writing

As you know, I recently acquired a Kindle electronic reader, and I’m very satisfied with it. Since the beginning of this month, I have read a number of English books which I have enjoyed. And on this reader, there are a number of black and white images which serve as ‘screen savers’, or more accurately, a way to let me know that the reader is asleep. If I turn it off completely, the page is slightly off-white. But if it’s only sleeping, I see one of those images. The images are beautiful… photos of typewriters and pens, and other pictures connected to the process of writing. These images have brought back old memories.

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my first fountain pen, an Estherbrook

My earliest pleasant memories are of reading and writing. As difficult as life was in my immediate vicinity, once I learned to read, I was able to find refuge in other times and places, and to forget my own troubles for an hour or two, as I learned new things and identified with far away writers, and adventures that excited and inspired me. Those books filled my head with images and ideas that were brought to me by letters on the page. As lonely as I was, I got to know people and social conditions that I couldn’t experience personally. And I became a dedicated reader and student. Soon after learning to read, I began writing. At first I wrote in a journal in which I recorded interesting things I had learned, and references to other books that I found mentioned in the books I was reading. I wrote with pen and ink, using a fountain pen, or a pen which was nothing more than a wooden handle to which was attached a nib, which I would dip into the ink, and then be able to write a number of words till I had to dip the pen once again into the ink well.

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for hundreds of years people used a simple pen such as this

My teachers showed me examples of proper handwriting, and of exceptional writing. And I aspired to write as beautifully as some of the examples I saw. And since Hebrew has a number of accepted alphabets, including two separate scripts, aside from the well known square letters, I practiced writing both of the scripts, as well as the square letters which I admired from the first time I saw them. There was a solidity and a balance to those square letters that enchanted me. After a couple of years of writing with a regular pen, I bought a set of graphic nibs, with which I was able to control the width of the line I was drawing, and this enabled me to write more beautifully. The physical act of writing the words on paper was as important to me as the meaning behind the words I was writing. And this focus on the craft of writing continued for many years.

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different nibs I would use when writing

Over the years I had quite a number of pens of all sorts, and most of them are still with me, though I haven’t written by pen for almost 20 years. Yet each of the pens I wrote with is precious to me, including the first ball point pen, which was called a ‘globus’, and was a very simple utensil made of cheap plastic. It could write forever… at least so it seemed after writing with fountain pens. But at times it left a little puddle of grease on the paper, and because of that, I continued to write with fountain pens. Later on, I switched to typewriters. And for many years, I had two typewriters; one that wrote with Hebrew letters, and another that wrote with Latin characters. I could reminisce about the different typewriters I wrote with over the years. But today I’m reminded of the pens, and each pen brings back a period of my life, my dreams and accomplishments, and what I studied in those days.

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the ballpoint pen called ‘globus’

The pen that accompanied me for the longest time, was a Parker 51, gray in color, with a very fine point. It was the most dependable pen I had, and held a lot of ink, so it could write for days without a refill. It was also light in the hand and comfortable to write with. I remember only once that it leaked in my shirt pocket, and that was when I was flying in an airplane. But unlike most of my other pens, it’s line was so consistent, that I was unable to emphasize a word by pressing a bit harder on the point. And so, I didn’t usually use it for letters and documents that were meant for the eyes of others.

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a fountain pen used for calligraphy

There are two pens in my collection that I love most of all. One was given to me by a dear friend, and is considered one of the finest pens ever made. It is called a Mont Blanc, and was well known as a luxury item since the 1920s. It has a gold nib which allows a certain flexibility, so that one can express himself in handwriting much as one can express one’s self in speech. And I was always reminded of my friend when writing with this beautiful instrument.

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the Montblanc, a present from my dear friend Bert

Another pen that was exceptionally precious to me… was the very pen that my mother gave my father when they were newly married, and he was forced to travel abroad. He wrote her love letters, and tales of his efforts in countries beyond the seas. When he was getting old, and no longer used this pen, he told me that he had intended to leave the pen to me, but since he didn’t use it anymore because it was a cartridge pen that used glass cartridges of ink, that were no longer made. He wished to give it to me while he was still alive, as a souvenir of the love that bound my parents together through the years. The pen was beautifully made, and had a gold nib. It was one of the first that employed a cartridge as a reservoir of ink. It’s body was built before the use of plastics for such articles. It was made of Celluloid.

