endgame: aurora 88 big
If you haven’t had a free day in a while, you will find that it passes too quickly. When you don’t need to get out of the bed, you simply don’t. Well, until you crave coffee so much that you can almost smell it. Then, you can throw open the curtains, make a huge mug of coffee, open up your book and read. Perhaps take a walk under a miserably overcast sky, sit at a cafe that looks inviting. Suddenly, they’re closing down the cafe, the darkness settling into all of the nooks and crannies of the streets. As you walk back, people behind their windows look happy and warm, illuminated by their yellow lamps. The streets are dim, the lights diffusing out before reaching the pavement. When you reach home, the day has already passed.
It is time. My Aurora 88 seems to have come full circle and I have to write about it. I present to you: (my) endgame.
As I pick up the black Aurora 88 Big, I realise that my inks are covered in blood red. The ink has leaked once more. I open the cap and a single drop falls onto the page. I’m at a lovely little pub, caught red handed. Flushed, I asked for tissues.
I promise these are the last puns I’ll make about this ink-cident.
I never thought I’d have an Aurora, simply accepting that they were out of my price range. No hard feelings.
Well, I managed to get my hands on one in the second-hand market, for a good price. It showed its age with some scratches, though the pen was in working condition. Can’t ask for much more, can I? I went to pick it up, because I wasn’t sure about the medium nib as I tend to write pretty small. When the velvet box was opened, I thought that this pen looked a little underwhelming. It was the regular Aurora 88, slightly stubby with its rounded ends and curved body. Scratched a little from regular use, but the black resin shiny as ever. It fit my hand like it was made for it. Dipping it into some trusty old Lamy Blue, the nib wrote a true medium line.
I was in love.
Unfortunately, I bought it without inspecting it very closely, in part due to excitement, in part due to my trust in the seller. Thinking that they’d have to pry this pen from my cold dead hands in order to sell it, I decided to let go of my staining fears and inked it with J. Herbin Rouge Grenat.
The very next day, I packed my pens into the trusty old Galen Leather Case and went to office, then to school. Turns out, I didn’t use the Aurora throughout the day, only to reach for it when I came back home. My case’s undyed leather insert was stained a dried red, my fingers stained an almost-brown when I grabbed the pen. It had leaked and the pen case had saved everything else in my bag. A closer inspection showed a crack under the ring that separates the piston knob.
I had two choices: get the pen repaired, or return it. I genuinely considered getting the pen repaired because the price was great for it, thought I had sold some pens to fund it. I cleaned and returned the pen, explained the situation to the vendor. He kindly accepted it back. Sometimes, it is just not meant to be.
The next few months, I kept my eyes open for another one. Almost got a vintage 88, which is a legendary pen in its own right. In the mean time, I had sold a few other pens, since it felt like very few of my collection could compare to the Aurora 88. Getting over that pen seemed challenging at best, impossible at worst. I saw it in my dreams even. It couldn’t continue like this.
In the end, I got contacted by a seller over on reddit, offering two 88 Big’s with old-style bouncier nibs with long tines and rolled gold cap. It was the middle of my no-buy December, so I only arranged to get the one with the fine nib. Let me be perfectly honest: it is a gaudy pen. The gold cap shines like a mirror, you can even see me with the camera in my face in some of the pictures that I have uploaded.
I love it to bits.
This one was a slightly larger pen than the previous one I had, hence the “Big.” It still fit my hand, the longer body was still nicely balanced against my palm. The piston was smooth, the nib perfectly tuned right out of the bubble wrap. It has been constantly inked with Parker Quink Blue Black, a not-so-dark blue black with a lovely green hue.
Then, I saw that the same seller had put up another one. Black with gold trim, medium nib, again with the longer tines. The same one as the one that got away.
For the first time, I considered getting the same pen twice.
I decided to buy the second one as well, going as far as to ask the seller if he was finally running out of Aurora’s. Thankfully, he said this one was his last.
So, I got the second Aurora 88 Big, this time with a medium nib and a black resin cap. Only slightly less shiny, I don’t know how a resin can be this shiny.
The day it arrived, I inked it up with J. Herbin Rouge Grenat. Of course. I set myself up for these things.
I used the pen for a few days, it was as flawless and wonderful as the previous one. Then, I went on a holiday. Turns out, I didn’t write at all again. After two plane rides -and a cap that wasn’t tightly closed- later, I opened the pen up to write the draft for this blog post, leading to a red stain on a different Galen Leather case. Honestly, sturdy leather cases are the only thing that save me.
A quick inspection quelled all my fears about a crack and I went on merrily writing away.
So… Even after all that, what makes me come back to this pen every single day?
Since the shape of the pen seemed to fit my hand so well, I decided to look up the pen’s design. The vintage 88 that was designed after the Second World War was a legend in its own right and it seemed like the modern 88 had almost no relation to its predecessor (take a look at this article for a fascinating read on the history of the pen model).
This Aurora 88 Big isn’t typically a pen that I would prefer. It is long, even though not very thick, with rounded ends. I prefer flat-tops usually, but the dome on the cap side of this pen somehow hits the right chord with me and I am so in love with it. The well-defined grip suggests you a grip, albeit doesn’t force you into a regular grip like most triangle shaped sections do. A smooth piston mechanism that holds a decent amount of ink is a bonus for me, though I’ll be fine with pretty much any filling system. If I hadn’t held this pen shape in my hand before buying, I wouldn’t think it was a good fit.
Alas, it is.
Wait, wait, wait. Before I move on, I have to talk about one very important part of this pen: the clip. I am not a clip person at all, my pens stay in a case where they don’t need a clip and when I set them on the table, I am very careful. The beautiful curve of this clip is mesmerising. It is almost too beautiful. I don’t know how they did it. Just… I think this is the most beautiful clip that has been put on any pen. A simple, sweeping curve that has the smoothness of falling water.
I want to meet with the designer just to congratulate their epic taste. Very few pens are beautiful only due to their shape, and not their material.
Let me come to the star of this show, the in-house 14 karat gold nib that Aurora put into these pens. The tines are much longer and bouncier than I’m familiar with, which does require a bit of a getting used to. Apparently they changed to the shorter tined versions these days due to too many of them getting sprung by heavy hands that are used to ballpoints. I can see that, sometimes even my pressure seems a little heavy, spreading the tines a bit, and I do write with very little pressure compared to most people. The line width is true to its stamp on the ebonite feed, though it is pretty wet. Rouge Grenat shades black in places, and the edges of the letters with the Quink Blue Black is laced with a red sheen. It does have a bit of feedback to keep the writing in control, which gives a little tactile feeling that I can’t find in any other.
Long story short, I think I have found my pen. I want to call this pen a perfect pen, like I did the Lamy 2000. At this point in my pen collecting, I know that that doesn’t exist. A pen is perfect for an occasion, a feeling, a use-case scenario. For now, Aurora 88 is irreplaceable for me. I miss using that pen when I use another well-loved pen like Pilot 823. When you compare those two, they feel completely different in the hand, but I can’t pick between them. They’re both perfect in their own ways.
Thank you for reading. Please listen to the song while reading this and please sing along.