Record it!

Humanity has an inbuilt need to write. At first it was purely practical, I’m sure, those cuneiform blocks recording stock and sales but it wasn’t long before the need to comment on life, record events and tell stories intruded.

Whether it was reed pens and papyrus, animal skins and quills, steel pens and paper it served an undeniable need. Fountain pens were not so different from the dip kind, just a little more convenient. Ballpoints added whatever it is that ballpoints add. Machines began to intrude as people composed directly onto the typewriter, later the flatter keyboard that fed a word processor or spreadsheet.

It’s possible to make moral judgments about these methods of laying our thoughts on paper or onto blocks of computer memory but ultimately it’s just about preference.

For many years my preference was fountain pens alone. There’s enough there to keep you fascinated forever, each nib being different from every other and there’s the charm of vintage and modern filling systems.

As a child I failed utterly at writing with a dip pen, the lethally pointed nib catching in the surface of the paper, spraying ink where it shouldn’t go. A few other kids managed it, a mystery to me. I hate to be defeated and a few months ago I decided on a rematch. At first I seemed to be no better than I was at seven years old but quite soon the years of acquired manual dexterity kicked in. I was astounded that I was finally able to write with the feared and detested dip pen even if it was only with relief and round hand stubs.

Over the years the batches of fountain pens I have bought for repair and resale contained occasional dip pen nibs. Some I gave away, others I kept though I could not have explained why. I now have a cigar box of nibs of every possible shape. Every new nib I tried was a challenge to be persevered with until I had some form of scrawled success.

It has become another obsession. I enjoy the slower pace of writing with dip nibs, though many retain quite a few lines-worth of ink with each dip. All my correspondence with friends of the pen persuasion is done that way now, with India or IG ink. Dip pens lack the everyday practicality of fountain pens but hey, this is a hobby. What does practicality have to do with it?


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