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a present from my mother to my father

As soon as I received the pen, I set about, trying to make it a working tool. There had been an excellent pen repairman in Jerusalem, by the name of Moshe Cohen, and I looked for him, but it turned out that he had moved to Tel Aviv. I called him up, and explained to him that I wanted to write with this pen, but the cartridges were unavailable. He told me he thought he could install a reservoir in the pen, which I could refill, and so use the pen. I brought the pen to him personally, and found his pen store inspiring. I watched him as he wrote with his own fountain pen, and loved his handwriting. He was a man I could trust. A couple of weeks later, he called up to inform me that the pen was ready. I baked a loaf of bread and bought a bottle of wine to celebrate with him the rebirth of this pen, and we celebrated in his shop, after he delivered the reconstructed pen to my hands.

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pen repairman extraordinaire, Moshe Cohen

These stories belong to the past. Nowadays, I write with a computer. It’s better than a pen, actually. No problem to emphasize a word, or to write in italics. And you can change a sentence without rewriting the whole page. But I’ve never felt as personally attached to a computer as I was to the pens I wrote with.

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99 responses to “writing

  1. I enjoyed reading your post. Sadly, it seems fine penmanship is a thing of the past now that most written communication is done via keyboard. Even students often take notes on laptops or tablets. In fact, I was just at a writer’s conference and took all my notes on my iPad.

    As a result, I notice how sloppy my own writing has become over the years from misuse. Sure, I still write things down, but more lengthy notes or letters seem to be done on my PC. I wouldn’t go back, but it does seem that the joy of a beautiful pen and lovely stationery are no more.

    • You’re right, of course, Carrie. There will be a very few who will enjoy pen and ink in the future, the way the more romantic among us enjoy having a dinner by candle light. But it won’t take long till the majority won’t be able to write at all by hand. But that’s the true measure of different eras. The digital era has turned our world around. Thanks very much for coming by and for your comment.

  2. I love the stories of your wonderful writing instruments, Shimon. I, too, have been fascinated with fountain pens and own several. When I want to journal, I still use a fountain pen and write in a leather bound journal as a way of bringing forth my thoughts and feelings in a more organic way. But I generally compose my more “outward” writing on the keyboard – as it’s more efficient. Given the choice, when hand writing, I would always choose a fountain pen as I love the feel of the instrument and the flow ink on paper.

    • Yes, that was the way I felt for most of the years of my life. I liked the actual writing… the ink flowing through the pen just the way I wanted it too, and the look of the letters. It was dearer to me than speech. But now I’ve accepted that the digital media is better for more purposes, and I don’t write with pen and ink anymore. Thanks, Cathy.

  3. A lovely post, Shimon. For its first 100 years, Parker Pen Co, was very near my home, so it seemed like everyone had one (at least) when I was growing up. I appreciated seeing your treasures and hearing some of the stories connected with them. Thank you. Exquisite!

    • I had quite a few pens over the years… Waterman and Sheaffer were the most used in my youth, though I also had a Pelikan which was very nice. But I found the Parker was the most reliable, and I liked it very much. Always had one in my pocket. Never thought about where it was made. And now it’s charming to hear that you grew up not far from the factory. Thanks for the comment, Kitty.

  4. A pleasure to read, Shimon. Isn’t Globus the name of the manufacturer? I know they had them in Israel, but I’d never seen them in U. S. A recent book by Jim Krusoe – a very good writer, but heavy on the dark humor – called Parsival features a fountain pen repair man as its protagonist/hero.
    Personally my childhood was scarred by my poor penmanship. My father wrote and drew beautifully and I was all thumbs. So I admire the calligraphers very much.

    • You are quite right, Bumba. As you know, we’re a small country, and when the ball point came out, we were a very small country. Very often we had just one supplier for a particular item. And so quite a few gadgets were known by the name of the manufacturer. We had a lot of different fountain pens, and I remember most of them. But we used to call a record player ‘patifon’ and it was only much later that I realized that the name came from the French manufacturer of the device, Pathe. Thank you very much for coming by, and for reviving some more old memories.

      • Thanks, I didn’t know that about patiphone. I thought it was Loazit. It also took me some time to realize that the toilet bowl Najara referrd to the Niagara corporation.

        • So true, about the Niagara… and I think there are still more examples of that phenomenon, that don’t come to me at the moment, but it was an amusing quirk of our little society.

  5. Wonderful post Shimon. I love pens especially fountain pens. It’s funny even with my computer, iPad, iPhone I still carry a notebook and enjoying writing rough drafts if my reviews and posts in them. Silly maybe but it is a lost art.

    • Well, I admire your ability to still enjoy the old writing tools. Without even realizing it, I moved completely to the computer over the years. And now, the only time I write by hand, is when I inscribe a blessing in a book for someone. Don’t know how long that will last either. Always good to hear from you, Edith.

