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The humble pen is an item we all use everyday and probably not something we ever really think about

18/10/2023     Blog

The humble pen is an item we all use everyday and probably not something we ever really think about or realise how important they are to our daily lives. Often we just use cheap plastic pens or personalised company branded pens but sometimes we treat yourselves to a more expensive quality pen such as a Waterman, Parker or even a lovely Mont Blanc example. 

Have you ever thought about when pens were invented?

The first pens were thought to date from around 3200 BC in Ancient Egypt and were carved from plants such as reeds and bamboo with one end sharpened into a pen nib with a flat point and also a spilt in the point. They wrote on Papyrus the predecessor of paper.

In 600 AD Quill pens were developed. They were used from the flight feathers of geese and the more expensive examples from Swans. Finer and smaller lettering could be achieved with a quill pen and were more flexible and easier to write with. The hollow shaft of the quill meant that the ink was drawn up giving a longer period of writing.

At this time people wrote on animal skins and parchment.

In the early 19th century with the start of the Industrial Revolution new machinery for mass production of many different products were introduced. John Mitchell developed a way to mass produce steel nibs for pens so in 1825 his brother William started a business in Birmingham making the first steel nibs. They were more durable, cheap and quick to mass produce. The quill pen soon became redundant as people preferred the different widths and shapes that could be brought.

The first fountain pen which held ink inside the pen was invented in 1827 by a Romanian called Petrache Poenaru and was marketed as a “Self Fuelling Endless Portable Quill With Ink”.

My favourite brands are Lamy which I use as my everyday pen and Mont Blanc. I am lucky enough to own one but just use it on special occasions!

Mont Blanc was founded in 1906 by August Eberstein from Berlin and Alfred Nehemias a banker from Hamburg but it wasn’t until 1910 that the Mont Blanc trademark was registered. In 1913 the company’s emblem of a rounded white star placed at the end of the pen became the official logo and represented the snow capped peak of the Mont Blanc mountain.

Vintage pens are very collectable and sell well at auction. They don’t take up much room and can easily be brought from as little as £20. Why not collect a particular brand or pens in your favourite colour or even quill pens! 

I really like the early 20th century celluloid cased pens often made by a brand called Conway Stewart. These were made in a variety of colours in a marbled effect case the more expensive examples having gold nibs. These are often include in our fortnightly sales of Antiques and Collectables and are a great way to start a collection of pens.