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The pocket-knife which we know today has its roots in the pen knife, or scribal knife, of the Middle Ages. But not only did those early knives not fold, few of them would safely or conveniently fit in a pocket, even in their protective leather sheaths. For centuries, people of lesser means might only have one knife, which they used for everything, including mending the nibs of their quill pens, while the wealthy, or professional scribes, would have specially-made pen or quill knives to be used for only that purpose.
By the Regency, most people owned a pen knife, and many of those knives did fold. They could therefore be safely carried in pockets or reticules. But there were also other knives which looked very like pen knives, but served different purposes. A bit about pen and other specialty folding knives of the Regency ...
|Friday, December 18, 2009|
As with many other curious things which have been chronicled here, the decade of the Regency saw the last lingering use of the Long S, at least in print. Most people continued to use it in those documents which they wrote by hand, regardless of its demise on the printed page.
The Long S, what it was, its origins, its rules of usage and how it passed into history ... almost.
The ubiquitous wooden stick with a mineral core, now often painted yellow, is something that we all take for granted today. But this writing implement, which did not require ink, had only just begun to be manufactured in significant numbers at the beginning of the Regency. And the best pencils
were made in England because England controlled the very best graphite, much to Napoleon's chagrin.
. Just pencil "lead?" Oh, no! More precious than gold, mined in secret, protected by armed guards, it was considered a critical military resource. The story of the pencil in the Regency ...
|Friday, September 18, 2009|
Last week I wrote about the making of quills into pens, but quill pens are not much use without ink. Therefore, this week I will explain how ink was made, the materials that were used to make it as well as how it was sold. Ink had been in use since ancient times, but the formulas by which it was made had been constantly improved over the centuries so that the ink of the Regency was a much more complex fluid than the simple solutions of water and lamp-black
or charcoal of ancient times.
There were several types of inks available during the Regency. Here I will focus on writing ink, the kind of ink which would have been used during the Regency along with a quill pen to write letters, diary entries, deeds, wills, military dispatches, or any other document created using a pen. I will only briefly touch on specialty inks as well as the inks used for drawing and printing during the Regency.
|Friday, September 11, 2009|
Despite the use of steel pens in some Regency novels I have read, the only type pen available to writers during that decade was the quill. A Mr. Wise did invent a steel pen in 1803, but they were extremely expensive, temperamental, and he sold very few of them over a very short period. Steel pens were not on the market during the Regency. It was not until 1830 that steel pens became readily available, when a Mr. Perry took out a patent for an affordable pen. In the years that followed, several other inventors took out patents for their own version of the steel pen. Over the course of the following decades, the quill pen was slowly supplanted by that of steel. But all that happened long after the Regency.
Though it is not certain when the feathers of birds first began to be used to make writing implements, they were the only source of pen-making materials during the middle ages and right through the Regency. In fact, it is from the feather that we have acquired our word "pen." It comes from the Latin penna
, which means "feather." Now, how a feather becomes a pen ...
Nor is vellum. Yet countless characters in countless Regency novels have selected or are offered a sheet of "parchment" or "vellum" when they have something to write. But that would never really have happened during the Regency, because though paper was expensive, the cost of either parchment or vellum would have been prohibitive for any but the most wealthy. And even they would not have used it for everyday correspondence.
In modern times, various paper manufactures have chosen to label some of their wares either "parchment" or "vellum." However, these words have been hijacked, disengaged from their original meanings, taking advantage of their ancient cachet in order to tempt present-day paper buyers. Such was not the case during the years of the Regency. In that decade, as had been the case for centuries before it, parchment was still parchment and paper was just paper. Both were completely different media upon which to write, the former having an animal source, the latter a vegetable source.
In great agitation, she took a sheet of foolscap from the desk drawer. Placing it on the blotter, she dipped her sharpened quill into the inkwell and began to write furiously ...
Or, something like that. How many characters in how many Regency romances have written or received a missive on a sheet of foolscap? More than I can count. So, just what is foolscap