  6. What a delightful post, this reminded me of my father, he always used a fountain pen and had very scriptive handwriting.

    I love all those pens and stories, especially the one about your fathers pen being repaired.

    I wish I had thought to keep a journal especially about some of the wonderful books I’ve read and now forgotten…..and I really would like to see some samples of your handwriting, with these pens.xxxxx

    • Yes, in our generation, proper speech and beautiful writing were considered very important. Mistakes in communication were considered a vulgarity. And one could really see the personality of the writer in the way he laid his words across the paper. But so much has changed since those days. But there’s probably a good bit of your father still peeking through your eyes, at this changing world. Thanks, Dina. xxx

  7. Shimon, this is such a lovely post. I have ‘a thing’ for pens…love them and love using them as well. I have what is called ‘a familial tremor’; once upon a time my handwriting was beautiful but the tremor reduced it to chicken scratching, as I call it. However, God has always blest me and recently my handwriting reverted back to ‘beautiful’…how about that? So I am a constant computer person but also enjoy writing by hand w/pen. How wonderful.

    It’s such a shame that so many people no longer hand write anything; oh well.

    Thank you for such beautiful reminders of wonderful tools (of which I have many).

    • Always so good to hear from you, Vasca. I know about that tremor. My mother had it, and it got worse with the years. But I wish you the strength, and the long life, and the positive attitude that she had. She lived to 101 years. How amazing, though, that your handwriting improved again. It must be a disorder of the nerves. I myself have gone over completely to the computer. But I do remember my pens with love. Thanks for the comment.

  8. A beautiful post, Shimon. I too have been enchanted by fountain pens in the past and have a few tucked away. Your collection is lovely.

    • It doesn’t surprise me that you too have had a love for pens. I’m very aware of your aesthetic personality every time I look at your beautiful pictures. Glad you liked the post, Karen.

  9. Lovely post … you write so beautifully … although I suspect English is not your first language … love the pics of your writing tools… tears … as I remember, but have no longer have any of them … but also joy, as I see them here in your blog post … uhm, I also miss my roller skates from way back when … got a pic of them as well ? 🙂 Love, cat.

    • Yes, you’re quite right cat. I already knew a couple of languages when I learned English. But I worked at it when I was in college. I never did have roller skates, though, and I was a little envious of those who did. How I would have loved to see you skiing down the sidewalk on your skates. That’s a beautiful image in my mind.

  10. t smith knowles

    …touches my heart and soul.

  11. A very interesting post. I very much enjoyed the photographs showing the history of your lovely pens. I had no idea there were different types of nubs for those older fountain pens but it makes sense.

    It was nice for me to think about the construction of the lines that make up the letters that then create our words and how the shape and width or thinness also tell their own story of sorts. Rather like words inside of words, the emotion of the author showing up in multiple ways. I like this very much.

    • In those days, the way we wrote the letters was as expressive as our face when we speak. It revealed the undertones and the overtones of what we were saying. One could sense the personality of the writer in the way he or she wrote. Nowadays, there are smileys that many people use to embellish their writing. But in those days the handwriting said it all. There are times when I’m homesick for the way we did things then. But I do love the computer, and modern communication. Thanks so much for your comment, Shoes.

  12. Oh, Shimon. This is the dearest of posts. How I loved reading it. I understand completely and walked and wrote with you as you revisited the past. I would very much like to see some of the Hebrew scripts in your handwriting. I know they are beautifully drawn as is everything you set your hand to do. My own favorite pen is a Mont Blanc issued in 1999 as that year’s edition honoring Marcel Proust. I enjoyed this post very much.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, George… and I can easily imagine you writing with the Montblanc. Though I hadn’t heard of a pen they made that honored Proust. They seem to be getting ever more elegant. Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate that despite the differences, we do have some interests and attitudes in common.

  13. so beautoful ,my friend.
    vento

  14. What a wonderful post, and memories for me. I’ve had my love affair with fountain pens and then ball point pens. There was a Mont Blanc store in a very upscale mall in Orange County, in Southern California that I loved to visit. My writing has also gone to the computer, except for when I travel, and I make entries into a journal. I was so elated before a recent trip when I found the most lovely and inexpensive ballpoint pens in a package of four with all different designs on their casing; friends just couldn’t understand why I was so elated over this find…..ha! Another secret affair.

    • Ah, how lovely to liken the relationship with pens to love affairs, Angeline… and I know so well the stormy moments too, that one can have with pens, as well as the sublime togetherness and intimacy. And I too have had certain writing instruments that were dedicated to particular occupations, and very specific chores. The stories our tools could tell, if we just coaxed them a little, eh. Thank you so much for the beautiful comment.

