Sunday, October 21, 2012

Visconti Homo Sapiens - The coolest piece of rock

Personal Best of, Part 6

A few years ago, Italian pen manufacturer Visconti started to make a compound of plastics and lava stone from the Aetna. They made fittings and the clip out of bronze and gave the pen a two-tone Palladium nib. I think this is a rather brilliant marketing idea, but it wouldn't have helped much if the pens weren't pretty. They are, and more, at least to me.

Visconti Homo Sapiens "Bronze" and "Steel Age", oversize models.
Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze fountain pen

The bronze pen has been the first. The metal's surface is untreated so it will develop a patina over time. This can be seen on the clip, where the egdes are shinier than the flats. This could easily be polished to a bright shine if you wanted to, but many owners, me included, like to keep a certain patina.

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze fountain pen
The knob on the top of the cap, sporting the Visconti logo by default, is magnetic and can be exchanged with gemstones and all sorts of stuff Visconti offers for this purpose. I haven't tried that though and don't intend to.

These pens have a lot going for them. Do you see the matte surface? It's a unique thing to touch. It reminds of me of soft rubber, also feels yielding, though of course it isn't. It will provide good grip without feeling rough. Neither fingerprints nor scratches will show. It will absorb a bit of your hand oils and sweat and always feel dry.

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze fountain pen
Some - among which, of course, Visconti themselves - have claimed this to be the most indestructible material that has ever been in use for a fountain pen. I heard a story of a guy whose "Homo Sapiens" fell down three flights of stairs and didn't have a scratch when it reached the ground floor. My "Steel Age", however, has a slight chip on the barrel and it surely didn't endure that much, so... I'd say, it depends.

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze fountain pen

That nib is the next special thing. It's Visconti's "Dreamtouch Nib" made of Palladium, and they are nice nibs indeed when working properly (which, sadly, isn't always the case right out of the box) - but is this due to the Palladium? I couldn't say.

To me, and despite writing with fountain pens pretty much, a nib is still a mysterium. Why will some of them feel soft though they aren't more flexible than others? Why will some of them make your handwriting pretty and with others you'll be struggling and never get it quite right? No wonder it seems they have a personality of their own.

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze fountain pen

The "Bronze" nib is a rather charming persona. Like all of the well working Visconti nibs it is very wet. It was a factory broad which I sent to John Sorowka for a regrind to cursive italic. There's a writing sample at the end of the post. It's beautiful.

The "Steel Age" nib is a little more diva. It's a factory stub with really likeable line variation - I don't have any other stub/italic quite like this one -, but doesn't like all inks. I had to have it tweaked before it was usable without being totally frustrating because it wouldn't start half of the time. Unfortunately, the chance this happens to your new Visconti nib is relatively high, especially if it's a stub. I hope they will fix this sometime.

 Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age fountain pen 
Except for the metal details, the Bronze and Steel Age Homo Sapiens pens are quite the same but the overall impression is very different. You can see that the steel is glossier, the pen looks more grave and businesslike and also more "modern days" than the Bronze one.

Another difference, invisible at first glance, is the filling system. The Bronze is a "power filler" which holds quite a lot of ink even with this gusher of a nib. The Steel Age is a plain piston filler with relatively low capacity, especially with the stub nib using up even more ink than the broad.

  Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Age fountain pen - single colour nib 
The last picture also shows very clearly one thing speaking against the pen: It is a lot more prone to staining than your average plastic. The greenish shimmer on the edge of the section originates from J. Herbins "Rouge Hématite" the pen is filled with. The section already has been wiped down but it still shows. These stains will eventually go away with a long soak in soapy water and extended rubbing of the barrel with a soft cloth, but I have also heard of stains that have left discolorations, especially the infamous Baystate Blue. In any case, wiping the pen thoroughly with a wet paper towel after filling doesn't hurt.

Some Homo Sapiens also will sweat ink at the very edge of the section, thus potentially staining your fingers. This can easily be fixed by carefully unscrewing the nib unit and applying some silicone grease to the threads.

Visconti Homo Sapiens writing samples: the 1.3 mm stub with J. Herbin Rouge Hematite, the broad cursive italice with Diamine Steel Blue (who names their inks? Does this look like steel blue to anyone?)


  1. I would like to comment on the Visconti Pd nibs, especially the stubs. I currently own three, two stubs and a fine in my Homo Sapiens Bronze. I think they one of the most pleasant types of nibs available. Although I'm not at all into fine nibs I love my Homo Sapiens. If I would be restricted to one fountain pen, it would be a toss up between this one and my trusty M800 which one would be the last to go. The fine nib writes like a medium most of the time and by applying just the slightest pressure it writes a fat medium to broad line. As is very often the case with the HS it has a generous flow. It wrote perfectly out of the box from day one and never has any starting problems.
    Of my two stubs, one is stock factory, while, according to the person who sold it to me, the other was tuned by Mike Masuyama. Oddly enough, the stock nib always writes perfectly, while the tuned nib seems to be a bit dry at times and appears to be picky about paper. Perhaps I've always been lucky?
    I should add that I tend to stay with Visconti inks for these pens as they work well for me (blue, turquoise and sepia respectively). Especially the turquoise in a stub looks great. They have just one disadvantage (if you are so inclined): they are quite saturated and so offer hardly any shading if at all. I don't mind as I tend to be conservative with inks and colours, although I must admit that your writing samples with Diamine Ancient Copper are very tempting.
    By the way, you have a very nice "little" blog. I really like the way you are treating the subject. I look forward to future posts.


  2. Hi Peter,
    I'm glad you like your Visconti stubs. I own some Visconti ink too (old blue, new blue, turquoise) but I kind of forgot about them lately. You're right, they're very nice inks indeed. I will give them a go in spring when my "blue phase" begins again. ;)

    Diamine Ancient Copper is really great, though it does tend to build up ink crud on some pens (you've probably seen my review about the CS Dinkie). All Diamine colours also come in small bottles which are great for testing and carrying around- though not all pens fit through the narrow opening and some need to be eyedropper filled. I bought 9 small-size colours of Diamine in late summer. Love Majestic Blue and Ancient Copper the most and Sherwood Green has been great for painting Christmas cards. ;)

    Have fun,

  3. Great blog about the Visconti Homo Sapiens. Thanks for sharing such a valuable blog with us!!

    visconti pens

  4. Thank you for this beautiful blog entry. Lovely pictures, too.

    This Saturday, I bought my first Visconti fountain pen, the Homo Sapiens Bronze. Although I love the 1.1 mm stub on my TWSBI 580, it is not my daily writer. After testing both EF and F nibs in a proper brick-and-mortar shop, I picked the F nib. The EF was a true extra-fine, very nice, not scratchy, but not as smooth as I'd like. The F is wonderful: smooth, wet and not too wide for my writing.

    I really like the materials used in this pen: lava, resin, palladium. Combined with the power filling system and bayonet cap lock, I'd say this is a pretty unique pen. Happy to have added it to my set of tools.

    Currently filled with Akkerman Simplisties Violet, it has joined me at work today.

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  6. Agree with you and other commentators - the Visconti Homo Sapiens is a great pen. Your pictures of your sample scripts with the orange and blue inks are beautiful - you have a very nice hand. If you get a chance try Iroshizuku Ama-Iro in your HS, that is what I have in mine and it is great fun writing a letter with it.
    Best wishes and bye for now.