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  • Donna LaFrance

History of Ancient Pens: Why Pen Really Is Mightier Than Sword


Historically, pens are the writing instruments that have been credited with the recording and sharing of knowledge. Their invention and evolution made it possible to record thoughts, messages and information on paper and spread the word far and wide. The dissemination of information on a large scale certainly would not have been possible without pens.


The Inventors Of Pen

The earliest developers of the pen were the ancient Egyptians. The first written pieces on papyrus appeared approximately 5000 years ago. This was the first step in making language permanent and tangible.


As there have been several different variations of pens since the ancient times, the names of inventors vary as well. Let’s take a look at the evolution pens.


Egyptian Reed Pen

In 2000 BC, the Egyptians wrote on papyrus and parchments with reed pens. These pens were created from hollow tubular stems found in marsh grasses and bamboo plants.


The writing end of the tool was cut as a pen nib and writing fluid was flown down in to it from the other end. When squeezed, the fluid would light flow out, enabling the holder to write.


Quill Pen

The quill pen is one of the most used kind of pens in history. They were used extensively from the 17th to the 19th century. This tool was produced with the feather of birds such as geese, turkeys and swans.  


To ensure proper use, the feathers were dried to rid them any oils. Next, the feather’s tips were sharpened with knives to form a study nib. Finally, the shaft was dipped in ink to write. While these pens were durable, they needed frequent sharpening with a special knife.


This pen gave birth to a different style of writing. Previously, letters were big, sloppy and written in capital letters. Due to the smoothness of the nib of the quill pens, it became easier to adopt a decorative style of writing.


Steel-Point Pen

John Mitchel heralded the arrival of mass produced pens that were made with steel by machines. These pens were similar to quill pens as they had to be dipped in ink but were cheaper and sturdier than their predecessors.


Mitchel resided in Birmingham which became a hub for the production of these pens in the 1850s.


Fun Fact: Metal nibs dating back to year 76 have been found in Ancient Egypt by archeologists suggesting a much earlier use. However, the mass production that started in Birmingham gave rise to the accessibility and popularity of steel-point pens.


It is fascinating to think how far the mighty pen has come. The ball pens and fountain pens we use today are products of centuries of development. If the rich history of pens has enticed you, head over to our online store to shop for the finest European style pens. Our handcrafted collection includes sophisticated Cigar, Princeton and Slimline Pens.

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