  15. What a beautiful memoir of your dear pens. How wonderful you found Moshe Cohen who was able to repair the special pen for you. Thank you so much for sharing the stories and beautiful photos.

    • Yes Amy, thinking about pens after all this time brings back a lot of memories… but Moshe Cohen was one of the best. I have thought a lot in my life about occupations, and done a lot of different types of work. And I enjoyed meeting people who had interesting or especially rewarding occupations, because I regarded work as a very important part of life. And a lot of one’s time is spent at work. I had the feeling that repairing pens would be an aristocratic position, but though I’d heard of his excellent work, I never had call to use his services, because I was so careful and prudent with my own writing instruments. But then, when I inherited my father’s pen, I needed help. And he was just the right man for the job. And on one occasion after that, I had to hire his services, and that too was a splendid experience. Thank you for your comment.

  16. Once you have found a pen to your liking it’s hard to let it go when it finally runs out of ink, what a joy it must have been to have found someone to repair your Father’s gift. I wonder if there is a support group for people like us….?

    • I can well imagine that there are such support groups in America. I remember, when hearing the first time about support groups, some time back, I was just amazed by the beauty of the idea. But very fortunately for myself, there is less need for support groups here in Jerusalem because people tend to get involved in your affairs whether you wish them to or not. Just riding on the bus you can find yourself drafted into a spontaneous support group for someone who broke his glasses or brief case. And on the streets too, or in a waiting room, people will start talking to you even if they never saw you before. I take a walk every morning, and so my neighbors, after having seen me twice, start relating to me as if we’re old friends. Aside from that, Jack, it really was great to have that ol’ pen returned to the world of the living. I knew I’d love it even as a memento. But it was truly wonderful once it went back to writing.

  17. A wonderful look at pens and writing through your personal experience. Yes – penmanship seems to be a lost art and writing cursive may be a dying art.

    • Thank you so much, Frank. I agree. Penmanship is a lost art. And cursive writing altogether is almost gone. I used to be reminded of penmanship when I tried to read a doctor’s prescription now and then… more often for friends than for myself, because I avoided doctors most of my life. But nowadays that I do have a doctor (because of my heart ailment), I don’t even have the luxury of laughing at his handwriting because he sends the prescriptions straight to the pharmacy by internet, and I’m left completely out of the picture.

  18. Pen & ink – I remember when at school an age ago…. mixing the ink from powder and using the dip & write pen. We were not allowed the ballpoint until letters were well formed (blue & red lines)
    I now use a Montblanc for all personal letters and even sign cheques with it (I refuse to compromise on this: blame my early teacher 🙂 ) enjoyed this post.
    David.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, David, and no doubt we have had certain common experiences, though I have to say that my ink always came in a bottle, and I never had the opportunity to mix it myself, though I would have appreciated that, I’m sure. Nor did I learn about red ink until I was already an adult, thank god. But rather early, I discovered other colors, after having learned to portray my thoughts in black on white. There was blue, and blue black, which is what I finally chose as my media. And there was a period of time when I enjoyed writing in green. That was considered rather unusual at the time. But even more unusual was purple, and I once had a girlfriend who used to express herself in that color… ahhh, it heightened the expectations. I can definitely understand your insistence on writing with the Montblanc. I felt the same way about my pens. Sometimes, even a hasty note had to be written just right. I enjoyed your comment.

  19. Beautiful pen collection! I have to say– I have terrible handwriting, made worse by hand pain issues so to me the only writing I can do is by computer. People can’t even read my shopping lists!

    • Well, hand pain and such physical issues can be a good reason for having a difficult handwriting to read. But sometimes, the difficulty is more a part of the personality than bodily hardship. When I was a young man, I had the honor of living ‘just down the street’ from our national writer… the only writer from our country that ever received a Nobel prize for literature. And he was famous for having a handwriting that was impossible to read. There were only two or three people in the entire country who were able to read his writing, which had to be eventually decoded so that his books could get printed. His dear wife… and later his daughter… and his publisher too, were famous, if just for their ability to read his handwriting. And the handwriting itself was beautiful, despite being illegible. It was a bit like abstract art… or bird scratchings. They used it once as a pattern on the bindings of a set of his works, and I still treasure the look of that writing. Thank you for your comment, Lisa.

