Friday, January 21, 2011

The History of Pens and Writing With Quills

It's not as easy as it looks to write with a traditional quill. In fact, it's harder than I ever imagined! I had the opportunity to try one out last summer when my stepson got one as a gift. The concept is the same as the modern day pen, but writing with a quill is more difficult. Not only do you have to master the correct angle at which to hold your quill over the paper, but then you have to be able to use just the right amount of pressure or end up with a lot of ink blots and a big mess. And the ink is pretty watery and unforgiving.

After a half hour's work, I had successfully signed my name on parchment, although my signature was a little shaky. I had a newfound respect for all those monks who created such beautiful illuminations!

I Googled quill pens on the net today and came up with more than a few interesting links. One interesting fact I learned is that a quill's structure is created by letting it stand in hot sand, which allows the barrel of the feather to become less brittle and more flexible to write with. Then the nib can be shaped more easily. 
Medieval Writing was quite helpful in learning the steps for creating your own quills. Not that I'm going to be in the great outdoors scavenging giant bird feathers any time soon, but you never know. It might come in handy some day!

In my quest for information on the quill I also came across The History of Writing Implements, which tracks man's writing instruments over 6,000 years. If nothing else, you'll gain a few interesting odd facts to share with your writer friends! And learn about this nifty pen, which supposedly reduces fatigue while writing by allowing you not to have to grip your pen with three fingers. (I haven't tried one of these, but am now really curious).

If you're adventurous and up for a challenge, there are several sites where you can purchase quills. Most quills appear to range from the traditional, without a metal nib, at around $20 to the fancier quills with calligraphy nibs at around $60. Of course, neither will be making an appearance in my house, since my cat, Toshio would steal them all, anyway.

As always, happy writing and happy reading to all! And watch out for those quills! Don't poke your eye out!

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