, where it all began.
[Posted on L&P on July 19, 2007.]
At the beginning of writing is the hand, putting the hand to paper with a pen, that is, the act of the hand writing. All of this started for me in September 1993 when I discovered the mostly neglected and forgotten, mostly unseen and unread patents for writing instruments, mostly for fountain pens. I live in Saskatoon, a Canadian city of about a quarter of a million people, and there really shouldn’t be any kind depository library for Canadian patents in a city this size. But instead, there are two libraries here, the University of Saskatchewan Library, and the Saskatoon Public Library, with almost complete holdings of the Canadian Patent Office Record. This is almost unheard of for a city this size. And on top of that, the U of S library here has the complete holdings on microfilm of The Scientific American magazine, which contain a complete numerical list of all the US patents from the years 1845 to 1910. Between those holdings and the various later online patent-search websites, I have been able to piece together and research most of the US, Canadian, British, and French patents for writing instruments, and all from this isolated, little vantage point on the rest of the world. It is truly the golden age of pen research.
And as I read through the patents online, I kept running across the odd patent illustration that incorporated an image of a hand holding the patented item in question, that is, showing “the hand of the ready writer” in the act of writing, and in the correct position for writing. I collected all of these pen-in-hand images in a database, or book I call The Hand Writing. The 1890s Waterman’s advertizing blotter that appears in this blog post, also called “The Hand Writing”, is the last image in the list, and serves as the back cover of the book. It shows yet another version of the pen-in-hand image, and the ad’s caption line reads, “The correct way to write”. As I collected all the patents in my patent books, I annotated all of the entries for patents that had illustrations with this type of hand imagery, and I decided to collect all of them in chronological order. A lot of these images are also in the lists of some of my favorite patent and trademark images, and together, all of these images are the story of writing in images of hands writing.
I found US utility patent no. 69,126 quite early in my online patent research, and right away adopted one little part of it, the illustration in Fig.2 of the “fingerpen”, as one of my printer’s devices, the sign of the hand and pen. I now use it both as my publisher’s symbol and as the initial dingbat, the little emblem I use as an ornament at the beginning of a chapter, or essay, or any other text, to signal the onset of writing. There’s another one that I now use as a finial dingbat at the end of a text, showing a hand at rest after writing. I found US design patent no. D8,382 way back in 2001, but I can’t post a link to that version of the design since the USPTO has seen it fit to update the original illustration twice since then, and to eliminate the most interesting portion of the image, the resting hand. Later on, just as a curiosity, searching for the design on the USPTO and Google Patents websites retrieved two other images, separately on both websites at the same time. At first, everything in Fig. 2 was removed except for the traces of the buttons on the cuff of the shirt sleeve and the notepad rivet, that tiny constellation of three circles just to the right of the middle of the page, but then, as seen in the version of the design presently available online, Fig.2 had been cleaned up and removed altogether, all erased, right down to the buttons. There is no trace of the hand at all. But you can see both of these dingbats in my books, at the beginning and end of all essays, and chapters, and sections. And last but not least, here’s trademark 51,186, an image of an open hand, palm down, but it’s not as nice as the hand in US design no. 8,382.
This finial dingbat shows a hand at rest without a pen. At the end of writing, the empty hand is placed palm down on the paper on the writing desk. The end of writing is the beginning of reading. What it’s saying is, “I hope you’re having fun reading all this stuff, not just the patents, designs, and trademarks, but also all of these blog posts”.
Addendum, Mar 14, 2018.
I just talked to a co-worker at the library where I work, and she said that all the books on the shelves in these two pictures have been recycled, r.i.p. A paper recycling company was called in sometime around Xmas to pick them up over night, when no one was around. No one was told about it, except management. Around 400-450 hard-bound volumes of The Canadian Patent Office Record, all printed on archival, acid-free, rag-content paper, and dating back to 1890 for the earliest volumes, are all shredded! They didn’t even try to offer them to other libraries across Canada. Shame on the library, which shall remain nameless. It’s absolute corporate vandalism!