  20. A thoroughly enjoyable post, Shimon. Marvelous images and narrative. I have a collection of writing instruments that I enjoy very much. There is such pleasure in writing with a fine pen. Sadly, they do not teach children here at school how to write in cursive anymore, only print. I wonder if the children of today will be able to read letters of the past, if they have no exposure to beautiful script. We will teach our daughter at home how to write in cursive.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, Lemony. And I agree with you, that there is great pleasure in writing by hand. Though I don’t do it anymore, and haven’t done it for years now. I heard that they don’t teach children to write cursive letters anymore, though my own grandchildren seemingly go to such a backward ‘country school’, that they have yet to catch up with the standards of the digital age. But I’m sure that eventually, no one will write like that anymore. It makes more sense to jot down notes on a computer or tablet. And my children have shown me that a telephone can be just as advantageous a tool as a computer. So I suppose that my reveries on the subject of writing are much like all the memories of the aged; irrelevant to the modern day. But teaching your daughter sounds like a very good idea. It might give her a first taste of fine art. She has my blessing.

  21. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    This is so interesting Shimon, plus sets my mind back. I remember teachers showing me cursive writing, how to make the words touch upon the next word, & how I tried it so so carefully.

    I didn’t know you bought a kindle (must have missed that post) – but glad you’re enjoying it. Willowdot21 said she read The James Diary on her kindle nearby a pool – but I just have not imagined you could enjoy reading on a kindle like you can a book – beside a pool, etc. You’re more advanced than me in this – I don’t have one!

    Love those old fountain pens, and loved your reminisce. Do you have those first journals, I wonder?

    • Oh yes, my dear Noeleen. Though I’ve been a book person all my life, and have trouble finding a place for the more recent acquisitions, as my home is filled with books, I have discovered that the Kindle is a great pleasure, and meets all my demands. It is lighter than many a book I have held in my hands for hours, and it contains as many books as you are capable of reading at the same time, even if you’re an absent minded professor, as in the case of a few of my friends. I am sure that they are very hands by the pool, though they do warn not to get them wet. I have certain books that bear the signs of numerous wine stains, and I’m glad I didn’t read those on the Kindle. Moreover, no sooner did I tell of my purchase of a Kindle, and I already received a couple books as presents which were wired directly to my electronic reader. It is well suited to our times.

  22. “…you can change a sentence
    without rewriting the whole page…”
    +
    you made remember, dear Shimon,
    how often I had to take a new empty paper,
    because I found a mistake –
    I liked calligraphy for some decades …

    • Yes, I do believe, Frizz, that in certain areas of human endeavor, there were similarities in our education. There are those who are satisfied with crossing out a mistake. But I always preferred to copy the entire page over, when I made a mistake. And there were certain precious pages that were copied multiple times. As for calligraphy, that elevates the thought to the level of holy of holies, and often carries with it great sensuality.

  23. I love writing with a fountain pen; I write all my posts initially in longhand in a notebook with my fountain pen it seems to make it all the more special although mine are no where near as posh as your montblanc

    • Oh, Dallas… I admire your insistence on going your own way, and continuing to write your beautiful stories by longhand in a notebook. I wrote just that way for many years and loved it. There is a certain personal pleasure, a sensuality… about sculpting the words on fine bond paper that is hard to explain to the uninitiated. But because I wrote professionally, I also found the need to write rather quickly at times, and also to make copies. And so I discovered the many advantages of the type writer. And now, for years, I’ve been totally at home in the digital environment of the computer. And though I do have those longings once in a while, I know I could never go back. This last winter was a stormy one, and at one point I was stunned by an electrical outage. But even then, my little laptop continued to serve me, having the power of its six cells. The room was lit by candles, but I continued to write on the computer. Thank you so much for your comment.

  24. I never had the opportunity to write with a fountain pen. I do love “watching” myself write with a pen though, the funny characteristics that I have developed over the years that I equate to my own style. I will use a smaller version of an uppercase A and N for the lowercase counterpart. My Ts and Hs blend together to form one character in th words. I hardly ever write in cursive, although my printed script can sometimes resemble a bastardized version of that.

    Really just getting lost in the flow of the pen on the paper is something that is a different experience on a keyboard. I can still get lost in the clicking and merging of mind, body and device, but it is different. Truly a lost or soon to be lost art.

    The other thing is the permanence, as much as any writing is permanent, of writing with a pen. Once it is on the paper it is there. With a computer I can just backspace and wipe out letters, words, entire thoughts. I can go back and review and revise. Writing with pen forces train of thought writing, which brings out ideas that I did not know were there.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Your description of the writing process, is very reminiscent of my own experiences, and so it seems that the tool is not as important as the melding of intention and action… and I remember that I had similar thoughts, many years ago, when I read a volume on zen, and the art of archery. Just as the hand becomes an extension of the mind in a healthy aware human being, so the tools, once we have mastered them, become an extension of mind and body, and ultimately create a realization of our intension in the most physical way. I enjoyed your telling of watching yourself write, for this too is an experience I have lived on numerous occasions. And of course, the flow that you speak of is as if a parable on the unity of man and his actions, when aware… when truly awake. Which reminds me of another spicy item, which I believe you might enjoy, bg. In Hebrew, the word ‘evil’ is awake spelled backwards. Thank you for your comment. It is a pleasure sharing with you.

