Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, and of Abraham Lincoln.
Also, it’s 125 years today since Lewis Waterman was awarded the patent on his design for the fountain pen, one of the key innovations of which was the feed — the hard rubber or plastic bit under the nib which regulates the flow of ink to the nib.
Fountain pens are one of the slight anachronisms that remain in my life; they go well with my insistence on photographing on film. They’re half-way between simply being the tool of choice when I write (given that almost everything I do begins life with a pen and paper) and being a small hobby in themselves. I hesitate to say I’m a collector, but I will tell you that I have more than one.
I have more than twenty, actually. They range from decades old to brand new, and from a couple of pounds’ worth to… a bit more than a couple of pounds’ worth. Best not to ask in too much detail. I have pens that were made in the USA, in Italy, in Japan, in Germany and in the UK, some made by one-guy-in-a-workshop outfits, some by small companies, some by huge global operations. It’s a nice variety, and every one of them gets used regularly.
My first pen as an adult was a birthday present from my wife a couple of years after we were married. I discovered then that a well-made (which is often not the same thing as expensive) fountain pen, when handled with only the slightest amount of care, doesn’t leak, blot, run dry or otherwise cause hassle. I also discovered that that slightest amount of care was much less than you think. Who’d’ve thought?
My third discovery was that they’re slightly addictive. It could be worse. As obsessions go, it’s quite mild and mostly harmless.
Inks, though, are a whole different world.