A luxury pen

A pen is a common writing instrument that applies ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing.[1] Early pens such as reed pens, quill pens, dip pens and ruling pens held a small amount of ink on a nib or in a small void or cavity that had to be periodically recharged by dipping the tip of the pen into an inkwell.[2][3] Today, such pens find only a small number of specialized uses, such as in illustration and calligraphy. Reed pens, quill pens and dip pens, which were used for writing, have been replaced by ballpoint pens, rollerball pens, fountain pens and felt or ceramic tip pens.[4] Ruling pens, which were used for technical drawing and cartography, have been replaced by technical pens such as the Rapidograph.[5] All of these modern pens contain internal ink reservoirs, such that they do not need to be dipped in ink while writing.[6]



Close-up picture of the tip of a ballpoint pen showing the ink-covered ball.
Writing tip of a ballpoint pen and 1mm white bar for scale

Pens commonly used today can be categorized based on the mechanism of the writing tip and the type of ink:


These historic types of pens are no longer in common use as writing instruments, but may be used by calligraphers and other artists:


Historic pens
M. Klein and Henry W. Wynne received US patent#68445 in 1867 for an ink chamber and delivery system in the handle of the fountain pen.

Ancient Egyptians had developed writing on papyrus scrolls when scribes used thin reed brushes or reed pens from the Juncus maritimus or sea rush.[16] In his book A History of Writing, Steven Roger Fischer suggests, on the basis of finds at Saqqara, that the reed pen might well have been used for writing on parchment as long ago as the First Dynasty, or around 3000 BC. Reed pens continued to be used until the Middle Ages, but were slowly replaced by quills from about the 7th century. The reed pen, made from reed or bamboo, is still used in some parts of Pakistan by young students and is used to write on small wooden boards.[14][17]

The reed pen survived until papyrus was replaced as a writing surface by animal skins, vellum and parchment. The smoother surface of skin allowed finer, smaller writing with a quill pen, derived from the flight feather.[18] The quill pen was used in Qumran, Judea to write some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which date back to around 100 BC. The scrolls were written in Hebrew dialects with bird feathers or quills. There is a specific reference to quills in the writings of St. Isidore of Seville in the 7th century.[19] Quill pens were still widely used in the eighteenth century, and were used to write and sign the Constitution of the United States in 1787.

A copper nib was found in the ruins of Pompeii, showing that metal nibs were used in the year 79.[20] There is also a reference to 'a silver pen to carry ink in', in Samuel Pepys' diary for August 1663.[21] 'New invented' metal pens are advertised in The Times in 1792.[22][full citation needed] A metal pen point was patented in 1803, but the patent was not commercially exploited. A patent for the manufacture of metal pens was advertised for sale by Bryan Donkin in 1811.[23][full citation needed] John Mitchell of Birmingham started to mass-produce pens with metal nibs in 1822, and after that, the quality of steel nibs improved enough so that dip pens with metal nibs came into general use.[24][full citation needed]

The earliest historical record of a pen with a reservoir dates back to the 10th century AD. In 953, Ma'ād al-Mu'izz, the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt, demanded a pen which would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen which held ink in a reservoir and delivered it to the nib.[25] This pen may have been a fountain pen, but its mechanism remains unknown, and only one record mentioning it has been found. A later reservoir pen was developed in 1636. In his Deliciae Physico-Mathematicae (1636), German inventor Daniel Schwenter described a pen made from two quills. One quill served as a reservoir for ink inside the other quill. The ink was sealed inside the quill with cork. Ink was squeezed through a small hole to the writing point. In 1809, Bartholomew Folsch received a patent in England for a pen with an ink reservoir.[25]

A student in Paris, Romanian Petrache Poenaru invented a fountain pen that used a quill as an ink reservoir. The French Government patented this in May 1827.[26] Fountain pen patents and production then increased in the 1850s.

The first patent on a ballpoint pen was issued on October 30, 1888, to John J Loud.[27] In 1938, László Bíró, a Hungarian newspaper editor, with the help of his brother George, a chemist, began to design new types of pens, including one with a tiny ball in its tip that was free to turn in a socket. As the pen moved along the paper, the ball rotated, picking up ink from the ink cartridge and leaving it on the paper. Bíró filed a British patent on June 15, 1938. In 1940, the Bíró brothers and a friend, Juan Jorge Meyne, moved to Argentina, fleeing Nazi Germany. On June 17, 1943, they filed for another patent.[28] They formed "Bíró Pens of Argentina", and by the summer of 1943, the first commercial models were available.[29] Erasable ballpoint pens were introduced by Paper Mate in 1979, when the Erasermate was put on the market.

Slavoljub Eduard Penkala, a Croatian engineer and inventor, became renowned for further development of the mechanical pencil (1906) – then called an "automatic pencil" – and the first solid-ink fountain pen (1907). Collaborating with the Croatian entrepreneur Edmund Moster, he started the Penkala-Moster Company and built a pen-and-pencil factory that was one of the biggest in the world at the time. This company, now called TOZ-Penkala, still exists today. "TOZ" stands for "Tvornica olovaka Zagreb", meaning "Zagreb Pencil Factory".

In the 1960s, the fiber- or felt-tipped pen was invented by Yukio Horie of the Tokyo Stationery Company, Japan.[30] Paper Mate's Flair was among the first felt-tip pens to hit the U.S. market in the 1960s, and it has been the leader ever since. Marker pens and highlighters, both similar to felt pens, have become popular in recent times.

