November 19, 2015

A Cartridge Pen Precursor In 1853?

  , and an elephant-trunk feed.


[Posted on FPN on Oct 15-23, 2013, and Mar 31, & April 12, 2012.]
        The website for searching the early
French patents, which Simone Piccardi so kindly shared with us in this post on FPN, enabled me to find a French patent from 1853 that just might turn out to be the first patent for a cartridge pen.
        The patent number search field on that website doesn’t work, so use the other fields to search for the inventor’s surname, Faure, and the year, 1853, and you’ll find
French patent no. 15,936.  If this link doesn’t work, you may first have to open up the above search page in a separate tab.  I don’t know why, but that’s the only way to make it work, sometimes.
        Look at Fig. 3 on the illustration page, and the description of Fig. 3 in the specifications.  The barrel in Fig. 2 is described as “un tube principal en métal”, and Fig. 3 is “un tube plus-petit en verre”, and is said to be “destiné”, or “destined” to receive the ink.  It looks like a Bion-type fountain pen with a glass-tube cartridge as the reservoir.
        So what do you think?  Is this a patent for an early cartridge fountain pen?

        David Nishimura wrote, “I have no problem with the French translation, but transcription from that copy is a real pain.  I took a quick look and the resolution is awfully poor!  I may brace myself to tackle it when I have more time.
        “There is most certainly a glass reservoir being used in this design.  The big question is whether it should be considered a cartridge.  Even if it is intended to be filled before being inserted into the barrel, I’d argue that unless there is an express intention for multiple interchangeable pre-filled glass tubes to be used, it should be classified as a detachable reservoir rather than a cartridge, albeit a significant step towards a cartridge, as presently understood.

        Dan DeMaio posted this online definition of “cartridge” from
Oxford Learners Dictionaries.
“3. a [sealed] thin tube containing ink that you put inside a pen.”

        David wrote, “Plenty of substandard dictionaries out there.  The essential aspect of a cartridge in any form is that it is replaceable, multiple, and interchangeable.  Look at the pen shown at the bottom of
this page.  A thin tube which is filled with ink is inserted into the back of the barrel.  Is it a cartridge?  No.  It is not sealed at the mouth so it can be carried around and loaded at will, and each pen came with just one tube.  It is a detachable reservoir, not a cartridge.  By that lame online dictionary definition, a rubber ink sac is a cartridge.”

        And I wrote, “There, it’s official.  David has called the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary definition “lame”!
        “I can tackle the French translation as well, but as David said, the transcription is a killer.  It took me a whole day to figure out that the word before “petit” is “plu-”, and the word “verre” isn’t so obvious, either.  There are genealogical websites with tutorials on how to transcribe the styles of handwriting from various centuries past.  With some of the early French patents, which are all hand-written, you almost have to become a professional paleographer.
        “I agree, it all depends upon whether there are multiple, interchangeable, pre-filled glass tubes, but still, as you said, it’s a significant step towards a cartridge pen, perhaps an ur-cartridge, or a proto-cartridge pen.
        “But here are some corollaries.  A cartridge pen with only one refillable cartridge is not a cartridge pen.  A cartridge pen with a convertor replacing the cartridge is not a cartridge pen.  A cartridge pen with a squeezac, or self-refillable cartridge is not a cartridge pen.  They are all self-fillers.”

        [When someone wrote in another thread that “the earliest self filling combo is the glass cartridge Eagle combo”, David wrote, “Not to pick nits, but most people don’t regard cartridge pens as self-fillers.  The usual understanding is that a “self-filler” can fill from a bottle, without any extra devices.”
        And I wrote, “Okay.  I’ll pick that nit.  Some people try to be economical by refilling their cartridges with a syringe, from an ink bottle. But other more impatient people refill their cartridge pens by dipping the nib directly into an ink bottle and squeezing the cartridge.  Now, of course the cartridge never refills completely, but that’s not the point.  And the cartridges will eventually crack from all the stress, and leak, but they do last quite a long time.  Or one could alternatively use a convertor, or a squeezac instead of the cartridge.  So by your definition, cartridge pens can sometimes be self-fillers, that is, when they are not used as cartridge pens.  That’s why I moved the squeezac to the “Hybrids and Eccentrics” section in my revised

        Then Dan posted another online definition of “cartridge”, this time from
“3. any small container for powder, liquid, or gas, made for ready insertion into some device or mechanism: an ink cartridge for a pen.”

        Daniel Kirchheimer wrote, “Another flawed definition.  The essence of an ink cartridge system is that it allows the user to carry a supply of liquid ink beyond what the pen can hold without needing to have a bottle of ink on hand.  A detachable, refillable reservoir fails that test.”

        David wrote, “Okay, I just put a bit of time into the transcription.  I’m still wrestling with some of the words, but the overall content is now clear.  The key elements are as follows.
1. Un tube principal en métal, fig. 2.
2. Un tube plus petit en verre, fig. 3, destiné à recevoir l’encre et introduisant à volonté dans le premier, fig. 1.
Note the “à volonté”.  The glass reservoir is intended to be removable, not fixed.  At the same time, there is no mention of other tubes, so we are talking about a removable reservoir rather than interchangeable, preloaded cartridges.
        “The rest of the description covers the feed system, which consists of three funnels,
entonnoirs, the most feed-like described as “en forme de trompe d’éléphant”.  This system is not designed to provide continuous ink flow, but is instead an ink-dispensing mechanism with a button-operated valve clef”, that releases a drop of ink laisser échapper une goutte d’encre”, into the nib with each press of the finger.”

        And I wrote, “I like the line about the tube feed shaped like an elephant’s trunk.  It’s a very accurate description.  You can see it clearly in the illustration.”

        David wrote, “I don’t want to have to pay the 30 Euro for a higher-resolution copy, so am still working on the online version.  Seems clear now, though, that the valve is called a “clef de flute”.  Rather nice, though the elephant’s trunk is still the best!”

        And I wrote, “I especially like the patents from the mid-1800’s for the early typewriters with keyboards and keys similar to those on Schroeder’s toy piano in the Peanuts cartoons, ones with quaint names such as “Le Clavier Imprimeur” and “Cembalo Scrivano”, printing
pianos and writing harpsicords, or rather harpsichord scribes!”

 George Kovalenko.


Pilot Vpen, so-called disposable, but still refillable as a jointless eyedropper pen.