Saturday, January 10, 2015

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze (Maxi) Review


Somewhere around late 2009, Florence-based luxury pen maker Visconti announced a nib made out of 95% Palladium (23k) alloy, in a press-release. Most of the nibs that were commonly available were 18k/21k Gold with a few exceptions (Sailor, Danitrio among others), and this was the first of its kind. The other side of the snippet showcased a pen christened with the name of ‘Homo Sapiens’ (HS), forged from an almost equal mix of basaltic lava and resin, adorned with bronze and protected from competitors with a patented formulae. The lava came from Mt. Etna (an active volcano) on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. I came to know of this pen three years later while watching a bay sale. Visconti (estd. 1988) promised the HS lava to be unbreakable, flameproof (upto 100°C), with a slightly hygroscopic body, fitted with bronze parts with a corrosion-resistant titanium power filler. The versions available these days are  HS-lava/bronze or steel, a lava/bronze (by Mazzi) 388-limited edition (LE) and a 1000-LE crystal swirls or florentine hills or the 888-LE London Fog (made up of Acroloid/Sterling Silver). Besides, fountain pens there are also roller-balls and ball-point pens in the HS range, but those, of course do not concern our primary course of interest.

DESIGN (6/6)

Visconti does pay a gentle homage to the evolution of mankind by attaching significance to our Bronze Age, predating by around five thousand years. That’s the period when humans began smelting and mixing of metals like copper and tin, to produce alloys like bronze. Also during this period, a system of writing had gradually evolved, however it was majorly through symbols used to convey information. The trim-fittings including the clip are all made out of bronze, for this version of the pen. The trim-variants are steel or sterling silver for the other Homo Sapiens (HS) pens. The midi size is available only with steel trims.
Out of the well-protected box, this pen comes out with a spring-loaded clip made of bronze, holding a paper-flyer, which tells you the nib specification on one side (23K Pd – 950) and expresses ‘dreamtouch’ as – ‘Do not press! The nib will follow your dreams’. This being the Maxi model flaunts a larger nib.
The next thing, one would notice is the unique locking system of the cap. The quick-locking six hook safe lock threads enable disengaging the cap, with just a quarter counter-clockwise twist. That little twist will of course reveal a fabulous 23 karat two-tone Palladium nib and an almost earthly grip section. A click sound is heard, once you correctly twist-lock the cap. The cap has a spring inside, to support the locking threads. 

The finial on the cap mentions VISCONTI with the company logo of mirrored "V". It is customizable via Visconti's My Pen System with either your initials or a zodiac sign or even some gemstone. You can pull out the visconti medallion from the finial by using any magnet or adhesive tape and replace it with a gemstone of your choice. 

The name of the company VISCONTI is embossed on both sides of the (Ponte Vecchio shaped) bronze clip, with a dark earthly background. 

The bronze in my case had a slight patina developed over its rose-gold sheen, and I am happy with the dated-look. Alternately, there is a deep yellow bronze polishing cloth provided along with this pen to clean the surface-oxidation. For carrying it in your shirt pocket, you have to lift the end of the spring loaded clip, as the raised end does not slip easily. Two spaced bronze rings adorn the middle of the cap, with a mute semblance of another bronze-age. 

A large bronze centre-band at the start of the grip section with an earthly black HOMO SAPIENS imprint is followed by the cap-lock threads and subsequently the grip section. I would rather say that this pen is quite very intelligently designed, apart from wielding materials that could be hard to master.


As you can see, there is a bronze ring separating the power-filler knob from rest of the barrel. Once you rotate the knob counter-clockwise till an end-stop, you will be able to pull out the plunger, like a tethered sword from its sheath. The rod is made of Titanium, a metal which has proved to be phenomenally resistant to the most corrosive of fluids. Titanium rods are often placed as support inserts by dentists, in order to rebuild broken tooth structures. Yes you could quibble about an ink-window, but my guess is that it would compromise on the sheer robustness of the make.

                  Coming back to the HS-Bronze, once you push in the knob with the nib dipped inside an ink bottle, you can feel a surge of ink inside the pen. An ink capacity of around 1.2 - 1.5 mL doesn't allow your favourite ink to last that long, with this generous flow of the nib! The Steel midi version comes with a piston knob instead of a plunger. The midi has around 1 mL of ink capacity.


