Montegrappa David Bowie Blackstar Limited Edition: January 8, A Date To Remember
by Nancy Olson
But his musical genius lives on through this experimental work and the many other significant albums produced throughout the English musician’s multidecade career.
Italian pen brand Montegrappa commemorates both the album and the man in a new limited-edition writing instrument collection within its Icons series. The David Bowie Blackstar includes a fountain pen and a rollerball whose essence, like Bowie’s music, is at once evident and implied – and might require some decoding.
For starters, there are 801 pens in the edition, a number that initially baffled me. Commemorative limited-edition pens are usually issued in a very obvious number for the series such as a notable year or some other important numerological reference. So, too, this one, but in a less conspicuous way.
“January 8, 1947 was Bowie’s date of birth, and Blackstar was released on the same date [in 2016],” Montegrappa CEO Giuseppe Aquila explains. “Of course, in Europe the convention is to place the day before the month, hence 08/01 became 801.”
Montegrappa worked with Perryscope in partnership with Epic Rights to bring the collection to fruition.
“From the beginning, they were instrumental in prompting us to home in on Bowie’s later career,” Aquila continues. “Initially, we were attracted to the flamboyance of his early ’70s personas – as many of their collaborators have been. But as we looked into it more deeply, the conceptual side of Blackstar [or ★, to be correct] became very appealing.”
The design of the pen is influenced by well-known British graphic designer and typographer Jonathan Barnbrook, who is responsible for the spare and cryptic Blackstar sleeve – the first that doesn’t include an image of Bowie. Barnbrook also designed the album sleeves for some of the musician’s earlier works, including Reality (2003) and The Next Day (2013).
Montegrappa David Bowie Blackstar: pens
The cap and barrel of the pens are micro-engraved resin over brass with Blackstar-inspired graphics; ultra-black ruthenium plate is used for the trim. A star decorates the cap crown on both the rollerball and fountain pen, and the latter, piston-filled, is fitted with an 18-karat gold nib available in five sizes.
“We are well known for our ornamental style, but also for our fearlessness when in it comes to dark subject matter,” Aquila shares. “Having just created a very baroque design for the Queen: A Night at the Opera [pen] edition, we decided to take the more contemporary route for our next Icons edition. After all, Bowie’s essence was always to look forward rather than backward.”
Montegrappa David Bowie Blackstar: the case
The unique packaging that cradles the pen has a magnetic closure, and, like a limited edition LP, it may be hung on a wall.
“[The packaging] is heavily influenced by Barnbrook’s stunning [sleeve] design for the album, which was sleek, sparse, and very original,” says Aquila. “The vinyl edition used black spot varnish on a matte-black ground with a die-cut star revealing the album inside.
“We wanted to echo the discipline and mystique of Blackstar specifically and of vinyl in general – hence the choice of size, materials, and style. We used similar over-printing and cutting techniques on premium card stock, then added fabric lining, magnetic inserts, and mounting options.”
The Montegrappa Icons collection celebrates cultural “royalty” who have made their mark through courage and skill. Earlier honorees, in addition to the aforementioned Queen, include Ayrton Senna, Sophia Loren, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley – a disparate but undeniably worthy group.
Aquila admits to being a fan of Bowie, but that’s not a prerequisite for consideration.
“It isn’t a rule that I need to be a fan. The Icons series is really about an affinity for individuals who forged their own path. It’s more objective and revealing than expressing blind admiration.”
For more information, please visit www.montegrappa.com/en/collections/edizionilimitate/david-bowie-blackstar.
Quick Facts Montegrappa David Bowie Blackstar
Cap and barrel: micro-engraved resin over brass with ultra-black ruthenium plate trim
Nib: 18-karat gold
Limitation: 801 pieces total: fountain pen (401) and rollerball (400)
Price: $2,495 (fountain pen); $1,750 (rollerball)