! It also made me thankful for the rich merchandising and huge variety of colourful, exciting products we have to tempt us now – the world of stationery is so much more than just a few old brands, thankfully.

This time next week I’ll be back on a plane to California – for now, I’m enjoying exploring this ancient city


13 thoughts on “Travels with pens: York, and a visit to Signatures

  1. I was there last month.
    My feelings were the same as yours.

    The best shop I know of in the north of England is Penfax in Hexam. It’s petite but like a treasure trove


  2. I felt the same after my visit to Signatures. I’m from Australia and last year I spent a month in the UK a day of which was spent in York. I was excited to find a pen shop whilst travelling, but was unfortunately very disappointed by this experience. I feel I’m still in the pen noob category, so I found it very intimidating to be in the shop, dressed very casually as a traveler with the shop clerk, not ever bothering to say hi or offer any assistance. I did a quick walk around and simply goggled everything behind the glass, then left feeling very unsatisfied. Hopefully the owners will be able to retire and find some new bubbly owners to take over and inject some life into the place.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – April 14, 2019 | Fountain Pen Quest

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