The giant two-tone nib with an usual iridium tip comes in four main sizes – EF, F, M & B along two special widths – BB (double-broad) & Stub (S). The nib has an leverage of around 2.6 cm and is a #6 Visconti nib. These dreamtouch nibs are manufactured by Bock. Made up of palladium and adorned with gold, this two-tone nib of HS-bronze makes a singularly distinctive statement. The steel variant comes with an equally graceful monotone silver-colour.
The tail end of the nib specifies the size and below it rests the composition (23k, Pd 95%) of the palladium-alloy used. Palladium is the dazzling silvery white metal while the golden ones are simply plating. A golden decor runs along the shoulders of the nib and it converges across the outer tines onto the iridium tip, while the silvery finish diverges from the lunar-eclipse breather hole across the inside of the tines and over to the tail. The name VISCONTI lies below the moony breather hole, with splashes of golden diamonds, droplets and half-moons to ornament the nib body. This one is a fine nib and writes smooth. At the tail end of the nib, lies the nib width, above which embossed are the specifications of ‘23k Pd 950’ and a word FIRENZE. Firenze refers to Florence, Italy which is the birthplace of both Italian Renaissance and Visconti Pens, thereby its borrowed tagline - The Writing Renaissance. 
The feed is a standard visconti feed with closely spaced fins, carrying the V logo at the delta region. The nib is screw-fit onto the grip section and can be swapped with ease, provided you take care of the flexible tines. It has quite a bit of flex, although there is not much difference for an EF or F nib, when it comes to line variation with a bit of pressure. I would strongly advise you to be careful with over-flexing the palladium nib, there could be a permanent damage to the nib.


With a cylindrical body forged out of basaltic lava and resin with  bronze rings, it does give an earthly repose  when held for writing with nearly of length with mass. The overall weight has got a significant contribution from the cap. As an analogy, the cap itself could be heavier than a Pelikan m600 fountain pen.
  • Capped Length ~ 14.4 cm 
  • Non-posted Length ~ 13.2 cm 
  • Uncapped Weight   ~ 26.6 g
  • Nib Leverage ~ 2.6 cm 
  • Overall Weight ~ 43.6 g
Comparing capped lengths, the HS Maxi does seem to be longer than a m805/MB146 although it's a tad shorter when compared to a pilot custom 823.
Uncapped all of them have a similar length, though the heft of the HS Maxi seems more.


Though the Homo Sapiens Maxi sells between USD 450-695, it might be available at lower street/auction prices. With end of season clearance sale, I was able to get the pen at a good discounted price. I would not undervalue this rating by much, because in the end the Homo Sapiens is a kind of masterpiece in itself. After all it's a pen made out of basaltic lava and bronze, with a unique palladium nib. But is it worth $ 695? Is any pen worth $ 695 for that matter!, you see it's a subjective question, I do not have an answer to that!

OVERALL (5.4/6)

The adorable matte black finish complements an anachronistic appeal of the Homo Sapiens Bronze, given the lava finish along with oxidizable bronze rings. This pen is blessed with a smooth fine nib which delivers a nice juicy wet line. 
        I am used to a few large pens, I like the balance and do not find any problem with either the heft or balance of HS Maxi Bronze.The line width closely resembles with a Pelikan/MB Fine nib. And with slight pressure, the tines do open up, thus increasing the line width to a decent 1.5x. For a moderately wet Sailor Ultramarine ink, it takes around 35 seconds to dry on Midori MD paper. The flex is evident to a greater degree due to the springy Palladium alloy. The nib was pretty wet even for an extra-fine nib with a generous ink flow. For thinner widths extra-fine is a better option. The original nib was an EF and it was a QC-victim. I went for a F-nib replacement.

EF nib

F nib

I did not face a situation of ink-sweating at edges of the grip. Hopefully, it has been fixed and there is no need to grease the nib-threads anymore. 

Thanks for going through the review. 
More pen and paraphernalia reviews here.
There is a review of the Florentine Hills here.


  1. “Many people like very much Homo Sapiens pen, first of all for natural material with it special soft touch and also for the spectacular flexibility of palladium nib.
    Don’t worry for the small white spots in the surface of the lava material you can easely cleaning the body with Nivea cream or something similar, and cleaning it with a soft cloth.
    Inside the box of the pen there is the instruction and the soft cloth too !!

    Visconti company compliments for accurate descriptions and comments on the technical characteristics of the pens ....... my compliment to the staff for the spectacular images of flowers, that I like very much !!!”

  2. Thank you for your article. I heard about quality control issues on this pen, but are you saying I can avoid a lot of the QC issues if I get a fine point, instead of the extra fine point? I want this pen, am willing to spend a lot on it, but I don't want any problems.

  3. Thanks Dave. Not necessarily, though the broader widths seem to have a lower margin for error, in my limited experience with this brand. My advice is that you test it/have it tested before getting the pen.