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ALONG with the corkscrew, the fountain pen has moved from being an everyday object to high collector status, as shown in Bonhams & Brooks’ December sale when a new world record was set with a rare and beautiful Dunhill-Namiki giant dragon pen, decorated in makie lacquer by Shogo c.1928-30, which sold for £183,000. A thing of beauty, its cap and barrel are each decorated in high relief with a dragon writhing through storm clouds and flames – apparently you can even feel the scales of the dragon. Rarely seen and highly sought after, its selling price is a reflection of the pen’s rarity, the importance of the artist and the perfection inherent in the piece.

Bought by pen expert and co-author of Namiki, Stephen Overbury, bidding for a UK buyer, Mr Overbury also bid a successful £99,000, then a record-breaking high for a fountain pen, set in October at Bonhams & Brooks for a rare dragon l951-2 makie lacquer Pilot pen decorated by another master craftsman, Kyoto-born Kohoh, incidentally one of the great Shogo’s pupils.

Only 2000, hand-numbered copies of this modestly sized and tastefully photographed glossy work were printed, with 500 going to Dunhill with its own custom-designed cover. One can only hope that the “rarely seen” price of £120 for its 164pp contents will make this book “highly sought” – by collectors of vintage Namikis and modern limited edition Namikis.

Co-written by Julia Hutt, an assistant curator at the V&A and a Japanese lacquerwork expert, the Dunhill/Namiki story is an interesting one, described by Mr Overbury as a “saga of white-gloved retailing and brilliant distributing by the legendary Alfred Dunhill and the unique Japanese lacquer art of the Namiki Manufacturing Company (which became the Pilot Pen Company in 1938)”.

There’s not a price indication in sight which one has the feeling might be too common a touch in this rarefied arena... more of a study of the subject with its “choreography of rainbow refractions”.

Lacquer was first used in the 1920s by Namiki and a tradition evolved of decorating the lacquer by applying the centuries-old technique of makie, (“sprinkled picture”) sprinkling gold or silver powders onto the lacquer before it hardens.

The main body of the book, from page 68 to 129 is taken up with The Masterpieces, including some rhapsodic pens from Gonruku Matsuda, the leading master, the greatest in the field of makie lacquerwork and a Living National Treasure.

The Namiki Manufacturing Co Ltd employed 50 full-time lacquer artists from 1925 to the present time, a dozen of whom were considered masters. For most artists it took 30 years to master all of the advanced makie techniques to complete just one grade A piece, of which fewer than 1500 were made. Of that number 400 were under the Namiki brand, while the remainder were Dunhill-Namiki. Limited edition Namiki... in pen and book form.