1. A writing implement with a point from which ink flows.
2. An enclosure for confining livestock.
3. Female swan.
See light pen, stylus.
Hand-held implement for writing. Pens have existed since ancient Egyptian times. Quill pens were developed by the Romans, and the technology remained unchanged until the 18th-century development of the steel nib. The fountain pen, which ensured a steady supply of ink, was invented in the 1880s. Today the dominant types of pen are the ballpoint, which became widespread in the 1940s and 1950s, and the felt-tip pen, dating from the 1960s.
The earliest form of pen, the brush pen, was made simply be chewing the end of a reed (Jucus maritimus). The Egyptians used it to write on papyrus from about 3000 BC. It was replaced some 2000 years later by the Greeks with the reed pen, made by cutting the end of the reed at an angle and making a slit opposite the cut. This proved to be niblike and more suitable for writing the newly developed Greek alphabet.
The reed pen survived until papyrus was replaced by animal skins, vellum and parchment, as a writing surface. The smoother surface of skin allowed finer, smaller writing and the quill pen, derived from the flight feathers of geese or other large birds, emerged in late Roman times (4th century AD) for this purpose. Though awkward to use and in need of frequent attention it survived well into the 18th century, when a number of people seem independently to have invented the metal nib.
At first handmade metal pens were expensive items. But with mechanisation, by the mid-19th century factories began to produce metal nibs by the millions. There still remained the need for a portable writing instrument, and in the 19th century a race began to develop a pen that would write on demand without leaking. The problem of the controlled leak of ink proved difficult and it was not until the 1880s that such manufacturers as Lewis E Waterman and George Parker were able to offer a reliable if expensive fountain pen.
Although they soon became cheaper and plentiful, fountain pens dominated the market only until the 1950s. For in 1945 a Chicago industrialist, Middleton Reynolds, began to market the ball-point pen. At the same time a Hungarian refugee in Argentina, Laszlo Biró, produced a similar design. The ball-point pen operates by capillary action, using a ball around 1 mm/0.04 in diameter,and very thick ink. In one form or another their invention dominated the world market until the arrival of the felt-tip pen in the 1960s from Japan.
Abbreviation for Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists, a literary association established 1921 by C A (“Sappho”) Dawson Scott, to promote international understanding among writers.