Concerning My Fountain Pen

The Hipster Conservative is pleased to feature this piece from Tom Ward, who blogs at Commonplace Philosophy.

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We write less and have more pens than literate people of any previous age. Go see some study or other.

In big stores like Office Max and Staples it’s now difficult to buy just one pen at a time. 3, 5, 10, 20, 50 at a time is the norm. Our offices and junk drawers are teeming with them, and we use whichever is closest to hand, like squirrels gathering acorns. No one thinks waste is a good thing, but we justify our accumulation of pens in the names of bargain and convenience. It is supposed to be cheaper to buy in bulk, and it is supposed to be easier to write with a disposable pen than a traditional refillable pen.

Both suppositions are misguided, but I am somewhat sympathetic to them. Since high school I’ve been attracted to writing with fountain pens. I love ink wells and the smell of ink. I love the sound of the scratch of a nib on paper. With a fountain pen my script is more interesting and tidier. But it is inconvenient and messy to dip your pen every now and then in a pot of ink. It’s not an easily portable way to write: I have a wonderful large blue stain on the cloth lining of my briefcase from an ink bottle that opened, I suppose, as it rubbed against the contents of my briefcase and spilled its blue blue blood all over my things. And it’s annoying that, if any amount of ink is left in the nib when you finish writing, it’s liable to become viscous and make writing more difficult when you return to the page and dip your pen again.

In an attempt to fix both issues several years ago, I tried using disposable cartridges in my entry-level Waterman. These were a complete disappointment: the ink flowed unevenly and I still had to deal with a gooey nib. Eventually I lost heart and gave up, turning to highly efficient but lesser instruments.

As it turns out, however, I had given up too easily. Continue reading Concerning My Fountain Pen