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Mortality is a fact of life for everyone and has been since Creation. As humans, we have the intelligence to realize and understand this because we possess the ability to reason and to learn. This ability, when combined with the presence of Life that keeps us in existence, beckons us to secure the future in some way and for some reason(s). We need not only the chance at life beyond our own which comes with the birth of our children, but also to leave our own names, our own ideas and beliefs secured onto something more solid than the spoken word yet not as heavy as stone tablets. In the arid, desert climates this came in the form of parchment . In locations with more water and vegetation, it came from the papyrus plant. But in either climate, something was needed to stain the language onto this new device. That something was the first pen.
The Dawn of Pen-kind
As early as 2,800 years before Christ, the pen was beginning to appear as a writing implement in the world. Its first form was that of a dried reed, its tip cut at an angle so to create a line of ink instead of a blot. To write with it, simply dip the cut tip of the reed into an ink supply, then gently press the dipped tip against the paper .
This was a simple means of writing that required raw materials ample in the environment. The degree of technology it used can be seen as only slightly higher than the scientific concept of the sharpened wedge (blade) used to cut an angle on the reed tip. The small effort needed to build a pen was far less than that of the ink needed. Nature grew the reed, humans merely plucked it from the ground and sliced off its bottom tip. During this period of Antiquity, the Egyptians had also constructed the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx. By no means was the pen as physically large and complex a creation as the wonders of the world, which were constructed with the sole purpose of being the final resting-place of the Pharaoh. However, the reed pen had a much more profound, a much greater effect on the world and the path our present-day history took.
There are no records to indicate any one person or group as the inventors of the pen.
Rather, it is was a creation made to assist in the posterity of an Empire, and on that would effect all empires the earth would ever see. Israel, people of the Great YHWH, the Creator, God, and one of the fiercest fighting people of the contemporary world, began their ascendancy into History by two stone tablets, engraved with the Ten Commandments by the hand of God. God can use stone without any trouble at all. He's all-powerful. To us humans, however, stone can get both heavy and impractical. We have no omnipotent powers to create and create and create whole encyclopedias from stone by sheer thought. We have to sit down and chisel away for hours and hours just to engrave a tombstone! Hence, the practicality of stone tablets was not an ideal thing for humanity to use as a writing implement. Along the same lines of uselessness, Papyrus, though very much lighter and easier to store away, was really just some plant strips without the use of the pen. Thanks to the pen, however, the Israelites, as well as the rest of the writing world, have secured themselves with ink on the pages of History. This is evident in the nightstand drawer of just about every motel room in America.
The prime of life for the reed pen lasted until around the 6th century AD, where the earliest recorded reference to quill pens was made by Spanish theologian St. Isisdore of Seville . The quill is a flight feather of a bird. It is made ready for writing by, like the reed pen, slicing of the tip at an angle so as to have a point for ink to bleed onto papyrus or parchment. Before the cutting, however, the quill must first be hardened by heating it or simply letting it dry. A special penknife was usually used in cutting the tip, but any sharp blade could do the job. Writers using the quill often had to recut the tip so to maintain its edge. Though there is no rule depicting any species mandatory as the origin of the feather, goose, swan, crow, and (later) turkey were preferred because of both the size of the feathers and the abundance of birds to obtain them from. This new pen was the main writing utensil used in Europe for the next 1,300 years. Its affordability was great, and its use was limited only by the spread of literacy. (Encarta 98)
As writing increased, commerce began creating more documentation than the Church. Hence, so to save money and time, new, more durable writing tools were sought after. Horn, tortoiseshell, and even gemstones were tested, but steel was ultimately used as a replacement for the quill tip. (Encarta 98)
Such a precise steel structure as a pen was not easily manufactured. They did not become popular until about the 19th century when free public education for children became prevalent. (Encarta 98) Through the years as civilization developed and education became noticed for the potential that it gives humanity. Writing, a prerequisite to any complex civilization, became emphasized in education, and the popularity of the skill of quill cutting began a speedy decline. In 1803, English engineer Bryan Donkin became the first person to patent a steel pen. (Encarta 98)
This patenting marked the entry of the pen into commercialism as a product for sale. We, as materialistic beings, decided that it would be best for us to profit from the pen rather than from the education available with the use of it. In 1884, a New York insurance salesman, Lewis Waterman, patented the first fountain pen with its own internal reserve of ink. He fountain pen would gradually become the prominent writing instrument until it was replaced by the ballpoint pen just after World War II. (Encarta 98)
In our unending human efforts to improve upon old ideas, the ballpoint pen was developed. This new device had several advantages over the other pens that had been used throughout history:
The ink was waterproof and almost unerasable; the pen could write on many more kinds of surfaces and could be held in almost any position for writing, and the pressure required to feed the ink was ideal for making carbon copies.
The advent of this new device has had an incredible effect on the writing of history. When we look at what a rudimentary part of everyday life the pen plays in society, it's hard to imagine life without it. Think about how often you pick up a pen and write something. Or, if you only type, consider that without a pen, the inventor would not have been able to put his thoughts for a typewriter, word processor or computer into a drawn plan, and, therefore, none would exist today. The same can be said for just about every invention since the industrial revolution! Even as far back as Leonardo Da Vinci, the pen had been used as a tool to expand the mind as well as secure the past. Inventors and dreamers scribbled away at drawings of such preposterous ideas to their contemporaries that we could not know of their attempts were it not for the pen. Da Vinci's drawing of man, his helicopter, and other ideas of his could never have been know were it not for the pen.
Likewise, computers today have their own version of the pen. The stylus and light pen have been used as interface systems to input information into computers for years. The pen is due thanks for that.
If you want to say, "well, what about the pencil?"
The pencil wasn't invented until around 1795 AD . The pen had already been around for centuries. In fact, it's not unthinkable to imagine today's world using much the same stone tablets as The Flintstones.
The bottom line is this: without a written language that could easily be used to transmit information across both space and time, our society, our world, being the complex civilization that it is, would not have developed. Cities, schools, and everything we take for granted in or society would not exist. At best, we would be engraving cave walls with pictures or some basic language. We would not be the ever-increasing global community we are today.
Microsoft® Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation.
"Writing Implements." Contributed by: Robert Williams. Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 200. http://encarta.msn.com (8 Oct 2000) © 1999-2000 Microsoft Corporation.
"Saint Isidore of Seville." In Catholic Online Saints (database online). Terry Matz. Catholic Online. http://www.catholic.org (11 Oct 2000) © 1996-2000.
"Bishop Saint Isidore, Doctor." In Saint Patrick's Catholic Church. Katherine I. Rabenstein. http://users.erols.com/saintpat/ss/0404.htm#isid Created April 1999. St. Patrick's Church, Washington, DC. © 1999