Writing implements

clay tablets were the most popular at that time. Learn how writing tools have evolved over time in the article below. Writing implements.

Writing implements
Writing implements

The primary materials used for writing purposes are products of natural origin. In antiquity, olive and palm leaves and bark were used in Mediterranean countries. In China, they were wooden tablets and cut bamboo stalks, and in Asian countries - birch bark. Other, widespread writing materials used, inter alia, in Rome there were linen and stone. Commemorative, tombstone and religious inscriptions were engraved on marble. In Mesopotamia, clay tablets were the most popular at that time. Learn how writing tools have evolved over time in the article below. Writing implements.

Ancient times -The primary materials used for writing purposes are products of natural origin. In antiquity, olive and palm leaves and bark (including linden and elm trees) were used in Mediterranean countries. In China, they were wooden tablets and cut bamboo stalks, and in other Asian countries - birch bark.

Other, widespread writing materials used, inter alia, in Rome there were linen and stone. Commemorative, tombstone and religious inscriptions were engraved on marble. In Mesopotamia, clay tablets were the most popular at that time. In Greece, on the other hand, inscriptions were made on the shells of earthen vessels.

Writing tools have also evolved over time. Their use depended on the material used at the time. Initially, hard materials were often used, so the inscriptions had to be engraved, forged or imprinted. A chisel was used for forging in stone, a stylus for engraving in metal, and an obliquely cut reed for imprinting marks on clay tablets. For soft materials (papyrus, canvas, parchment, and then paper), the following were used in the following order: cane, brush and pen.

Antiquity - the middle ages ink was needed to write on soft materials (1). The most commonly used color was black, but color inks were also produced - mainly red, but also green, blue, yellow or white. They were used in the titles or initials of manuscripts or the signatures of dignitaries. Gold and silver paint were also often used for valuable documents.

In antiquity and the Middle Ages, carbon ink was mainly used. It was made by combining carbon black and a binder (usually a resin, but also gum arabic or honey) to form a powder that was dissolved in water when it was intended to be used. Another type is called hibir in liquid form, made from jelly beans. Salt, a binder and beer or wine vinegar were added to it. Later inks (so-called ink) were not so durable and could destroy parchment or paper due to their corrosive properties.

3rd millennium BC Papyrus was known in ancient Egypt (2). The oldest preserved writing on the papyrus date back to around 2600 BC. Around the 6th century B.C.E. papyrus reached Greece, and around the 3rd century BC. appeared in Rome. The popularization of the papyrus took place in the Hellenistic era.

The main center of papyrus production was from the 3rd century BC. Egyptian Alexandria, from where it was distributed to other Mediterranean countries. He was the basic material in the creation of books and documents (in the form of scrolls). The production of papyrus in Egypt continued until the 10th century. In Europe, the papyrus was used for the longest time, until the middle of the 11th century, when drawing up documents in the papal chancellery. Currently, papyrus is only used to produce more or less accurate replicas of ancient documents that are sold as souvenirs.

  1. Egyptian papyrus

8th century BC - 2nd century AD According to Chinese chronicles, paper was invented in China by Cai Luna (3), a clerk at the court of Emperor He Di of the Han dynasty. The clerk experimented with tree bark, silk and even fishing nets until he found the right method (handmade paper) using silk and linen rags.

However, the results of archaeological research show that the paper was known before, at least in the 8th century BC. Probably, therefore, Cai Lun only invented the method of mass production of paper. After the Battle of the Talas River in 751, the Arabs captured Chinese papermakers, thanks to which paper became popular in Arab lands. Paper was produced depending on the availability of raw materials - incl. hemp, linen rags or even silk. He came to Europe through Spain conquered by the Arabs.

  1. Cai Lun on a Chinese articalage stamp from 1962

2nd century BC - 8th century AD In late antiquity, papyrus was gradually replaced by parchment, more suited to the new form of the book, which was the codex. Parchment (membrane, pergamen, greyhound pergamen) is made from animal skin. It was already used before our era in Egypt (Book of the Dead from Cairo), but it was not widely used there.

