What’s Next?

A sense of proportion is a useful thing to have but it doesn’t always fit with our hobbies and obsessions.

Writing has been around for a long time and it has been done in a variety of ways. When we fill in a form in block capitals it’s a memory of the chiselled letters on Roman memorials. A little later monks were creating Books of Hours and copies of the gospels like The Book of Kells with quills and paintbrushes. This isn’t a history of writing; I don’t plan to go through every way letters have been formed or ink laid on paper.

Clerks like Bob Cratchit got through lots of steel nibs in the nineteenth century. Lawyers had something approaching a writing factory turning out legal documents. The written word was of supreme importance.

When the fountain pen came along it solved a few problems. No more constant dipping. Portability was improved. It became a status symbol and an item of personal jewellery. It had a fairly short life as the primary writing instrument, though. Roughly 1890 to 1960, then we moved on to the next thing in that long chain of writing tools, the ballpoint.

Taking all that into account, does it matter if the world’s writing comes out of a laser printer in Times New Roman? Whether it does or not that’s how it is and how it will be until the next thing comes along, whatever that may be.

In the meantime I continue on with my fountain pen, taking pleasure at the formation of letters at the tip of my nib. If that makes me an anachronism, so be it. I’ve been called worse things.

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