Writing Pen History
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Writing Pen Evolution: Since Stone Age till Modern Ball Pens

The history of a pen creation goes beyond 6000 years ago. Writing items passed through serious stages of modernization during a long period of human civilization’s development, too. Let’s take a look back in history.

Writing Instruments Throughout Centuries

In the past, humans used stones to draw on rocks. Then, stones were replaced with bones or wooden sticks to draw symbols. Nearly in 3000 B.C., as the script and papyrus appeared, they began to use thin reed brushes as writing instruments.

Stone Writing Instrument

Further in history, during a long-lasting period from 1300 B.C. to 600 A.D., a stylus was a widespread writing instrument. They made the stylus of metal, and used it to write on wax plates. Despite the parchment invented by Anglo-Saxons a bit later, humans still used wax boards and styluses for a while afterwards.

At that time, they preferred parchment for manuscript books. But its popularity increased throughout the centuries. There appeared a need in a cheap and available instrument to write on it. Feathers became such instruments. Europeans learned to sharpen feathers in such a way so that the style of writing on a parchment page could get changed. This was the reason for uppercase letters to appear 14 centuries ago.

The feather lasted as a writing instrument for the longest period: almost till the end of the XVIII century. They mainly used geese feathers, but there were cases of using those of ravens and even peacocks. The process of preparation for the feather to become a writing instrument started from its cleaning in a super-heated sand. Then, the feather was cut under the certain angle, and sharpened carefully. This procedure required special skills and attention, as the quality of writing depended on the way how the feather was prepared. Famous writers of that time cut and sharpened their feathers personally, and good exemplars could often be valuable presents.

The production of writing instruments began in the XVII century. First, in 1790, there was invented a lead for a pencil. Till 1884, they could create a small and comfortable pen based on the capillary tube principle. It became a prototype for modern autopens.

The American Lewis Waterman, who used the principle of capillary tube in its construction became the inventor of the first pen of that type. The principle was about filling the reservoir of a pen with air that is passed through very thin channels. Channels were so thin that inks couldn’t get through them, but air got through with no problem.

The well-known George Parker, the village teacher from Wisconsin, went for further improvement of the autopen’s construction. His invention was patented is 1889, and was known for its high quality because of a precise detail adjustment. They created world history with Parker’s pens sometimes: they were used to sign international agreements between countries.

The feather is the heart of a pen, its main acting part. In modern autopens, feathers are made of metal alloys and have several levels of feather thickness. Ink supplement can be realized through various systems working as cartridges or convectors.

Cartridges are the analogues of usual rods; they are thrown away after the usage. Convectors are the equipment for more prestigious models, they have inks supplied with the piston or pump systems.

Ball Pen Age

The first inventor of a ball pen was the unknown American citizen John Jacob Loud. He received a patent for a pen with rounding ball-shaped tip back in 1888. Yet writing with a pen couldn’t become comfortable during those days. The main problem was about inks. Liquid inks were the reason of smudges left on papers, while dense inks dried on tips.

Since the end of the World War I, the level of ball pens’ popularity had a wave-like dynamics till the year of 1950. A lot of people tried to improve the invention and to lead it to the market. Brothers Biro from Hungary with their incomplete construction idea were among them.

Ball Point Pen

But it was exactly this construction which had been seriously improved by the French feather pen producer Marcel Bich. Steel balls having 1 millimeter of diameter were produced with a 0,01 mm preciseness. Bich was lucky to make his inks not to go through the writing tip excessively, so there were no dirty spots on the paper anymore.

In 1953 there began a serial production of pens in France, and in 1958 Buch founded a “BiC” company and entered the market of America. The company started a massive release of cheap disposable pens made of the lightest plastic. With time, all other writing instruments were kicked out of the market. And the world-famous BiC pens are used all over the planet in our times as well. 

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