The QUILL-tessential Muses of Literature

Quill, Pen and gadgets – where inspiration is flowing freely from ink to paper or keyboard to screen, novum’s investigations are running keen!

There are some similarities between inspiration and the weather – they do have a tendency towards changing.

Expect the sun to shine and you will be gifted with rainfall, a storm of poetry rushing over your pages might be followed by the deafening silence of your keys. If the muse does choose to lean in for a kiss, though, lingering or no, things need to progress quickly more often than not. The steady stream of literature wants to find its release on paper, poetic words need to fill the blank pages like rain fills the cracks of the earth after a long drought. Fleeting as the ephemeral muse’s kiss often is, the fickle bringer of inspiration hardly ever pauses to wait for us writers to get a hold of a suitable writing utensil. So, what to do if inspiration is hitting home without a ball pen in sight? We at novum publishing made it our business to investigate on writing utensils for the literary emergency! In this, the first part of our new series „The QUILL-tessential Muses of Literature“ the old souls among you might feel a cozy feeling of nostalgia wash over you while we present our findings for the „old school- all stars” of literary muses. If your tastes run to more modern times, you should definitely stay tuned for the second part to find more progressive tools as their counterparts of the digital age.

The Quill

„The quill beats the sword.“
Edward Bulwer-Lytton

The more patient among us can exercise the high art of calligraphy with a quill – with the recent trend of hand lettering it is more en vogue than ever, and the renaissance of calligraphy offers many an opportunity to practice your skill with a quill.

The feathers of geese made their breakthrough as leading writing instruments in the 5th century a.C., rendering it quintessential to anyone who wanted to put their ideas to paper. The reign of the delicate bird’s feathers as writing tool supreme went on for many decades and was only usurped at the end of the 19th century by steel. Enter the age of the pen. Still, many traditionalists let their feathery quills dipped in ink take their creative flight over the pages up to this day and beyond. Nowadays, quills can be found for purchase in special shops or online, and the crafty among you are encouraged to make their own quill pens: step-by-step guides and how-to’s can be found galore on the internet. If you want to take it a step further while travelling back in the history of writing, you will find your tool close to the water: Up until the introduction of the quill, the reed pen made from simple reeds taken from the shores of rivers was the universally employed writing tool!

The reservoir pen or fountain pen

The first professional metal pen nibs made from steel that were the direct ancestors of today’s fountain pens were the so-called „reservoir pens“. History shows that the ancient Romans were actually already armed with an early form of pen: archaeologists found the proof in the form of fragile nibs made from copper, silver and bronze during excavations from the fatefully destroyed city of Pompeii. Though cleverly crafted, these first attempts at metal nibs lacked the elasticity needed for lasting success – it so happened that the steely prototypes would often rip the paper or splotch, scratch and drip their way along the ancient escritoires of sophisticated Romans, which was why they did not yet convince. It took all the way fast forward to Leonardo DaVinci for the next steps in nib development and the final breakthrough did not come before the onset of the Industrial Age. With the invention of the screw press and a newly added technical finesse, the perforation, the steel nib of the ancient Romans could finally shine.

Cleverly placed slits, crosses and rectangular shapes added to flexibility and with the growing understanding of the role that air pressure is playing in the functioning of pens, much progress was made. The final breakthrough was marked by the invention of the fountain pen that was marketed by Lewis Edson Waterman in 1883. The American who was working for an insurance company at the time invented a special reservoir made from caoutchouc that stored a record amount of ink, enabling pens to write up to 1.6000 words. This special system of ink supply went a long way in facilitating correspondence, as one needed to re-dip one’s pen in ink after having written only a few words.

