“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.”
— Isaac Asimov
The History of Fountain Pen Day
It is only right that an instrument that has figured so much in our lives, our culture, and history has its own dedicated day in the year. Therefore in 2012, it was established that every first Friday of November will be bookmarked as Fountain Pen Day. The aim was to recognize, encourage, and share the experience of using fountain pens. It is the official day for all of us fountain pen enthusiasts to come together to express our love for these wonderful tools.
A Few Milestones on the Fountain Pen’s Journey
From the first, prehistoric marks made on stone, our writing implements have come a long way to become the ones we know today. One forefather of the fountain pen is the ancient Egyptian reed pen, created around 3000 B.C., designed to work with papyrus. Made from tubular marsh grass, commonly bamboo, one end of it was sharpened to shape the pen’s nib and the hollow body was filled with writing fluid made from soot and vegetable gum. The pen would then be squeezed to make the ink flow out.
Centuries later, the quill pen was made in Seville, Spain. This came from either goose, turkey, or swan feathers, which were first dried to remove any oils that could affect the ink. A handy knife (pen knife) was commonly used to sharpen the tip before writing. When the quill pen was dipped in ink, the hollow shaft served as a reservoir. This kind of dip pen allowed for more decorative and stylized writing techniques and the development of lowercase letters. The period of use of the quill pen, from the 7th to 19th century, has been the longest for any writing instrument in history so far.
In 1822, John Mitchell from Birmingham started the mass production of machine-made dip pens with steel nibs. This was a significant improvement on the traditional quill pens, which made them sturdier and cheaper to make. This more accessible and durable iteration positively influenced the progress of education and literacy during these times.
As people became more proficient with writing, the process of repeatedly having to dip the pen into the inkwell became cumbersome. This increasing frustration fuelled the invention of the fountain pen, first patented in 1827 by the Romanian Petrache Poenaru in France. The pen’s reservoir was created using a swan’s quill as the barrel. However, this design was not refined, causing major flaws that affected ink flow such as sudden, intermittent leaking or no ink at all.
Lewis Edson Waterman designed a fountain pen feed in 1884 that had three channels that aided capillary action. His patented innovation enabled a more consistent ink flow and added to the portability of the pen.
Since then, the fountain pen with its various parts and aspects have gone through numerous modifications. Some have become mainstays of its current designs, while others have become interesting facets of its developmental history. We have been fortunate to benefit from all the past alterations to this well-loved invention. With the multitude of styles and configurations that are presently available to us, it is not surprising that we gladly dive into the fountain pen wonderland’s rabbithole, and never look back.
Let’s Celebrate Fountain Pen Day
This is the day for us to express our appreciation, a time for us to honor this trusty companion by recognizing its role in our lives. Here are a few ways to highlight how the fountain pen has enriched our journey:
#1 — Reconnect with your fountain pens. - Take a look at your collection. Are there some pens that haven’t gotten enough attention lately? Ink one up and rediscover what drew you to it in the first place.
#2 — Write a letter to someone special. - One of the attractions of using a fountain pen is the tactile experience of the process, as well as the visual and sentimental impact of a personal, handwritten missive. Take the time to acknowledge the attention and effort it takes to send a part of yourself to someone you care for.
#3 — Give your pen/s a spa day. - Again, examine your fountain pens. Are there any in need of repair, or at least some basic cleaning? Maintenance is part and parcel of being a responsible fountain pen owner, and regular upkeep lets you enjoy them for a longer time and to their full potential.
#4 — Create an appreciation page for your fountain pens. - Do you keep a journal? Whether or not you do, you can claim a moment to write down or sketch on paper the reasons why fountain pens are part of your life. As an exercise in gratitude, this helps you to value what you have and realize how much fountain pens have influenced your life.
#5 — Celebrate with a new fountain pen. - Do you have one that’s been in your cart for the longest time? Take this opportunity to finally treat yourself. While you’re at it, why not add a matching fountain pen ink to go with that pen? Fountain Pen Day is also one of the best times to penable a friend or loved one.
These are just a few suggestions on how to make this event extra special for yourself and for others. I hope you can find more ways to show and spread the love.
Happy Fountain Pen Day from EndlessPens!
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Written by Lekz Umali
Check out her art on Instagram!