History of the Fountain Pen

The Case for Cursive
April 1, 2017
Penmanship in the 21st Century
April 5, 2017

A fountain pen is a nib pen that, unlike its predecessor, the dip pen, contains an internal reservoir of liquid ink. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib and deposits it on paper via a combination of gravity and capillary action.

As humans civilisation advanced so did the need to communicate. Oral expression was fine for a time, but a yearning arose to record new found knowledge for future generations. Written language required the writing device.

Some form of writing instrument has been used for thousands of years and has been altered and improved on as writing surfaces changed. In early times a carving tool or stylus was employed to impress markings onto damp clay. This stylus was probably the first type of writing pen. Reed and quill pens were the next evolution of writing implement, but they required constant dipping into ink.

Earlier, the Romans used a wood slab covered with wax as a writing surface. Their writing instrument was a stylus that was slender with a point on one end to carve into the wax and a broad flat area on the other end to erase and smooth the wax out.

The ancient Egyptians invented a writing surface called papyrus which was eventually adopted throughout the Mediterranean world. A primitive type of fountain pen was fashioned out of a reed stalk for writing on papyrus. One end was cut into a point, the stem filled with a fluid for writing, and then the reed was squeezed forcing the fluid out.

Due to the widespread popularity of papyrus as a writing surface, the reeds to produce them became scarce and difficult to obtain. Parchment or vellum made from the skins of animals proved to be a durable alternative material. Medieval scribes would use a metal-tipped bone stylus to mark out faint guidelines and then wrote with reeds or quill pens on the parchment filling in their markings.

Quill pens appeared around 700 A.D. and were made from the feathers of large birds. The natural hollow channel of the feather was discovered to be an ideal ink reservoir when dipped into a container of ink. The earliest goose quills were dipped into berry juice. Each quill pen was short-lived, lasting only about a week. Creating the bird quill pen was a rather lengthy process, and it constantly needed to be sharpened, using a special tool called a “pen-knife.” Eventually pen nibs were made of metal which did not have to be re-sharpened. All these writing instruments however still had to be dipped into ink every few strokes – a time consuming process.

Take a look below about the history of this amazing piece of technology as part of #MalaysiaCursiveWritingMonth


fountain pen history

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