  25. After conversing in speech,there is conversing in writing.As you say with hand writing we got so much more than with typing.And the instruments too are so fine.

    • Of course, I wouldn’t want to complain about the computer, because it has opened up worlds for me, and also enabled me to communicate with great freedom. But I have to agree with you, Rose, that as in the past… the rush of time and technology opens up new doors, and often leaves pleasant alcoves forgotten in the past. Thank you for your comment.

  26. I really enjoyed reading this post, and appreciate you sharing some of the memories that were attached to the different pens in your life. I tried my hand at learning the skill of expressing words with a fountain pen, but never managed to get very good at the practice. But I certainly admired the various tools available, and was fascinated by those that were able to put such character and strength and fragility into the words written on page.

    I have to agree that the computer has never held any sentimental attachment at all for me, other than it being the utilitarian object used to communicate. A good pen carries your history, while a computer seems to simply add every word to an always blank screen. No history there. Just the blank screen, waiting to be filled. And then it is empty again.

    • Everyone has talents in different directions. Some people are more visual, some have greater sensitivity to sound, and others to nature… some to feelings… The reason I love the computer so, though I don’t get sentimental about them, is that the most compelling thing about writing, in my mind, is the connection made between minds, without presence necessarily, without beauty, without the handicaps and the disabilities. And the computer is a step further in that direct communication between minds. The computer, with great facility and great speed, brings us together. I have no idea how you look, how you sound… You live on a different continent. Yet we can enjoy common understandings. Moreover, the computer has a memory. Much has been said about the blank page, and I don’t want to get sidetracked on that here. But just as paper presents itself as a white page, so does the computer. But I don’t agree with you that it is empty again after we write. It has memory; short term and long term. And that memory makes the page much more like us, and makes the work easier for us. Thanks, N.

      • Shimon – I hear what you are saying about a computer having a memory (short term and long term), and while I was listening to you, it occurred to me that perhaps the reason I tend to think of it as static and empty, is because, more than once, I’ve deliberately and with one quick motion, have deleted every bit of memory on my computer. Everything on the hard drive, and everything on the memory stick. Banished to disappear forever. Gone. Discarded. So I tend to think of everything I write as completely disposable, because I suppose I figure it won’t be long before I will once again hit the DELETE button and purge it all away.

        I think it speaks to a underlying need to erase my past, more than my personal attachment to anything I’ve written. Many a time I’ve wished I still had evidence of some of my earlier writing, but having experienced several versions of a total purge by now, there is nothing left but a wispy memory, tucked away somewhere in the hidden spaces in my brain.

        Your own experience is rich with history, and carries the full weight of treasuring and cataloguing years of photographic work (and probably writing, as well). You seem to embrace all the pieces of your history … for instance, the fact that you have the pen that belonged to your father, and I particularly admire that about you, and appreciate the depth of sentiment that comes from being able to “touch” history … for me, in my version of how I’ve chosen to retain physical representations of memories, or more specifically, how to eradicate them from my presence … well, it is a different point of view. In some ways, I see this as just another way that my journey was impacted by my beginnings. Something else that perhaps was subtracted from my life, that might have added a necessary dimension. Of course, it is never to late to beginning collecting bits of our history, and setting them aside for safekeeping.

        You challenge and inspire me, and I thank you for that. I think it is such a blessing that our minds have been allowed to meet in this electronic world that we have learned to embrace. I have recently been conflicted about something swirling in my head that I might need to write about on my blog, but have been searching for answers as to how best to approach the subject. Oddly enough, the post about money and spirituality helped in indirect ways, because it reminded me about balance, and about the recognition of faith, and how it touches every part of our lives. Specifically, it challenged me to consider whether revealing my thoughts would be helpful, or hurtful, and while I’m still working on answering that question, I do, at least, have plenty of reference material to pull from.

        You might even say that I’m contemplating which “pen” to pull from the drawer, so that the words on the page match the intention.

        • Yes, N. There are differences between us… and it is true that I have both personal history, and the history of my people that continues to live with me. But we also have certain things in common. The history of my childhood remains in the dungeon, and I prefer not to think of it… not to remember. I know what it’s like to delete, and I have done it myself. When it comes to that, you’ve been braver than me, and I admire your ability to face the horror. I wish you the strength of your determination, and believe that what you’ll write about will be composed well.

