A pen (Latin penna, feather) is a device used to apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used, with a nib of some sort to be dipped in the ink. Ruling pens allow precise adjustment of line width, and still find a few specialized uses, but technical pens such as the Rapidograph are more commonly used. Modern types also include ballpoint, rollerball, fountain, and felt or ceramic tip pens.
The main modern types of pens can be categorized by the kind of writing tip or point:
- A ballpoint pen dispenses viscous oil-based ink by rolling a small hard sphere, usually 0.7–1.2 mm and made of brass, steel or tungsten carbide. The ink dries almost immediately on contact with paper. This type of pen is generally inexpensive and reliable. It has replaced the fountain pen as the most popular tool for everyday writing. One common type of ballpoint pen is the erasable pen, invented in the 1980s.
- A crowquill pen is a favorite instrument of artists, such as David Stone Martin and Jay Lynch, because its flexible metal point can create a variety of delicate lines, textures and tones with slight pressures while drawing.
- A fountain pen uses water-based liquid ink delivered through a nib. The ink flows from a reservoir through a "feed" to the nib, then through the nib, due to capillary action and gravity. The nib has no moving parts and delivers ink through a thin slit to the writing surface. A fountain pen reservoir can be refillable or disposable, this disposable type being an ink cartridge. A pen with a refillable reservoir may have a mechanism, such as a piston, to draw ink from a bottle through the nib, or it may require refilling with an eyedropper. Refillable reservoirs, also known as cartridge converters, are available for some pens designed to use disposable cartridges.
- A marker, or felt-tip pen, has a porous tip of fibrous material. The smallest, finest-tipped markers are used for writing on paper. Medium-tip markers are often used by children for coloring. Larger markers are used for writing on other surfaces such as corrugated boxes, whiteboards and for chalkboards, often called "liquid chalk" or "chalkboard markers." Markers with wide tips and bright but transparent ink, called highlighters, are used to mark existing text. Markers designed for children or for temporary writing (as with a whiteboard or overhead projector) typically use non-permanent inks. Large markers used to label shipping cases or other packages are usually permanent markers.
- A rollerball pen dispenses a water-based liquid or gel ink through a ball tip similar to that of a ballpoint pen. The less-viscous ink is more easily absorbed by paper than oil-based ink, and the pen moves more easily across a writing surface. The rollerball pen was initially designed to combine the convenience of a ballpoint pen with the smooth "wet ink" effect of a fountain pen. Gel inks are available in a range of colors, including metallic paint colors and glitter effects.
These historic types of pens are no longer in common use:
- A dip pen (or nib pen) consists of a metal nib with capillary channels, like that a fountain pen, mounted on a handle or holder, often made of wood. A dip pen usually has no ink reservoir and must be repeatedly recharged with ink while drawing or writing. The dip pen has certain advantages over a fountain pen. It can use waterproof pigmented (particle-and-binder-based) inks, such as so-called India ink, drawing ink, or acrylic inks, which would destroy a fountain pen by clogging, as well as the traditional iron gall ink, which can cause corrosion in a fountain pen. Dip pens are now mainly used in illustration, calligraphy, and comics.
- The ink brush is the traditional writing implement in East Asian calligraphy. The body of the brush can be made from either bamboo, or rarer materials such as red sandalwood, glass, ivory, silver, and gold. The head of the brush can be made from the hair (or feathers) of a wide variety of animals, including the weasel, rabbit, deer, chicken, duck, goat, pig, tiger, etc. There is also a tradition in both China and Japan of making a brush using the hair of a newborn, as a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir for the child. This practice is associated with the legend of an ancient Chinese scholar who scored first in the Imperial examinations by using such a personalized brush. Calligraphy brushes are widely considered an extension of the calligrapher's arm. Today, calligraphy may also be done using a pen, but pen calligraphy does not enjoy the same prestige as traditional brush calligraphy.
- A quill is a pen made from a flight feather of a large bird, most often a goose. Quills were used as instruments for writing with ink before the metal dip pen, the fountain pen, and eventually the ballpoint pen came into use. Quill pens were used in medieval times to write on parchment or paper. The quill eventually replaced the reed pen.
- A reed pen is cut from a reed or bamboo, with a slit in a narrow tip. Its mechanism is essentially similar to that of a quill. The reed pen has almost disappeared but it is still used by young school students in some parts of India and Pakistan, who learn to write with them on small timber boards known as "Takhti". Popular belief has it that writing with a reed pen improves handwriting.
Ancient Indians were the first to use the pen. According to ancient text the earliest of pens made in India used bird feathers, bamboo sticks, etc. The old literature of Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharta used this kind of pen roughly 500 BC. Ancient Egyptians had developed writing on papyrus scrolls when scribes used thin reed brushes or reed pens from the Juncus Maritimus or sea rush. In his book A History of Writing, Steven Roger Fischer suggests that on the basis of finds at Saqqara, the reed pen might well have been used for writing on parchment as long ago as the First Dynasty or about 3000 BC. Reed pens continued to be used until the Middle Ages although they were slowly replaced by quills from about the 7th century. The reed pen, generally made from bamboo, is still used in some parts of Pakistan by young students and is used to write on small boards made of timber.
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. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europeans had difficulty in obtaining reeds and began to use quills. There is a specific reference to quills in the writings of St. Isidore of Seville in the 7th century. Quill pens were still widely used in the 18th 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 Pompei showing that metal nibs were used in the year 79. There is also a reference in Samuel Pepys' diary for August 1663. A metal pen point was patented in 1803 but the patent was not commercially exploited. John Mitchell of Birmingham started to mass produce pens with metal nibs in 1822, and thereafter the quality of steel nibs had improved enough that dip pens with metal nibs came into generalized use.
The earliest historical record of a pen employing a reservoir dates back to the 10th century. 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. 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.
While a student in Paris, Romanian Petrache Poenaru invented the fountain pen, which the French Government patented in May 1827. Fountain pen patents and production then increased in the 1850s, especially steel pens produced by John Mitchell.
The first patent on a ballpoint pen was issued on October 30, 1888, to John J Loud. In 1938, László Bíró, a Hungarian newspaper editor, with the help of his brother George, a chemist, began to work on designing 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 and on June 10, filed another patent, and formed Bíró Pens of Argentina. By the summer of 1943 the first commercial models were available. Erasable ballpoint pens were introduced by Papermate in 1979 when the Erasermate was put on the market.
Slavoljub Eduard Penkala, a naturalized Croatian engineer and inventor of Polish-Dutch origin from the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia in Austria-Hungary, 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 an entrepreneur by the name of 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 fibre or felt-tipped pen was invented by Yukio Horie of the Tokyo Stationery Company, Japan. Papermate'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 make use of a mobile ball and liquid ink to produce a smoother line. Technological advances achieved during the late 1980s and early 1990s have improved the roller ball's overall performance. A porous point pen contains a point that is 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.
Although the invention of the typewriter and personal computer with the keyboard input method have changed how users write, the pen has not been entirely replaced. Higher end pens including types such as fountain pens are still a status symbol.
Statistics on writing instruments (including pencils) from WIMA (the United States Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association) show that in 2005, retractable ball point pens were by far the most popular in the United States (26%), followed by standard ball point pens (14%). Other categories represented very small fractions (3% or less). There is however also a thriving industry in luxury pens, often fountain pens, sometimes priced at $1000 or more.
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- History of the Pen
- Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association
- Photo of Flair Fi Fo Fum package
- Pen Care Guide
Parts and tools pen inks Relatedcaligraphy · cartooning · mechanical pencil
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