However, already in the 4th century it competed with papyrus and became the main writing material. In the 7th century, he reached Frankish chancellery. It spread in the 8th century, and it reached papal offices in the 10th century. The production technique and name are probably associated with the Greek city of Pergamon, where parchment was not invented, but its production was significantly improved.

  1. 4th century C.E. A bird's feather, mostly from a swan or a goose, becomes popular for writing on parchment (later also on paper). The feather had to be properly sharpened (thin and sharp or flat) and split at the end. Goose feathers were the main writing tools until the 19th century.

Antiquity - 1567 The history of the pencil usually begins with antiquity. The Polish name comes from lead, which was used to write in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Until the 14th century, European artists used lead, zinc, or silver rods to create light gray drawings known as silverpoints. In 1567, the Swiss, Konrad Gesner, described a writing rod with a wooden holder in a treatise on fossils. Three years earlier, pure graphite had been found in Borrowdale, England, which was soon used in place of lead, but the name pencil remained.

1636 German inventor Daniel Schwenter created something that laid the foundations for modern fountain pens. It was a clever modification of previously used solutions - in a piece of sharp-edged wood in a bird's feather there was a supply of ink. A silver pen with a supply of ink inside, for 10 francs, was first described in Paris by two Dutch travelers in 1656.

1714 British engineer Henry Mill obtained a patent for the design of the device, which was the nucleus of a later and improved typewriter.

1780-1828 Englishman Samuel Harrison constructs a prototype of a metal pen. In 1803, the British manufacturer Wise of London receives a patent for the nib, but due to the high production costs, it was not widely used. That changed around 1822 when they began to be produced by machine thanks to the same Harrison who built the prototype 42 years earlier. In 1828, William Joseph Gillott, William Mitchell, and James Stephen Perry developed a method to mass-produce strong and cheap nibs (4). More than half of the feather ends produced in the world were created thanks to them.

  1. Nineteenth-century Gillot nibs

1858 Hymen Lipman patents a pencil with an eraser on one end. An entrepreneur named Joseph Reckendorfer predicted the invention would become a hit and bought the patent from Lipman. Unfortunately, in 1875 the US Supreme Court revoked this patent, so Reckendorfer did not make a fortune on it.

1867 An American, Christopher Latham Sholes (5), who constructed the first useful model of it, is considered to be the creator of a practical typewriter. The device he built had keys, a tape saturated with ink and a horizontal metal plate with a sheet of paper over it. The machine was started by pressing down on the pedals because Sholes used a similar drive as on the sewing machines of the time. Sholes began its production in 1873 in cooperation with the American Remington arms factory. Even then, the QWERTY keyboard layout used to this day was created, which was designed to avoid blocking of fonts.

1884 The first patents for the fountain pen were granted around 1830, but they were impractical - ink was coming out either too fast or it was not coming out at all. The contemporary fountain pen, in the form we know today, with a regulated ink supply, was invented by the American insurance agent Lewis Edson Waterman (6).

The Waterman founder developed a "channel feed" system that prevented ink blots by regulating the ink supply. A decade later, the pen was perfected by George Parker from the USA, who built a blot elimination system, based on a solution that prevents the spontaneous drip of ink from the nib.

  1. Illustration of Waterman's patent

1908-29 American Walter Sheaffer was the first to fill the pen with a lever on his side - the ink was sucked into the pen through the nib. Soon there were rubber ink pumps installed inside the pen, and glass replacement cartridges. In 1929, an ink plunger was invented at the German Pelikan factory.

