More and more I’ve found myself fascinated by mechanical pencils. I admire their technical ingenuity, I enjoy the wide variety of materials they come in and I love that anything from a miniature cricket bat to a greyhound’s head can reveal itself to be a mechanical pencil.
All too aware of my abysmal ignorance on the subject I went looking for a guide. There are several out there. I settled on Collecting Pencils by the late Sue Courtier with Jane and Jim Marshall. It’s a slender paperback of 66 pages but there’s a huge amount of information in there and it’s profusely illustrated, mostly in colour. It cost £12.00.
The authors emphasise that this is a beginner’s guide and I have no doubt that there’s much more to learn but it is a very comprehensive introduction. There are chapters on everything from classification of pencils to the simpler repairs that one might conduct oneself. One thing the authors have wisely chosen to omit are the list of prices that you find in many books on writing instruments. These prices are rarely a good guide even at the time of publishing and with the passage of time often become more and more misleading.
Seeing all the varieties and brands of mechanical pencils laid out like this it seems too huge a field to ever come to terms with, but I can remember a time when the fountain pen world looked equally vast and varied. I’ve enjoyed this book immensely and I think I will find more involvement with mechanical pencils equally enjoyable.