The Evolution Of The Pen Part One: From Stone To Feather
The evolution of what we know today as the fountain pen, began thousands of years ago from the writings and or archeological discoveries that we can observe in various forms such as: graffiti, wall paintings, cuneiform writings, and the clay tablets of Sumeria. The first primitive type of paper were clay tablets that were engraved with the help of a straw, the forerunner of the pen, cut diagonally in such a way to leave a mark on the soft, wet surface of the clay that in a second phase would then be dried so that the lines previously engraved would become imprinted. Overlooking this interesting part of our past, the true history of the pen begins with the invention of the paper made from papyrus thanks to the skilled Egyptian people. This introduction generated a significant change which was dictated from the intrinsic characteristics of the papyrus paper that demanded ink in order to leave legible marks, and lines. The Egyptian scribes learned to fabricate red and black ink by mixing soot and oxidized iron with water and glue. In order to write with this tenacious, yet elementary ink, the scribe would submerge the point of a reed that by capillary action was able to absorb a small quantity of ink, enough to allow several characters to be written.
This action was then repeated numerous times until the scribe completed his work: a task that followed writing through history until the end of the 19th century. The evolution of the pen was a direct result of the development of the accessories of writing: from utilizing papyrus to parchment, and finally to the paper that we are familiar with today. The first writing instrument with a point similar to a nib, made from a papyrus stem, was created during the antique Greek civilization. This pen with a nib was constructed by first drying a papyrus stem and then cutting it on one side in such a way that the point (a flute’s mouth) results split in two from one opening so that the pen obtained had a better result in respect to that of the reed used by the Egyptians, even though it’s correct use required much practice with the instrument. With the introduction of parchment paper, the goose feather pen surpassed that of the reed (straw) given it’s strength and flexibility.
From the 16th century, this kind of writing instrument was commonly used thanks also to the introduction of paper. The feather that became individualized as the most suitable for writing was the most external one of the right wing of the bird, that is then naturally turned to embrace the hand of who holds it. The process of making the goose feather pen that was introduced by the Dutch was composed of two phases: during the first phase, the feather was buried for a short time under a layer of fine and very warm sand in order to dry it’s inner and external membrane; and then, it was immersed in a boiling solution of alum or nitric acid to strengthen the feather for future use.
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