  27. Dear Shimon,

    What alcohol is best to honour the best pen craftsman? A Jack Daniel’s?

    On a very trivial note, why would you describe a pen as an instrument? Perhaps at a more sophisticated level, a fine pen is an instrument. In an exam, if you call a pen an instrument, would you score a few more points for using an elaborate language?

    Normally I would just call it — a pen!

    In my Chinese school, our weekly homework was to submit calligraphy using brush pens. It was so boring sometimes, and we had too much homework. We soon found out that the clever Japanese had invented some brush pens with the ink inside the pen, and that we didn’t have to dip the brush pens into the ink for every single word we wrote, and we could just write the Chinese calligraphy very fast using those fake brush pen — use it like a normal pen.

    The result of using a fake brush pen was actually brilliant — the hair on the brush pen was smoother, and the characters turned out to be more beautiful. The only drawback was that the ink would fade after a few days. All the characters written using the fake pen would look awful as the black ink didn’t stay. And the teacher might find out the truth.

    Thank you for reminding me of my ‘pen’ memory in my adolescent days.

    • In our country, the most common alcoholic beverage is wine. Jack Daniel’s has only become known in recent years, and it isn’t that popular here. Scotch whisky is much more popular. When I write, I try to represent my thoughts exactly, and at the same time to stay simple… so as to be understood. The pen is an instrument, in the same way that a violin is, or a camera. It furthers the reach of the person using it. I think in Hebrew, and in my language, instrument is not an elaborate word. It’s a three letter one syllable word. I can tell you, Janet, that never in my life did I do anything to get more points or a better grade. I always worked for my own pleasure. Didn’t try to please my teachers. I am sorry to hear that the Japanese brushes were so inferior in their long term results to the traditional brush. If I would have tried them and found that the ink faded, I would have stopped using them. Thanks for that very interesting story.

  28. I remember as a child I had a calligraphy book and being fascinated by it – trying to copy the styles, but without the proper pens you couldn’t hope to achieve it. I also remember when in school we were allowed to use ink pens, before that we always write in pencil. So grown up! Your post has taken me back Shimon, there is a beauty to handwriting that typing and computers can never attain. Mind you I do love computers!

    • There is a beauty to computers too, but it’s so different from the analogic beauty that we became accustomed to in our youth. It seems to me that the computer is closer to the human mind. And yes, like you Claire, I love computers.

  29. Thank you for taking such time and effort to craft a beautiful document. Though not made by your hand in quite the same way as those you write about, the sensitivity that must be evident in your penmanship (the flexibility that allows for expression – an important clue!) also shows here. You bring us on a journey, and it’s fun to see all the pens that have traveled with you, hear their stories, and take a look at them. I am left with a desire to see a page or two of your writing, but I also like leaving that to the imagination…

    • There’s no need to thank me for my time and effort, for it was invested in order to please myself. And yes, flexibility is an important clue. The Chinese say that the tongue is much more flexible than the teeth, and so lives a longer life. Thank you for your comment, bluebrightly.

  30. I really enjoyed reading this, Shimon, and can’t get over the idea of your father’s pen with a glass cartridge! Glad you got to use it again.

    • Glad to hear you enjoyed the post, Richard. And yes, I did enjoy writing with that pen. It’s a bit of a shame now, that I no longer use pens. Thanks for the comment.

  31. What a beautiful written piece… I love PEN and also I love to write with pen but yes, on this new technology everything is better than in the past… But still I write with pen some of my poems, journals, ect. Thank you dear Shimon, I enjoyed again reading your post. have a nice day, love, nia

    • Thank you very much, Nia. So you too are faithful to the old tools. I can understand that. I think we should choose what is most comfortable for us. And there are a lot of subtle ingredients to comfort, As I mentioned already, I’ve left pen and ink behind. Hardly ever use it anymore, and for me they are joined in memory to so many other things that were once a part of me, and no longer. Thanks for your comment and good wishes, dear Nia.

  32. I also have a pen or two that was close to my heart. Alas, I don’t bother with them any longer-hunting down ink and upkeep makes the time it takes a low priority. But, there is something about the line they created.

    • What made me abandon writing by pen was the issue of memory. If I wanted to change something I had written, even if it was just replacing a word, I used to rewrite the whole page. Once I had the opportunity of doing that in a few seconds on the computer, I left the pens behind. I never got to the point where it was hard to find ink. Thanks for your comment, Elena.

  33. Thank you for this beautiful post, Shimon. My mom used to write beautiful calligraphy with a pen similar to the ones you pictured. Lettering and handwriting can be an art all their own, I think.

