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Thursday, February 14, 2008
There’s something very sensual about writing with a pen that uses liquid ink. Indeed, when writing with a fountain pen, the nib seems to positively glide across the page with such effortless grace as to make the physical act of writing a joy. Nowadays, if you like, you can buy plastic cartridges for a fountain pen. These little fellows practically eliminate any chance of a mess.

So how did fountain pen start its history and made it into our high-tech era with wi-fi and keyboards?

Hassan El Basha Mamoud an Egyptian scholar translated a manuscript from Fatimid dynasty dating to 969 AD, which talks about using a pen without an inkpot.
This earliest historical record of a reservoir pen goes back to the 10th century. In 953, the Caliph of Egypt ordered a pen to ba made that would not stain his hands or clothes, and was provided with a pen which held ink in a reservoir. This time, there was no ink spill when the pen was tilted to all sides. The pen wrote fluidly on contact with paper, and ink disappeared as soon as the pen was lifted from the surface of paper to the amazement of the onlookers. Except for the writing on the manuscript, there was no other evidence that such a writing implement was ever used.

It is probable, however, that attempts to make a safe and easy to use fountain pen go back many years and centuries further.

The oldest surviving reservoir fountain pens date to the 1st century. It was only after three key inventions were made before the fountain pen became a widely used writing instrument. Those inventions were:

The iridium tipped gold nib
Free flowing ink
Hard rubber

There were many producers of fountain pens in the early 1800s. John Sheaffer, a Britishman, manufactured fountain pens that were half quill and half metal. The ink was stored in sheep’s gut.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," and it’s amazing how civilization breaking inventions are made. Lewis Waterman, the inventor of the fountain pen we know and still use occasionally, decided to do something after a valuable contract document was destroyed by spilling ink from the pen he used. That was how an insurance salesman became a fountain pen inventor. Waterman patented the fountain pen in 1884, and launched its mass-production. Many historical documents, treaties and agreements in 19th and 20th centuries were signed by fountain pens.