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Sunday, 24 May 2009

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Value of fountain pen enhanced

The history of writing implements dates back to the Greek and Roman periods. The first writing implement was the reed pen. This was replaced by the quill pen after some time. As some of you may be aware, the quill pen was made from the outer wing feather of birds such as the swan, the goose or the crow. But the feathers of the turkey were preferred for making the quill pen way back in the 6th century AD. Surprisingly, the quill pen remained the principal writing implement for nearly 1,300 years.

People found it difficult to use the quill pen because it had to be sharpened very often. As a result, the bronze pen came into being in the 6th century largely replacing the quill pen. However, the metal pen became widespread only in the 19th century. The first patented steel pen was made by the English engineer Bryan Donkin in 1803.

The considerable weight and the ugly shape of the steel pen prevented it from becoming a practical writing implement. As a result, many experiments were made to produce something more attractive and light in weight. Thus Lewis Waterman (1837-1901) is credited with producing the first practical pen. Waterman's fountain pen remained the chief writing implement in the West until the introduction of the ball-point pen after the World War II.

The ball-point pen became popular and remains so even today because it is a cheap writing instrument that needs no ink filling or aftercare. On the other hand, it could write on any surface and it was useful for taking carbon copies. Today the ball-point pen remains the universal writing implement.

With the mass production of cheap ball-point pens, you hardly see any student using fountain pens today. The ball-point pen can be used and thrown away. However, nobody seems to have thought of the environment pollution created by the discarded ball point pens which are not biodegradable. If you rummage through any garbage heap, you can easily find hundreds of ball-point pens waiting to pollute the environment.

On the other hand, nobody in his right senses would throw away a fountain pen even if it has ceased to serve any purpose. In fact, most people collect old fountain pens as a hobby. Most of these pens had been gifted by parents, teachers and well-wishers. So, each fountain pen has some sentimental value attached to it.

The fountain pen is an ideal gift that can be given to a student who gets through an examination or wins some award. It is also an ideal birthday gift. This is one way of getting the new generation interested in the fountain pen.

With the advent of new technology such as the Internet and E-mail, many people do not write letters, articles and books using pens. The techno-savvy new generation might laugh at a man using a fountain pen because he is out of tune with the times.

Personally I feel that the fountain pen is not dead yet. Reputed companies still manufacture fountain pens because there is a demand for them by writers. The tragedy is that you are no longer able to buy those cheap fountain pens in the open market. As a student, I used many brands of fountain pens such as "Swan, Pilot and Dinky." But these pens are no longer available. Most probably they are no longer produced.

Being a lover of fountain pens, I wanted to buy one of them recently. I tried many reputed stationers but they had only ball-point pens. then I visited a company that imports all kinds of writing instruments. Although no pens were on display, they had all kinds of fountain pens imported from the United Kingdom and the United States. However, an average person cannot buy these fountain pens because they are very expensive. The prices ranged from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 6,000!

According to the manager of this shop, the fountain pen has become a luxury item. He says there is an increased demand for them despite the high prices. According to him, customers are also concerned with the mechanics of the pens they buy. He is right because there was a time when gold nibs were very much in demand.

Today expensive fountain pens are used by heads of States, Ministers, company chairmen, executives and leading writers. Although we use the ball-point pen because it is cheap and convenient, we do not have any regard for it. If you begin to use a fountain pen it is something personal and you will jealously guard it.

Most of us may not be able to buy Alfred Dunhill's Namiki pens which are available in limited quantities. The prices are in the range of 50,000 Sterling Pounds. Once James Bond was honoured with a Dupont pen in gunmetal with a laser-pointed bullet stored in the barrel! That was something unique.

If you care for your handwriting, try to buy a good fountain pen. It is a symbol of cultured life.

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