|Does anyone remember
the fountain pen?
You may have seen
horrible things with rubber bladders that sucked up a supply of black
from an inkwell on the school desk, and then squirted all over your
More than one mother cursed Lewis Waterman, who patented the infernal
back in 1884. His was the first "practical" patent; the others before
were practically useless, and spilled more ink than they put on paper.
pen with its internal ink supply, we only had quill pens. Pulled from
tails, the shaft was shaved to remove the fuzz that could soak the ink
up the shaft to your fingers.
You've heard of
right? These were originally the knives used to sharpen the end of a
to a point and then split it at the end.
Just why are fountain
pens split at their point? For exactly the same reason we used to use
to split the quills - the split point will hold more of the ink. Not
for sure. You'll still be dipping into the inkwell every few words, but
the split does hold more ink than just a point. Put pen to paper and
a few words. Dip it into the well again for more ink and write a few
words. More dips, more words. Dip, write, and repeat.
Book of Kells is
an example of the beautifully illuminated manuscripts created by simple
People got tired of
having to sharpen the quills, which wore out very quickly and broke
In the early 19th century someone invented a steel nib trying many
of splits and folds trying to get it to hold more ink. Still seeking
other inventors came up with new ideas, and finally in 1930's we had
first ballpoint pen.
When the pen
added a clip so men could keep pens in their pockets, they became a
of fashion. Rings were added to women's pens so they could be attached
to a chain.
Ballpoint pens went
wild in the 60's. You could get them with up to ten different colors in
one big fat pen. People pretty much stopped using fountain pens as much
because of the cost as compared to the ease of using the new disposable
But today, the
pen is making a reappearance at modest prices. Many writers,
and executives prefer a classic Parker to the plastic ballpoint that
out when empty.
So, you once more
the option of a beautifully crafted set consisting of fountain pen and
mechanical pencil, another blast from the past. Or, you can pick up
the pen, in a classically lovely box, lined with velvet and embossed
About the author.
Gretchen Allbright is a calligrapher who has been a student of artistic
writing all her life.
She teaches calligraphy to private students in her studio. You can
read more articles about pens at