pen collecting

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Antique Fountain Pens: where to buy and how to use them.

Published September 30, 2016 by AntiqueMystique1

Writing is difficult enough as is nowadays. Can you imagine that somewhere during 1955 through the 60s all public school children were taught how to use a fountain pen and ink well? According to one such tutorial website I gleaned some helpful insight into the often ignored bygone use of a fountain pen.

Oh… are those the fancy quill pens with a beautiful, graceful feather, right?

 

Well, okay, maybe those can be included too…but I was more inclined to add the Calligraphy pen/ fountain pen, and one thing that had always piqued my interest was whenever my great grandmother would write me snail mail letters. She would always write in this extremely fine penmanship that was lost to my generation. How can I describe her penmanship? It was dainty-like. Her cursive always straight even in cards and pages that weren’t notebook paper. Her penmanship was always graceful and it  always garnered my interest. It was always the same ‘sepia-tone’ brown ink, sort of faded that I knew wasn’t possible from a standard ball point pen. And I knew that no writing pen no matter how cheap or crappy could produce such eye-catching legible lines. In fact, it had me so curious and I never did ask in my letters to my great grandmother what type of pen and brand of ink she used. And for the life of me, I don’t know why I never asked. I only recall one time when she wrote to me in pencil and that was something that was very out of character for my great grandmother to do when corresponding in all the years we wrote to each other. I knew then something wasn’t right and my intuition was correct, sadly.

When my great grandmother could no longer write me back, I continued to write to her (wishing, hoping and praying) for a response only to no avail. By this point I had no idea how badly her mental health had declined. I was kept in the dark about a lot of the horrendous details of what went on while she was still alive. She required the assistance of a caregiver who didn’t look after her well at all. Were my letters thrown in the trash unread? I began to think to myself. They were getting delivered to somebody since I never had one returned to me during the entire time, so who knows.

I was intrigued, and me being… well, me wanted to teach myself this lost form of fountain pen penmanship, and as luck would have it, I purchased an old antique Palmer’s fountain pen writing instruction red soft-cover book. The book had been around with black ink stains on the cover, and a partial missing corner from its cover. I was missing two more things: a fountain pen and ink. The ink I use is India ink and a very helpful antique store owner told me to always water down the ink with cold water prior to use or else the nib of the fountain pen will get gummed up and the writing won’t appear as fluent nor clean, and always allow the page to completely dry first before folding it and cramming it into an envelope. I thanked the antique store owner (her name is Carol), but she couldn’t help me track down a bottle of brown ink and didn’t know if any even existed or not. So, the curiosity regarding where my great grandmother’s mysterious ‘sepia-toned’ brown ink came from will forever remain a mystery since my great grandmother is no longer alive to tell me or even show me.

It still didn’t stop me from picking up something a new form of long lost writing. And oh yes, I LOVE to write. I love it so much that I’m known to write incredibly long snail mail letters to family and friends and always have loved doing so. I’ve been told by strangers even that my penmanship is beautiful, graceful and very legible.

“Legible?” I think to myself. “Why wouldn’t my penmanship be otherwise?”

And here again my quest for knowledge was never-ending and I wanted to know why. I don’t ask, silly me. 😛

Instead, the answers I sought was a long time in coming, but eventually I would see why. I see a younger generation’s writing and doesn’t just stun me, it makes me nervous. It makes me crook my eyebrow and scrutinize every word and line. I cool it on my inner need to ‘proofread’ what they wrote. That isn’t part of my job requirements, but making sense of their writing is important, and if I can’t understand it, then miscommunication often occurs. And not to down on anybody that was born during the 1980s and are part of the millennial crowd, but boy howdy, I never knew chicken scratch was a perquisite to learning how to read and write while in elementary school nowadays. Actually, most of it I can’t even say is chicken scratch, it’s likened to pre-school scribbling and its coming from a twenty-something youngster.

So maybe it will sound as though I’m being hard on these millennials, but their writing is atrocious. Any English teacher would cringe if they saw it turned in on a hand-written assignment and their butts would be served to them on a silverplate platter because of it.

In my line of work I have to jot down any information that would be pertinent if ever a situation arises while I’m on the clock. There are days when nothing happens, and then there’s the hectic days where anything can happen and it needs to be logged.

And then there’s the pre-school scribbles that often appears and misspelled words. I try to decipher it the best I can, but the writing is often very illegible. Now I see why I’m told my penmanship is legible and this is thanks in part to my older brother who taught me cursive writing when I was young as four or five years old. Yes, that young believe it or not because he didn’t want me to go through life not knowing how to read or write since public schools would barely cover the bare bone basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic (a bygone name for mathematics). My older brother was already in school at the time and was a few grades a head of me.

In retrospect, I sincerely believe we came from the last generation that was taught cursive writing when it was still being taught in public schools during the 1980s. I later read that anybody that attended public school post 1955-60s lost out on learning how to use a fountain pen and ink well though. And it brings me back to the antique writing instruments of yesteryear. They can range in price from a dollar on up to a few hundred. And it depends on the make of fountain pen and when it was produced.

When I attended college in 2013 (per my course requirement), I had to log into a message board to converse with the instructor and fellow students, and while on there, somebody chimed in how excited they were to receive a fancy pen with a very fluent, sensitive response. Well, they weren’t talking about a pen you write with. They referred to a stylus pen for their Kindle or some other technological touch-screen device.

I barely batted an eyelash when I figured out it was a pen for a touch screen device.

I don’t get all s**** and giggles over technology. In fact, I don’t find myself running out to buy the newest updated computer setup. I don’t have any new generation Kindles on my wish list and all of my stylus touch-screen pens came straight from the Dollar Tree where everything’s a dollar. However, I do collect antique fountain pens and antique ink wells. Some are very basic heavy glass, I’d say likely used in the rural public schools way, way back when. And other ink wells I have are slightly more fancy with a pen holder and two ink wells with silver caps. And another one I turned up recently has a brass design around it. I don’t know the specific dates when these ink wells were produced, but the fancier ones I’d guess were produced in the 1800s or very early 1900s. The basic no bells or whistles ink wells could likely date anywhere in that same time frame. The antique fountain pens I have scattered in an old wooden cigar box are plastic with brass nibs, which tells me they were produced post- 1930’s probably in the 60s or 70s maybe. I have about four or five fountain pens that go way back to the early 1900s and these I didn’t acquire all at once. I would occasionally run across them in the antique stores from time to time, and if they appealed to me, I’d buy them. At least fountain pens are a light-weight antique item to collect unlike my Bavaria porcelain dishes and silverplate.

And so I’ve returned to practicing my fountain pen writing. This is something I enjoy doing in my spare time when I can make the time that is. I do it mostly for fun nowadays and I’ve read that it isn’t so much what you write but how you hold the pen which is balanced on your knuckles and not clutched between the thumb and index finger. It was awkward for me to try at first, but once I quickly got accustomed to it, my writing was less complicated and flowed onto the page a lot easier. And this is all for my blog about antique fountain pens and ink wells. If interested I’m sure places like eBay, Etsy, and Ruby Lane might have fountain pens and ink wells for sale. Thanks as always for reading, liking, blogging, commenting and sharing. I truly appreciate it.  🙂

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