One thing that was as true back in the early days of fountain pens as it is today, is the importance of looks. Keeping up appearances is important, and it certainly matters for writers, too. Aesthetics come at a price, though, and are always a good marketing trick. Steel nib manufacturers of the 19th century got very creative for that very reason: so it does not come as a surprise that these early marketing ingenuities brought forth not only varying shapes and sizes of nibs but also finger-shaped nibs, memorial pens honouring events such as the famed world exhibitions or trade fairs, portrait nibs with engravings of important personalities or artfully styled nibs with ornaments inspired by the flora and fauna or nibs that were embossed with imagery taken from seafaring and the railroad, thus paying homage to the then brand new wonders of the Industrial Age.

Hopeless romantics in particular love fountain pens, which might be a reason why the different manufacturers excel in a never-ending contest of producing unique pen editions such as fountain pens entirely made from glass or a luxury edition by Maserati!

The pencil

A man would do well to carry a pencil in his pocket, and write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come unsought for are commonly the most valuable, and should be secured, because they seldomly return.“

Francis Bacon

Sometimes, inspiration hits us without preamble. In those lucky cases, ideas want to be captured, and quickly! Finding yourselves haunted by poetry, ambushed by storyboards, overwhelmed by lines or attacked by ideas, there is only one thing you really need: something to write it all down. The time that passes until you booted your computer up from its unsuspecting slumber or tamed your capricious writing machine is time in which all those wonderful creative inputs might have already flown right out the next window, never to be seen again. Your good old trusted friend, the pencil, paired with a notebook, is still the one to turn to when the best of ideas are flooding the gates of your imagination.

In the hands of humankind since 1565, the slim writing utensil made from graphite still is going strong. The heady scent of cedar wood, which is what the mantling of pencil usually Is made of, inspires artists of any genre to this day, still. Be it an architect, a painter, a carpenter or a poet – they all use the grey writing tool as an outlet for their thoughts. Perfectionists get rid of less splendid ideas can be quickly erased from the agenda with a rubber, the steady stream of inspiration is fuelled and elongated by sharpeners.

The Perfect Pencil from Faber Castell for example, brings everything to the table neatly wrapped in one elegant package: equipped with an interchangeable rubber set under an elegant cap made out of sterling silver, it also sports a sharpening tool.

The typewriter

A typewriter is but a piano of thoughts.“

Kurt Tucholsky

Art is not only what it is helping to create, no – this writing instrument truly is a work of art in its own right: the typewriter. With a typewriter, a mechanical transmission out of keypad, type lever, type roller, wheel and spherical roller form a splendid union of literary beauty. Writers with a heart full of literary nostalgia might find themselves humming to the melody of keystrokes clicking and carriage return sequences.

The patent for the first typewriter was filed by Henry Mill in 1714. Until the invention of the computer, which took over the honorable duty of writing tool of the trade for professional writers from the typing machine, popular companies like AEG, Canon, Olivetti, Panasonic, Remington or Samsung followed suit by creating their own versions of the typewriter.

It is hard to withstand the charming allure of a typewriter – it is so inherently retro, and once you behold one of these often beautifully crafted mechanical utensils, you’re lost, literally smitten. Also, they are the centerpiece of another vintage trend that is all the rage at the moment – many companies like Olympia following duly suit, there are new electronic typewriters for quickly composed letters, poems or documents.

For more information about the process of creative writing, many tips and tricks and for the sheer fun of leafing through, new authors are cordially invited to visit us on our homepage!

Yours truly, as always,

novum publishing


  1. The histry of pen-invention is really interesting and educative. I really appreciate. Thanks. R.P.Ghosh. e-mail: ghoshr77@yahoo.lnik

  2. Stephen Thompson

    9. August 2018 at 18:53

    Is this a Tablet I see before me
    The stylus hugging my fingers.
    Ah, small, sad, paper book
    You did your best to capture
    The glories and depths of my musing
    Painting thoughts so all could see.
    But magic has come to kiss the phone
    With the gift to write unending lines
    Sorcery to transform untidy scratches
    To orderly words and legible sentance
    How much closer now
    Words and mind have crept together.

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