Happy Fountain Pen Day! (And All Saints Day!) Never heard of Fountain Pen Day? Well hang onto your hats!

DSC07137Long before there were keyboards, and certainly before there were the abomination that is the ball point pen, there were fountain pens. You may have seen one rattling around in your Grandmother’s drawer or in an antique shop somewhere. Maybe you are a blessed person who owns and users fountains already. If you aren’t, this post is especially for you. (If you are, well you’ll get this!)

Fountain pens were invented around the turn of the 20th century. They began very simply, it used to be to write you needed to dip a simple metal (or quill even earlier) nib, fitted into a holder into a pot of ink. You’d write while the ink that stuck to the nib lasted, and then dip again. Very serviceable, but not terribly portable. Eventually a smart fellow figured out that by making the nib holder hollow and adding a way for the ink to flow from the body of the pen to the nib you could create a writing tool that wrote pages and pages without stopping and that could be slipped in your pocket and carried with you, the fountain pen was born. Since then hundreds of thousands of different designs and nibs have been produced. Once every child learned to write with a trusty fountain pen.

Fountain pens were doomed as a mass market writing tool by the carbon copy sheet. You see writing with a fountain pen is a nearly effortless activity, the nib actually floats on a cushion of ink across the page. But because it floats, nearly weightless, it simply doesn’t work on those old carbon forms. So the ballpoint and the rollerball were invented. Cheap and disposable they have elbowed the dignified fountain pen out of our schools and most of our daily lives. But for those lucky few who rediscover them a whole new experience awaits.

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I learned to write in the public schools of the 1980s. We used pencils, and ball points, and my hand writing was horrific. In fact by the time I hit college it had become nearly unreadable scrawl. Even I couldn’t read the notes I took. The ball point, straight and not fitted to the hand, with its requirement for pressure to write, cramped my hand and arm more and more the longer I wrote. My writing cramped too, smaller and tighter and messier… Then a few years ago I stumbled, completely accidentally, upon a fountain pen. A fountain pen, properly used, lays in your hand softly, you mustn’t grip it tightly, you must relax your hand, and your arm, and the nib glides across the paper. Everything changed. I wrote and wrote, and wrote. My hand never cramped, my arm never ached and slowly, day by day my hand writing grew loose and flowing. Gradually, day by day those grand old pens taught me how to write all over again, and how to write well!

As they did, they unlocked more than my aching fingers. The relaxation that flowed up my fingers, and wrist, and arm, and shoulder, settled into my whole self. A long dry spell broke like the monsoon and colorful ink filled pages and pages. Poems and stories, mediation and prayer flowed like ink from a spilled bottle. I learned to write with wide nibs and narrow, flat and round, slanted and straight, each bestowing its own gift. Gently the oldest of pens taught me how to let me letters flex and swell. My collection of ink grew with my pens and their colors, from rust to red, to grey, to purple, to blues that shade like the sunset, lent color to my voice.

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There is no experience like picking up a 100 year old pen and letting it guide you in wet trails of ink down the well of your memories. Some of the pens that I cradle between finger and thumb have written miles of text, through two world wars, depressions and booms, they have known days of love, and languished long forgotten. Some are abused and nearly ruined, nursed back by careful hands as I learned not only to write, but to rebuild, to see the beauty beneath the neglect. As I learned to treasure what lasts over what is convenient and disposable. Some of my pens graced the shirt pockets of Allied fighters, others churned out of the factories of wartime Germany, their nibs steel, their designs simple. Today they nestle together, side by side, their wounds redeemed.

Some are brand new, bright and shiny, with a hundred years and more in their future, full of nothing but possibility.

Keyboards are well and good, but some things can only be unlocked with the gentle touch of ink to paper, with the fluid trail that lets imagination run like tears, free. In celebration of Fountain Pen Day I am going to share some bounty. I have been the recipient of gifts, of help along the way, of generous sharing.

So here we have the first annual Barefoot Theology Fountain Pen Day Giveaway. Here’s how it works, one of the three pens pictured below will be sent to one person (selected at random) from the comments here. Here’s how you enter, leave a comment (be sure to enter a real email address or I’ll have no way to find you!) on this post answering the following:

1. Have you used a fountain pen before?

2. How many fountain pens do you own?

3. Have you ever written with a vintage (older than 1960) pen?

Leave your answer in the comments, winner will be chosen at random and sent a pen based on their comments… The pens are: a modern Danitrio concept pen, a Noodler’s Creeper Piston Filler (modern as well), and an cola brown Esterbrook (vintage!). Enjoy and good luck!

 

(Feel free to still comment, but contest is concluded!)

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12 replies to this post
  1. Love it! Wrote all the notes for my undergrad thesis in fountain Pen – they were easier to come by in France than here. I own three- two are cheap American makes, one is the original beloved French one than I kept even after it broke during a move. Also have a couple of dipping-ink pens, tho they don’t get much use with small kids in my house.

