54 Facts About Pens

Pens have literally been around for years and many of us use them every day, in some form or another! Maybe we stir our coffee with them, use them as plant tags, or hey we just write with them! But do you know how much history you’re actually holding in your hand when you scribble down a quick note to yourself? Do you know the stories behind the little pen that allows you to write down your dates’ number? Or, what about when you have a tedious form to fill-in? Ever think how that little wonder of the pen got to where it is today? I bet you have! Join us as we discover the history, the stories, and the journey of the pen. Here are 54 facts about pens. 

Fact 1: The ‘dip pen’ was mostly used for calligraphy, illustrations, and comics. This type of pen sort of looks a bit like a ‘fountain’ pen, but unlike a ‘fountain’ pen it has no reservoir (where the ink goes), so you have to keep on refilling it by tipping the pen in ink every time the ink runs out.

Fact 2: The ‘fountain’ pen was the patent of Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru, in 1827. 

Fact 3: Ancient Egyptians used thin ‘reed brushes’ to write down their work on papyrus scrolls. These are some of the earliest examples of pens being used. 

Fact 4: Steve Roger Fischer thought that using ‘reeds’ might have been used as pens as long ago as 3000 BC. 

Fact 5: ‘Reed’ pens were used until the Middle Ages. You’re talking anytime before the 5th century! The Middle Ages lasted from about the 5th-15th century. 

Fact 6: Quills were brought into action in about the 7th century. We all know this one, but how many of us have actually tried to write with one of these special ‘pens’? 

Fact 7: ‘Quills’ were usually made with goose feathers.

Fact 8: T3 claim that the following ‘fountain’ pens are the best on the market as of 2020:

  • Caran D’Ache Ecridor Retro Palladium-Coated Fountain Pen
  • Montblanc Le Grand 146 Fountain Pen
  • Kingsman + Conway Stewart Churchill Fountain Pen
  • Waterman Fountain Pen

Fact 9: ‘Reed’ pens were made from bamboo traditionally.

Fact 10: Kids in India and Pakistan still use ‘reed’ pens to write on wooden tablets, known as ‘Takhiti’. No, these are not the iPad kind of tablets! 

Fact 11: The ‘fountain’ pen started to be used during the 1850s.

Fact 12: ‘Quills’ became popular when papyrus (something to write on) was replaced with animal skins (which was a new material to write on). According to historians, the new material was far smoother and much easier to write on, but it required a far superior ‘pen’ to write on it with, hence the ‘quill’ was brought into play.

Fact 13: ‘Gel’ pens are a type of pen that puts out a water-based gel when being used. This gel is not like the ink in normal pens. Gel ink is typically quite jazzy and colorful! 

Fact 14: A ‘quill’ was used to sign the Constitution of the United States in 1787. 

Fact 15: A ‘copper nib’ was found in Pompei in the year 79, which suggested nibbed pens were used as early as this date. Obviously, these were not your ballpoint pens of today.

Fact 16: A patent for a metal pen was issued in 1803, but this patent wasn’t exploited by the masses. 

Fact 17: A ‘stylus’ pen is a tool used in pottery. The pen is used for precision and to create more detail, which a hand would not be capable of doing. 

Fact 18: Bryan Donkin requested a patent to manufacture metal pens in 1811.

Fact 19: John Mitchell, from the UK, began mass-producing pens with metal nibs in 1822.

Fact 20: The ‘ruling’ pen, is not a pen just for rulers, kings, and queens! Rather, it is used by engineers and those in similar professions, where they have to draw fine lines. 

Fact 21: Today, we might think of a pen as ‘digital’ pen, and rightly so! With lots of us working from tablets, phones, and Ipads, it’s no wonder that the ‘digital’ pen has risen to the surface. Literally, this type of pen is a pen that works with our gadgets. They’re pretty much a non-negotiable item to some! So, this pen is certainly up there with the ballpoint and fountain pen today, and couldn’t be further from the ‘quill’.  

Fact 22: Pre-filled ink pens are said to date back to the 10th Century AD. 

Fact 23: When discussing pens, you might hear someone talking about a ‘reservoir’. In this case, the ‘reservoir’ refers to the place where the ink is held in the pen.  

Fact 24: When talking about ‘pen’s’ people sometimes refer to them as ‘biros’. The reason for this is because this is the surname of László Bíró. He played a significant role in ‘ballpoint’ pen making in the 1940s.

Fact 25: In 953, Ma’ād al-Mu’iss, the Fatimid Caliph of Egypt requested a pen to be created especially for him. His request was that the ink from the pen did not run onto his hand. Therefore, the well-known ‘reservoir’ inside a pen was created to hold the ink. 

Fact 26: Daniel Schwenter created a ‘reservoir’ pen in 1636. This pen is said to look like 2 ‘quills’, with 1 quill being inside the other quill. The quill inside was said to hold the ink in with a cork, while the outer quill was used for the actual writing. 

Fact 27: The world’s largest pen, which can function too, is 5.5 m in length, and weighs 37.23 kg. This incredible feat belongs to Acharya Makunuri from India. 

Fact 28: In England in 1809, Bartholomew Folsch got a patent to create pens with an ink reservoir inside. 

Fact 29: The ballpoint pen, which might be more known to us, was patented by John J. Loud in 1888. 

