Yay For The Fountain Pen!

This one’s from Gordon, who goes further back in history than I do.

“Why do I love fountain pens?” The short answer is “just because I do” but there’s more to it than that. As kids we were restricted to pencils. That felt like a severe deprivation. Writing in ink was what adults did. Ballpoints (or Biros as they were called back then, regardless of who made them) were still pretty unreliable and dip pens were a form of torture indulged in by sadistic teachers. The fountain pen was an object of aspiration.

Of course I have used ballpoints; there were years and jobs were it was mandatory. I didn’t like them – they skipped if you didn’t apply enough pressure which led to a painful hand. It wasn’t helped by the near-vertical angle they demanded. One job I had in more recent years turned that on its head. As a registrar of births, deaths and marriages anything other than a fountain pen was forbidden. I enjoyed that and took great care to ensure my ledgers were as well-written and presentable as possible. In the early 2000s registration was computerised but thankfully I had moved on by then.

Like everyone else I have my favourite pens, but almost any fountain pen is preferable to the alternatives. If it’s properly adjusted it takes only the lightest touch to work its magic. Whereas a ballpoint is a ballpoint is a ballpoint, fountain pens, especially older ones, have an individuality of their own. No two Waterman 52s or Conway Stewart 286s write quite the same.

I’m retired now and I rarely have to write any more. I choose to do so often, however, especially with the various “new to me” pens that come my way. What kind of line will it lay? How will it feel in the hand? How will my writing look with it?

There are many alternatives to the fountain pen nowadays – everything from the gel pen to the PC. Doubtless they all have their uses but they are a poor second choice for me.

5 thoughts on “Yay For The Fountain Pen!

  1. I do so agree, says it all for me as well – many more besides I suspect. I’m sure you also remember those dip pens and how easily the nibs splayed or crossed and picked up the sludge at the bottom of the inkwell. Powdered ink and water ahh! I was also an ink monitor for a short while, filling up those little porcelain inkwells at the start of class. I seem to remember also that the large tin jug for carrying out this ‘special’ task was pretty rusty!

  2. Hello Gordon – good to hear your words again and look forward to some more soon.

    I still call a ballpoint as biro – I hope Lazlo would be proud, and in the same way, on Sunday mornings, I take my Hoover from the cupboard, even though it’s a Dyson……… and in the shed still pick up my B. & D. even though it’s a Bosch…………….. all the result of growing older, unfortunately.

    I also used dip pens, although can’t really remember what the resulting scribble looked like, but
    there must have been unwanted blobs of ink somewhere since we had blotting paper on the desk as a matter of course – but we must have written a lot slower otherwise that little nib would have been digging into the paper frequently…………. seem to recall that the tops of those desks showed a lot of ink stains, so must have been a very messy business.
    I’d give a lot though to have my old oak desk back – not for nostalgia, but bet they’d be worth a few shillings now………….. makes it sound like the 1850s rather than the C20!

    Whilst a brilliant invention of course, for my money possibly the biggest down side to the ballpoint/rollerball invention, was the change in quality of writing created by the accompanying speed. This speed changed for ever the creative and attractive joined-up cursive writing that was born of fountain and dip pens. Now most writing consists of printed lower case letters, and since the pc can spell-check then we don’t even need to know how to spell, and texting and keyboards mean most folk under fifty don’t pick up a pen – unless they’re like us:)

    Suppose there is some element here for admitting that………… “”look, if you’d offered William Morris an electric router, I’m sure he wouldn’t have refused it”” – situation………… so maybe we should come to understand that high standards are only maintained provided we suffer some inconvenience and hardship:):)

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