    I’ve written with, but never owned, a vintage fountain Pen. (Just my old ink pen, with vintage silver inkwell and stand. )

    Now if only modern paper were more conducive to the ink, rather than ballpoint… I’ve had too many experiences of needing blotter paper in my notebooks!

  2. Great post Josephine – found your blog via G+ and looking forward to following along in the future!

    1) I’ve only used a couple of FPs…

    2) I own one at the moment – a Parker Frontier that my dad gave me as a high school graduation present. I damaged the nib while in college, but recently found a replacement on eBay and now it’s my daily writer – as well as the catalyst that’s got me tumbling down the fountain pen rabbit hole… 🙂

    3) I’ve never owned a vintage FP, but I just purchased an Estie model J on eBay and am looking forward to trying it next week (unless in needs repair, in which case it’ll be a fun project)

    Cheers!
    Dave

  3. I used to write with one of those cartridge fountain pens, and liked it very much. Do they count? It is in a drawer here somewhere. I have an old wood handle and some old nibs that were in your grandparents “stuff” that I tried to use many years in the past, but was never happy trying to write with them. They were very sharp and spattered ink all over. I have never written with an older pen, oh yes I tried one or two of yours one time.

  4. I have to say that I’m a wee bit disappointed that I was not required to write a letter for this. It seems too easy. But, such is the way of our modern world, I guess.

    1) I started using fountain pens this year, and have fallen in love with them head over heals as a writer who’s always written on paper, but always had a less than wonderful experience. It was always “as good as it will get” rather than “as good as it gets.” I’d used some fountain pens through out the years (since I was about 14, so for almost 30 years), but either the pens I chose where awful, or I changed. Perhaps a little of both. When my twins were barely two months old, I decided to not buy a cheap pen, but bought a nice Cross Century II. Within two months…
    2) I owned that, a Pelikan M800, and an M800 Italic. I have all three of those, as well as an M640 Eternal Ice that I got in trade. I’ve lately been wondering whether I should try something other than Pelikan, and have been looking around to see what that would be.
    3) I have owned one pen from pre-1970’s. It was a Shaeffer balance, and I hated it. Rather than sell it, I ended up giving it away in an FPN PIF (will your readers be familiar with Fountain Pen Network and Pay It Forward, I wonder?). It was too light, too small, and too scratchy compared to my Pelikans and Cross. I think I may be changing in preference, however, because lately I don’t post (put cap on end of pen for non FP reader) my M800 anymore because I’m getting more into light and small. I’m also enjoying finer nibs. Strange how you change, even in such short a time. Everyone talks so much about vintage pens that I’m looking to find one that will work for me to see if it’s the way I’m trending. Thinking of holding a pen that someone in the 1930s used has a great deal of appeal to me.

    Anyway, fun idea. A giveaway like this should probably go to someone new, rather than me. I mostly wanted to post because I think about, and then don’t get around to actually, posting on your blog 🙂

  5. 1. Yes, I have used a fountain pen before 🙂
    2. I own 2 Sheaffer fountain pens 🙂 First wast a VFM(?) given to me by my dad and the other one is Sheaffer 300 given to my by my mom.
    3. Nope, I’m looking forward to using one! I like vintage stuff 🙂

  6. Just wanted to say – nice touch. I have purchased a Esterbrook from you and have way too many pens to enter your contest but I just wanted to post a comment – Cwent2 of FPG. Good show fellow geek!

  7. I enjoy reading your posts. I don’t own a fountain pen, but probably tried to write with one as a kid. You see, my father always used one. Even to write checks. At the grocery store. ☺️

  8. Wow. I stumbled on this. I’m glad. I’ve used a fountain pen for years. I did work that required constant note-taking, and I never got tired of the writing because you’re right — the pen glides without effort. And I used light purple/lavender ink because I thought it was restful on the eyes.

    So, my answer to your first question is “yes”.

    As to your next question, I have five fountain pens — a black Parker, a blue Sailor, a black Waterman, a black and chrome Aurora (celebrating 150 years of a unified Italy), and a vintage Moore (1939?). The last two are from my Mom who used the Moore for letters in World War II and after.

    So, my answer to your third question is “yes”. I had the Moore revamped and repaired as the ink bladder had dried out. Then, I used it all the time at work. The repair was done by The Fountain Pen Hospital in New York City. A great place.

    Actually, I use a fountain pen all the time? Well, not for crossword puzzles in newspapers.

    You know, I have nice things to say about ball points, mainly the basic Bic. You can do a lot with a Bic — light lines, dark lines, cross-hatching, fancy writing, doodling. Try it!

    Thanks so much for this post!

    Lawrence

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