Fact 30: As of 2020, Best’s ‘best pens of the year’ are as follows:

  • Uni-ball Vision Elite Rollerball Pen – the best ‘rollerball’ pen
  • Uni-ball Jetstream Pen – the best ‘ballpoint’ pen
  • Pilot Razor Point II Marker Stick pens – best pens for left-handed people
  • Pilot G2 Retractable Gel-ink Pens – the best ‘gel’ pen
  • Pilot Metropolitan Collection Medium-nib – best ‘luxury’ pen
  • Marvy Uchida Le Pen – best ‘felt-tip’ pen
  • JinHao X750 Medium-nib Fountain Pen – best ‘fountain pen for beginners’
  • Zebra F402 Retractable Ballpoint Pen – best for ‘highlighting’

Fact 31: In some countries, years and years ago, the ‘ruling’ pen, which was used for more fine and technical drawing, was used as tweezers by some women to pluck their eyebrows. 

Fact 32: BIC, one of the largest pen manufacturers, sells on average 57 pens a second! 

Fact 33: A ‘technical’ pen, as the name suggests is a pen that is used for very intricate and technical work. Professionals like architects would certainly be used to using this type of pen.  

Fact 34: The word ‘stylus’ comes from the Latin word ‘stilu’, and the spelling we see today is likely to have come from the Greek word ‘stylos’. 

Fact 35: The first batch of ballpoint pens to be sold in America, way back in the 1940s, were being sold for about $12.45, per biro! In the UK, if you’re lucky, you can pick up a pack of 10 ‘BIC Crystal’ pens for £3.

Fact 36: There are 8 known ‘pen’ types in the world. These are Gel, Ballpoint, Novelty, Rollerball, Fountain, Felt-tip, Stylus, and calligraphy.

Fact 37: It was the creative work of Hungarian newspaper editor László Bíró, that brought us the ball at the tip of the pen that aided writing. The ball helped the pen glide over the paper, while at the same time picking up ink from the ink cartridge. 

Fact 38: The ‘marker’ pen, actually has lots of names. These include ‘fine liner’, ‘felt-tip-pen’, ‘marking pen’, koki’, sketch pen’, and ‘flow marker’. In the UK, this pen is also known as a ‘highlighter’. The ‘highlighter’ is generally used to highlight important words, phrases, or sentences in documents. These pens usually come in many colours, but you can always see through the color to see what you have highlighted beneath. 

Fact 39: ‘Skin’ pens as the name suggests are used to mark or write on skin. You tend to find these pens in operating theatres so that surgeons can mark a patient before an operation takes place. But, you also see these pens in tattoo parlors. Tattoo artists draw with this kind of pen first, so that they have the exact outline to follow before using the real inking machine on a person. Imagine tattooing someone without first outlining the picture… disaster calling… 

Fact 40: The Bíró brothers, who created the ‘ball’ at the nib of the pen, patented ‘Bíró Pens of Argentina’ when they fled Germany during the Second World War. They continued to test out new pen designs throughout their lifetime. 

Fact 41: Lee Newman patented the ‘felt-tipped’ pen in 1910, and B Paskach patented the ‘fountain paintbrush’ in 1926. The ‘fountain paintbrush’ is as the name suggests, much like a fountain pen but with a sponge on the tip, so it’s more like a ‘felt-tip’ pen in essence. 

Fact 42: Your standard BIC pen can write out a line that is 2 miles long in ink. 

Fact 43: 14 billion ‘BIC Crystal’ pens are sold yearly across the world!

Fact 44: Papermate brought out ‘erasable’ pens in 1979. 

Fact 45: ‘Bic pens’ came into play around the 1940s, but their success came about a decade later in the 1950s. 

Fact 46: ‘Fudepen,’ or ‘brush pens’ are used mainly throughput Eastern Asia for calligraphy purposes. The pen looks a little like a ‘fountain pen’ just with brushes at the nib. Nonetheless, this produces some excellent calligraphy when it is placed in the right hands. 

Fact 47: Steel ‘fountain’ pen nibs are a lot cheaper than gold nibs – as expected. Gold is more desirable in a fountain pen nib because it’s more springy. This means it acts as a shock absorber against any roughness in the paper to give a very smooth writing experience.

Fact 48: The US produces 2 billion pens a year on average! 

Fact 49: ‘Permanent marker’ pens do as their name indicates – leave a permanent mark on a surface. The writing written by these pens generally lasts for years and years, unless you actively try and remove the writing. You can use these pens on different materials too! 

Fact 50: On average, 125 ballpoint pens are sold around the globe every second! 

Fact 51: The ‘XS’ created by ēnsso, is one of the smallest pens in the world. This pen happens to be a ‘fountain’ pen, and it is very practical for those who need to travel around, as it fits into your pocket well. 

Fact 52: Angelika Unverhau, hold the title for the largest ballpoint pen collection. With over 285,150 ballpoint pens in the collection, we know who we’ll be going to when we have to borrow a pen in an emergency… The lady from Germany has collected these pens since 1990 and has got pens from 148 countries in her enormous collection. 

Fact 53: Your average pen can write about 45,000 words. 

Fact 54: As of 2018, the most expensive pen in the world is the Aurora Diamante Fountain Pen. Get ready to be blown away by the price tag… the pen costs $1,470,600… I’ll let that sink in for a minute. For your money, you do get 30 carats of De Beer’s diamonds and a solid platinum barrel. Oh, and to top it all off, there is an 18KT gold nib, plus it can be personalised. I think I’ll stick with good old BIC for a few more years…


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