A pen is a tool for writing or drawing with a coloured fluid such as ink.
Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used, with a nib dipped in ink.
Ruling pens allow precise adjustment of line width, and still find a few specialized uses, but technical pens such as the Rapidograph are more commonly used.
Modern types include ballpoint, rollerball, fountain and felt or ceramic tip pens.
The earliest ancestor of the pen probably was the brush the Chinese used for writing by the 1st millennium BC.
Ancient Egyptians employed thick reeds for penlike implements about 300 BC.
A specific allusion to the quill pen occurs in the 7th-century writings of St. Isidore of Sevilla, but such pens made of bird feathers were probably in use at an even earlier date. Quill pens were widely used in the 18th century, and were used to write and sign the Constitution of the United States in 1787.
‘New invented’ metal pens are advertised in The Times in 1792. A metal pen point was patented in 1803, but the patent was not commercially exploited. A patent for the manufacture of metal pens was advertised for sale by Bryan Donkin in 1811. John Mitchell of Birmingham started to mass-produce pens with metal nibs in 1822, and after that, the quality of steel nibs improved enough so that dip pens with metal nibs came into general use.
While a student in Paris, Romanian Petrache Poenaru invented the fountain pen, which the French Government patented in May 1827.
John Mitchell of Birmingham, England, is credited with having introduced the machine-made steel pen point in 1828. Two years later the English inventor James Perry sought to produce more-flexible steel points by cutting a centre hole at the top of a central slit and then making additional slits on either side.
The inconvenience of having to continually dip a pen to replenish its ink supply stimulated the development of the fountain pen, a type of pen in which ink is held in a reservoir and passes to the writing point through capillary channels. The first practical version of the fountain pen was produced in 1884 by the American inventor L.E. Waterman.
Ballpoint pens date from the late 19th century. Commercial models appeared in 1895, but the first satisfactory model was patented by Lázló Bíró, a Hungarian living in Argentina. His ballpoint pen, commonly called the “biro,” became popular in Great Britain during the late 1930s, and by the mid-1940s pens of this type were widely used throughout much of the world.
Slavoljub Eduard Penkala, a naturalized Croatian engineer and inventor, became renowned for further development of the mechanical pencil (1906) – then called an “automatic pencil” – and the first solid-ink fountain pen (1907). Collaborating with an entrepreneur by the name of Edmund Moster, he started the Penkala-Moster Company and built a pen-and-pencil factory that was one of the biggest in the world at the time.
In the 1960s, the fiber or felt-tipped pen was invented by Yukio Horie of the Tokyo Stationery Company, Japan. Paper Mate’s Flair was among the first felt-tip pens to hit the US market in the 1960s, and it has been the leader ever since. Marker pens and highlighters, both similar to felt pens, have become popular in recent times.
Rollerball pens were introduced in the early 1970s. They use a mobile ball and liquid ink to produce a smoother line. Technological advances during the late 1980s and early 1990s have improved the roller ball’s overall performance. A porous point pen contains a point made of some porous material such as felt or ceramic. A high quality drafting pen will usually have a ceramic tip, since this wears well and does not broaden when pressure is applied while writing.
The current title holder for the world’s most expensive pen is the Fulgor Nocturnus by the famous pen-makers Tibaldi of Florence. This fountain pen sold for $8 million in a 2010 auction in Shanghai, China. It was created based on the Divine Proportions of Phi, so the ratio between the cap and the visible portion of the barrel when the pen is closed is equal to the phi ration 1.618. In addition to its divine shape, the pen is decorated with 945 black diamonds and 123 rubies.
The longest lasting pen friendship (pen pals) is 78 years 160 days, and was achieved by Ruth Magee (Canada) and Beryl Richmond (UK), on 20 April 2018.
The longest chain of marker pens consists of 7,210 pens and was achieved by Carine Primary School (Australia) at their campus in Carine, Western Australia, Australia on 30 October 2014.
The largest ball point pen measures 5.5 m (18 ft 0.53 in) long and weighs 37.23 kg (82.08 lb 1.24 oz). The pen was made by Acharya Makunuri Srinivasa (India) and was presented and measured in Hyderabad, India,
on 24 April 2011.
Angelika Unverhau of Dinslaken, Germany, has the largest collection of ball-point pens with 285,150 excluding duplicates that represent 148 different countries worldwide.