April 16, 2015

The ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ Of Pens

He adverted that, “The Pen is the ‘Tongue of the World’”,
but he should have said “The Pen is the Tongue of the Mind”. —Cervantes

[Posted on L&P and FPN on June 29, 2007.]
        Along with Prince’s Protean Fountain Pen, which was advertised as
“The Pen Of The Ready Writer”, and “The ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ For Writers”, and as having “the ‘ne plus ultra’ of Gold Pens”, what other writing instruments were advertized with the Latin phrase “ne plus ultra”, literally 
“no more beyond”, and meaning “none better”?  And what of the Waterman Co.’s pretensions to an “Ideal” pen?  Weren’t they guilty of the same exaggerated claims?
        Thomas P. How’s patent no. 26,992 for an “Inkstand” was issued on Jan 31, 1860.  It was called “How’s Ne Plus Ultra Inkstand”, and was manufactured by Benjamin F. Cook.  And Levi Brown’s “Ever-Pointed Premium Gold Pen” was advertized as “The ‘Ne Plus Ultra’ of pens” in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Feb 26, 1842, p.2.  There was also the related Latin phrase “Multum In Parvo” meaning “much in little”, which was used to describe Bagley’s “Patent Extension Pen And Pencil Case” because of the “multiplicity of its usefulness”.  This appears in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Dec 1, 1846, p.1.  There are 631 uses of the phrase “ne plus ultra” to be found in the online archive of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle between the years 1841 and 1902, and even more uses of the word “desideratum”.
        Sampson Mordan’s UK patent no. 7,071 issued on Apr 23, 1836 for his “Triple-Pointed Slip Pen”, one of the first patent reservoir nibs, was described by William Baddeley in the June 11, 1836 issue of Mechanics’ Magazine, p.154, as “what really does appear to be the ne plus ultra of metallic pens”.
        There is also an X-patent for an unknown machine, patent no. X4,059, which was issued on Mar 21, 1825 to Jeremiah Bailey of Philadelphia, PA, for a “Machine Called Ne Plus Ultra”.  It’s probably not a writing instrument, but it shows how ubiquitous the phrase was in the early nineteenth century.
        Last but not least, there’s also James Henry Lewis’s 1812 book on shorthand writing, which he titled, The Ready Writer, Or, Ne Plus Ultra Of Shorthand, thus killing two birds with one stone by also quoting The Bible, Psalm 45:1.
        Then Antonios Zavaliangos posted, “This is the ne plus ultra of posts”, and then he used the ironic mark.

Addendum, posted on L&P on May 4, 2010, and reposted here on Sept 7, 2015.
The ‘Ne Plus Ultra’, again
        Here are some more “Ne Plus Ultras”.  US trademark no.
5,563, by Reynolds & Reynolds, for “Inks”, on Jan 22, 1878, used since 1876, for a complex label with a crescent, a cross, a globe, the words “Ne Plus Ultra Of 1876” and “Self Copying Ink” within a diamond shape, and the firm name beneath.  There are also other trademarks that are synonyms for “nothing more beyond”, or “none better than”.  US trademark no. 11,513, George F. King, “Steel Pens”, Sept 23, 1884, used since 1876, for the word “Nonpareil”.  US trademark no. 32,464, Carter’s Ink Co., “Ideal Carbon Paper”, Feb 7, 1899, used since July 1892, for the words “Facile Princeps”, or “Easily First”.  And US trademark no. 35,048, L. E. Waterman Co., “Fountain-Pens”, Sept 18, 1900, used since July 1, 1883, for the word “Ideal”.  The word also appeared in about 13 other subsequent Waterman’s trademarks.  An ad in The Scientific American, Apr 13, 1889, p.238, shows a pen with the words “Waterman’s Ideal Pen” on the barrel.  It’s similar to the one in the ad on Olle Hjort’s website, also from 1889.  The “5, ’89” in the ad means May 1889.  And this one’s from 1886.  And this one, from 1884, and this one, from 1883.  Waterman most likely took out the above trademark and US trademark no. 49,715 in response to such uses of the word “Ideal” as the one in the Carter’s trademark, and in “The Ideal Scrap Book” in US patent nos. 675,226 and 683,632, and the whole climate of such copycat trademarks as “Ace”, “Apex”, “Champion”, “Climax”, “Clymax”, “Klymax”, “Crown”, “Eclipse”, “Idea”, “Paragon”, “Perfection”, “Standard”, “Triumph”, “Universal”, “Zenith”, and many other superlative names and exaggerated claims.

        And then Antonios wrote, “These findings are truly enjoyable.  Now, all I need is the time to study them”.

George Kovalenko.