Fountain Pen History
By Eddie Tobey

The urge to write and draw can be dated back to the early ages of human civilization. Caves discovered by archeologists are proof of the attempts of the primitive men to draw and write. From engraving on stone plates and cave walls to writing on palm leaves and hieroglyph inscriptions, mankind has been trying to preserve its thoughts using various implements: sharp stones, reeds, metals and quills.

The invention of ink and paper changed the mode of writing by scratching. Quills were dipped in a reservoir of ink and used for writing. Holding a thin quill didn’t suit to writing for long hours. It struck the early inventors that the hollow channel in a bird’s feather can store ink for writing. The fountain pen in its raw form was born.


The first mention of fountain pen can be traced to the Egyptians. 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. A pen was made of gold and presented before the caliph. It had its own ink reservoir. But the pen leaked, and hence a better one was ordered. The same pen with modifications was presented. 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.

The earliest fountain pen was designed by M. Bion, a Frenchman, in 1702. There were many producers of fountain pens in the early 1800s. John Scheffer, a Britishman, mass-produced fountain pens that were half quill and half metal. The ink was stored in sheep’s gut. But all such early attempts at holding ink in hard rubber tubes with a metal nib at the bottom were messy.

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” and it’s wonderful how path breaking inventions are made. Lewis Waterman, the inventor of the fountain pen used widely, determined to do something after a valuable contract document was destroyed by spilling ink from the pen he used—an insurance salesman turned into an inventor. Waterman patented the fountain pen in 1884, and started mass-producing it. The fountain pen in its true form was born.

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