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History of the Pen

Since the beginning of civilisation, there has been a burning desire to record events, dreams and ambitions, hence providing us with the rich history we have today. However, without pen and paper, this was a difficult and arduous task.

By the year 3000BC the Eygptians had created papyrus, making the need for a writing implement even greater. Consequently, they created the first pen, known as the Reed Pen, made from hollow marsh grasses such as bamboo. The hollow tube formed the body of the pen and it was sharpened at one end to form a nib. It was then filled with a writing fluid, probably made by burning wood or oil and mixing the remaining residue with water. Then, by gently squeezing the tube, which made the ink flow, the ancient Eygptians were able to write successfully.

The reed pen continued to be used for centuries, not being replaced until the 6th century AD, when the Quill Pen was invented in Seville, Spain. These pens were made from the feathers of swans, turkeys and geese that had been dried in order to get rid of any oil. The quills were sharpened with a pen (penknife) to form the nib and then dipped into ink, which filled up the hollow resevoir, before writing. The quill pen was easier to use and far smoother than the heavier reed pen. Up until this point only capital letters had been used for writing, but now, as it had become possible to write faster and to form more decorative patterns, the lower case letters gradually evolved.

In 1822 the first machine made pens were being developed by a man called John Mitchell, in Birmingham, England. These were known as Steel-Point Pens , or Dip Pens, and were subseqently produced on a mass scale. Although they were used in the same way as quill pens, they were cheaper and more robust. This style of pen is the one that is still used today for calligraphy.

The dip pen was quickly followed in 1827 by the fountain pen, invented, and patented, by Petrache Poenaru, a Romanian inventor. However, his fountain pen had several flaws, mainly involving ink flow, and he never managed to perfect his design.

Lewis Edson Waterman perfected the fountain pen in 1884 when he designed a three channel ink feed. This invention ensured a smooth, even, ink flow making fountain pens readily available and a good replacement for the dip pen. Fountain pens evolved greatly during the 20th century, being made from many different materials and eventually being fed by replaceable ink cartridges.

The fountain pen, and dip pens, were used right up until 1943 when László Bíró, an Hungarian jounalist, along with his brother György, a chemist, invented the Biro. This pen was convenient, highly durable and could write on different surfaces and at different angles. The biro was a turning point in the evolution of pens and has been perfected and changed over the years.

In the modern world writing by hand is becoming a lost art, replaced first by typewriters, then computers and now by tablets and smart phones. During the recent pandemic, with people working from home, lock downs and job losses, many of us have found new hobbies, skills and subsequently new careers. Not least among these newly found art forms is Calligraphy which has become incredibly popular over the last few years. There is real pleasure in designing and writing, your own menus, wedding invitations, special announcements and thank you notes. On top of this, it has been proven that calligraphy is good for your life balance and mental health.

"The pen is the tongue of the mind.
Horace