History of the pen

5th December 2016 in Just for fun

History of the pen

The history of the pen, pencil and writing instrumentshistory of the pen

When looking at the next topic in our series of the history of the products we sell, history of the pen was one we were keen to do. The first patent on the ballpoint pen was issued in 1888, but we thought we’d look a lot further back to see how we got there.

Through civilisation 

The first evidence we have of writing instruments being used is from around 3000BC. Early writing was made up of straight lines as the tools couldn’t accurately make the curves as the tool pressed into the clay.

At the same time the ancient Egyptians invented papyrus which they wrote on using a reed pen. This was probably the closest we’ve been to the pen we have today. The end of the reed was shaped into a point which was dipped in ink repeatedly. Sounds similar, right?

Writing was also developing in Asia. By 1200BC the first Chinese writing was created. This was done through a paint brush or inscribing words into bamboo, wood or bone with a knife. This was filled with ink afterwards to make the words more visible. Similar to getting one of our promotional wristbands coloured infilled!

From BC to AD

history of the pen

Dead Sea Scrolls

The big development in the history of the pen was the introduction of the quill pen. After the unearthing of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls which date back to 100BC, it was discovered that some of them were written with a quill pen. Similar to the reed pens, the quill pens needed dipping in ink to work.

This was as good as it got for centuries. The quill pen worked and there wasn’t any technological advancement which rendered it obsolete. The quill pen was used to sign the US Constitution in 1787.

Further development

The next stop in this stroll through the history of the pen is the introduction of metal pens. There is evidence which eludes to metal parts of pens, including a copper nib being found in the ruins of Pompeii but the metal pen wasn’t truly introduced until the early 1800s. By the 1850s the quill pen was out and the steel nib pens were in.

A student in Paris, Romanian Petrache Poenaru, invented the fountain pen which the French government quickly patented in 1827.

The first rumblings of the ballpoint pen were when a patent was issued in 1888, but it didn’t take off immediately.

It’s at this point in the history of the pen we introduce probably the biggest name in the pen’s lifetime. Laszlo Biro was a Hungarian newspaper editor and with the help of his brother George began working on new types of pens, including the ballpoint. By 1943 the biro pen was becoming a commercial success.

Modern variations

Since the introduction of the biro the development of the pen has slowed down. The first felt-tip pen was invented in Japan in the 1960s, rollerball pens were introduced in the early 1970s and also the first use of a stylus pen was in 1957.

Technological advances have seen pens improve performance but there haven’t been any notable creations in the history of the pen in the last couple of decades.

We’ve come to the end at our look at the history of the pen. We have a great range of pens on offer, including ballpoint, roller ball and fountain. You can find them on our promotional pens section. 

To start your search for promotional pens, head to our homepage.

We have also looked at the history of the mug and calendar.