Rollerball pens were introduced in the early 1970s. They use a mobile ball and liquid ink to produce a smoother line. Technological advances during the late 1980s and early 1990s have improved the roller ball's overall performance. A porous point pen contains a point made of some porous material such as felt or ceramic. A high quality drafting pen will usually have a ceramic tip, since this wears well and does not broaden when pressure is applied while writing.

A collection of vintage pens

Although the invention of the typewriter and personal computer with the keyboard input method has offered another way to write, the pen is still the main means of writing.[31] Many people like to use expensive types and brands of pens, including fountain pens, and these are sometimes regarded as a status symbol.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Pen Archived 2021-10-06 at the Wayback Machine. Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  2. ^ Johannessen, Christian Mosbæk; Leeuwen, Theo van (2017-09-18). The Materiality of Writing: A Trace Making Perspective. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-98646-0.
  3. ^ Greetham, David C. (2015-10-28). Textual Scholarship: An Introduction. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-75579-8.
  4. ^ "pen." Word Histories and Mysteries. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Credo Reference. Web. 13 September 2007.
  5. ^ Emmons, Paul (2019-04-01). Drawing Imagining Building: Embodiment in Architectural Design Practices. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-17952-8.
  6. ^ Silva, Patricia; Pauli, Erika (2009). Modern Times. Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 978-0-7614-4322-3.
  7. ^ "How does a ballpoint pen work?". Engineering. HowStuffWorks. 1998–2007. Archived from the original on 2018-12-25. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  8. ^ Schwartz, Debra A. (September 2001). "The Last Word: Just for the gel of it". Chemical Innovation. 31 (9): IBC. Archived from the original on 2020-07-15. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  9. ^ Florey, Kitty Burns (2013-10-08). Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. Melville House. ISBN 978-1-61219-305-2.
  10. ^ Sgamellotti, Antonio; Brunetti, Brunetto Giovanni; Miliani, Costanza (2020-07-01). Science and Art: The Contemporary Painted Surface. Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN 978-1-78801-469-4.
  11. ^ Stephenson, Jonathan (1987). Graphic Design Materials & Equipment: An International Directory. Chartwell Books. ISBN 978-1-55521-078-6.
  12. ^ "Stylus - Define Stylus at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
  13. ^ Lambrou, Andreas (1989). Fountain Pens: Vintage and Modern. Sotheby's Publications. ISBN 978-0-85667-362-7.
  14. ^ a b Farah, Iffat (1991-10-01). "School ka sabaq: Literacy in a girls' primary school in rural Pakistan". Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL). 7 (2). ISSN 1548-3134. Archived from the original on 2021-11-04. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  15. ^ Rahman, Azibor (2023-07-22). "Paper pens that can also grow into plants!". The Daily Star. Retrieved 2024-06-07.
  16. ^ Egyptian reed pen Archived 2007-02-21 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved March 16, 2007.
  17. ^ "Evolution of pen - From Reed Pen to 3Doodler - Spinfold". www.spinfold.com. April 2013. Archived from the original on 2021-05-01. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  18. ^ "pen." The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide. Abington: Helicon, 2010. Credo Reference. Web. 17 September 2012
  19. ^ The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville Archived 2021-07-28 at the Wayback Machine, Cambridge Catalogue Retrieved March 11, 2007.
  20. ^ Arnold Wagner – Dip Pens Archived 2019-03-28 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved March 11, 2007.
  21. ^ 'This evening came a letter about business from Mr Coventry, and with it a silver pen to carry inke in, which is very necessary.' Diary of Samuel Pepys, 5 August 1663:http://www.pepysdiary.com/archive/1663/08/ Archived 2012-10-19 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ The advertisement implies metal nibs had been in use for some years, but had not been generally accepted due to lack of flexibility and tendency to rust. It refers to 'Ivory Handles' with 'Gold Silver or Steel Pens to each', and says that 'new pens may be fitted in at pleasure', indicating that only the nibs were metal. It also claims the pens have 'well-tempered Elasticity' and that the 'Steel Points' are treated to be rustproof, rust being 'a circumstance that has been long and universally complained of in this article'. The Times. London. 8 June 1792. p. 4. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ He offered the patent, which had an unexpired term of 11 years, for sale together with the 'utensils peculiarly adapted to the manufacturing' of the metal pens: The Times. London. 15 August 1811. p. 4. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ In 1832 a woman accused of stealing a silver pen from a London shop said in her defence that she had 'one of the common metal pens' with her: The Times. London. 15 September 1832. p. 3. ((cite news)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  25. ^ a b Bosworth, C. E. (Autumn 1981), "A Mediaeval Islamic Prototype of the Fountain Pen?", Journal of Semitic Studies, XXVI (i)
  26. ^ Pierre Poyenar, "Plume sans fin portative, s'alimentant d'encre d'elle même" Patent FR-Poenaru, Application 3208. File: http://www.fountainpen.it/File:Patent-FR-Poenaru.pdf Archived 2021-08-31 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ GB Patent No. 15630, October 30, 1888
  28. ^ [1], "Writing instrument", issued 1943-06-17  Archived 2021-08-01 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ The Ballpoint Pen Archived 2007-04-17 at the Wayback Machine, Quido Magazin. Retrieved March 11, 2007.
  30. ^ History of Pens & Writing Instruments, About Inventors site. Retrieved March 11, 2007.
  31. ^ "Losing touch with paper and pen". Rediff.com. 2003-05-05. Archived from the original on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2013-05-03.
  32. ^ Guilfoil, John M. (August 17, 2008) The power of the pen Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. Boston.com