1914 James Fields Smathers develops an electric typewriter. Electric typewriters entered the market around 1920.

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1938 Hungarian artist and journalist László Bíró (7) invents the pen. After the outbreak of the war, he fled his homeland and reached Argentina, where he and his brother George (a chemist) perfected the invention. The first production started during the war in Buenos Aires. In 1944, Bíró sold his shares to one of his shareholders who started producing on a mass scale.

  1. László Bíró and his invention

years 40-50. Twentieth century. The first felt-tip pens were simply modified pens. Instead of the nib, they were equipped with a kind of wick on which the ink would flow. Sidney Rosenthal from the USA is considered to be the father of the invention. In 1953, he combined an ink cartridge with a wool felt wick and a writing tip. He called the whole "magic marker", because it made it possible to draw on almost any surface (8).

  1. Markers

Around 1960-2011 The American concern IBM is developing a new type of typewriter, in which the fonts mounted on separate levers have been replaced with a rotary head. Later, electric typewriters replaced their mechanical counterparts. The last generation of typewriters (around 1990) already had the ability to save and edit text later. Then machines were replaced by computers with word processors or printers. The last typewriter factory closed in India in March 2011.

Types of writing tools

  1. Autonomous tools - They have inherent functionality in the sense that their useful life corresponds to the length of their physical existence.
  2. Without the use of dyes. The oldest known examples of writing without the use of a dye were created by cutting a flat surface with a stiff tool. An example is the Chinese inscriptions of jiaguwen engraved in turtle shells. The ancient Sumerians and their successors, such as the Babylonians, produced their cuneiform writing by pressing a triangular stylus into soft clay tablets, creating the characteristic wedge-shaped characters.
  3. With the use of a dye. The original form of the "pencil" was a lead stylus used by the ancient Romans who also used it to write on wood or papyrus, leaving dark streaks where soft metal rubbed off the surface. Most modern "pencils" have a non-toxic core of gray-black graphite mixed with clay in varying proportions to achieve different consistencies. Simple tools of this type include white chalk or black charcoal, used by artists today. This category also includes wooden crayons and wax crayons, used mainly by children. The common feature of these tools is that their use is closely related to their physical existence.
  4. Power Tools - These require added dye to write and cannot be used when "empty".
  5. Feathers
  6. a) Immersion with capillary action. Initially, the feathers were made by cutting out a natural material, in which a small reservoir of writing dye could retain due to capillary phenomena. These tanks, however, were relatively small, requiring the pen to be periodically dipped into an outer inkwell for refilling. It is similar in the case of steel immersion feathers, although some solutions allowed to retain a slightly greater amount of ink than in nature's feathers.
  7. b) Fountain pens. They consist of a nib assembly, an ink reservoir chamber, and an outer housing. Depending on the design of the pen, the ink tank can be refilled directly by forcing from the outside, by suction, or by using disposable refilled cartridges. Only certain types of ink can be used in the fountain pen to avoid clogging the mechanism.
  8. c) Pens and markers. The pen consists of a housing and a tube filled with thick ink and ended with a pen. A ball with a diameter of about 1 mm is placed in the holder. While writing, the ball rolls on the paper, evenly distributing the ink. The ball is seated in a socket that allows it to rotate freely and prevents it from falling out. There is a small space between the ball and the socket for the ink to flow out. The space is so small that capillary action keeps the ink inside when the pen is not used. The marker pen (also: marker, marker, marker) is a type of pen with a porous core soaked in ink. The nib is also porous, allowing the ink to slowly flow to the surface of the paper or other material.
  9. Mechanical pencils

Unlike the traditional wooden pencil construction around a solid graphite core, a mechanical pencil feeds a small, moving piece of graphite through its tip.

  1. Brushes

For example, Chinese script characters are traditionally written with a brush that is perceived to lend itself to a graceful, smooth stroke. The brush differs from the pen in that, instead of a stiff nib, the brush has soft bristles. The bristles are gently slid over the paper with sufficient pressure. Some companies now produce "brush pens" which in this respect are similar to a fountain pen with an internal ink reservoir.