January 10, 2016

Early pen collectors

[Mentioned on L&P on May 12, 2012, and by David Nishimura in his blog on Jan 27, 2014.]
        “If it should ever become a fad to collect pens, what a collection could be made from ancient and modern writing instruments.”  So, prophetically, begins The American Stationer article on Sept 24, 1896, p.517.  By “pen” the writer doesn’t mean just fountain pens.  He lists all of these as possible candidates for collecting,
brush, stylus, reed pen, quill, and steel pen, but he also includes the more recent stylographic pen as progenitor and predecessor to the fountain pen.  “What a wide field the collector would have to investigate!”  By the way, the article also shows a pen for the presidential fountain pen collectors.
        The article is both prophetic and unknowing, because the author is unaware of the Am. Stat. article from Aug 13, 1896, p.248, which states that already in 1896 there was at least one known collector of nibs.  “There are pens and pens”, it says, and then states that, “A British manufacturer has collected 1,608 styles, and he declares that most ailments in penmanship can be cured by certain pens”.
       But here’s an earlier collector still, and in Denver, of all places. This intriguing, one-paragraph article appeared in the Scientific American,
July 7, 1888, p.5, where it was indexed under the category “A collector of pens”.  Too bad that no specific pen companies are named.

Queer Fancy Of A Collector

      A man in Denver, Colorado, named Lyon, is said to have a collection of over seven hundred pens, no two alike.  Some are of steel, some gold, some amalgam, and so on.  There are pens pointed fine enough to make lines of microscopic delicacy, and others intended for men who use the first person pronoun a great deal in their correspondence.  The collection embraces specimens from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and other European countries besides America and Canada.  Some are in shapes like shovels, others resemble a section of stove pipe, and others are delicate and diminutive.

George Kovalenko.