    • Yes, it’s an art of the past, Kari Ann. There are new challenges now for the young. But now and then, it’s a pleasure looking back. Thanks for coming by.

  34. Such a lovely post Shimon. I still have my fountain pens from when I was a boy. I, like you, was very interested in the art of forming letters form a very early age and would seek out examples of handwriting I loved and would slavishly copy the style. I had very simple pens with nibs that you dipped and for my 13th birthday, my parents gave me a silver Sheaffer which I adored.
    As Edward Bulwer-Lytton wrote in his play ‘Richelieu, or The Conspiracy’ in 1839, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. How true that is.

    • I remember too, the beautifully built Sheaffer pens. They were a pleasure to write with. Both those simple dip nibs could create beautiful letters. I used them myself often. And it seems to me that history has proven your quote correct. Ideas have changed the world far more than military victories. Thanks for your comment, Chillbrook.

  35. I love writing utensils as well. I have a beautiful fountain pen that I have not used in years, but now I am inspired to get it out and use it. Love the photos you shared.

    • So glad you enjoyed the post, my dear yearstricken. And I can imagine that it brought a homesickness for that fountain pen languishing in a drawer. But I have to say, it’s more pleasurable and easier to use the computer. What can we do? The past is left behind. Always grateful for your comments.

  36. LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words

    what a wonderful post….
    I still write letters by hand, though my handwriting is not very good
    anymore….my Mom gave my Grandfather a Parker pen …he had it with
    him when he died…he loved the feel of it ….
    pens are beautiful tools of a writer…
    my grandchildren will no longer be taught cursive in school…..sad I think
    I too use the computer to write…I would have to start over too many time…
    Thank you for a wonderful post…and lovely photographs….
    Take Care…
    )0(
    maryrose

    • How sweet that you still write letters by hand. I remember enjoying that very much, but it’s been years since I last wrote a letter with a pen. The Parker was a very reliable pen. As for the grandchildren, they are learning new crafts and exercising new talents… which no doubt, make the world still more beautiful. Glad you enjoyed the post, Maryrose, and thank you for your comment.

  37. I remember using a fountain pen. I love all the stories, and that you still have the celluloid pen your mother gave to your father.

    • Thank you very much, Naomi. I hope you have good memories of that fountain pen. You seem such an adventurer, that it might have been a nuisance for you. I remember some of my friends suffered from leaks in their pockets. How good that we can enjoy each other’s stories.

      • Dear Shimon,
        I always had spots and blotches of ink on my paper, my fingertips, and sometimes in my pockets, but I enjoyed using that pen very much! And yes, I so appreciate being able to share our stories!
        Warmly,
        Naomi

  38. Shimon, what a wealth of memories your post brought back! The second photo reminded me of the pens we had to use in school, which had to be constantly dipped in the little inkwells which were sunken into the top right hand corner of each desk. And your mention of your first fountain pen reminded me of my own very first fountain pen, a gold-nibbed Parker 45 Convertible, which had belonged (together with a matching propeller pencil) to my father and which (together with the pencil) I received as a birthday present after he had had my name engraved on them in gold. I still have it, although, alas, ever since I packed it in a suitcase which went into the non-pressurized luggage compartment of an aeroplane, where it caved in towards the bottom and leaked over my clothes, it has been slightly misshapen. But it still writes 🙂 And its significance is, that when I was a child, we didn’t have very much money and, more than once, my parents would give me something of their own as a birthday present rather than buying something new. Still more reason to cherish that pen.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Shimona. Sorry to hear about the dismal end of the Parker 45’s first bloom. But seeing that it was a present from your father, and engraved in gold, I can imagine that it still has a certain sentimental value. I had a couple of accidents with pens on airplanes, and after the second one, I was careful about cleaning them and carrying them empty in such conditions. Altogether, though, the attitude towards material objects have changed completely since we were children. It seems to me that they’ve gone to an extreme, but I don’t know if in this case, the pendulum will ever swing back to what it once was. Thank you so much for coming by, and for your comment.

  39. Like you, Shimon, I’m old enough to have used fountain pens, and young enough to have gladly switched over to computers for their ability to edit. Still, although paper is fragile, many old letters exist; we have to wonder how many emails will survive as long as long as those letters.

    The English word pen, by the way, traces back to Latin penna, which meant ‘feather’. For most of human history, people were closely tied to objects from the natural world, but modern manufacturing has largely abstracted us from that. A fountain pen, in its day, was a big advance away from a feather, though in a relatively short time it’s been superseded as well.

    As has been said, the only constant in the world is change.

    • You raise an interesting question, Steve. And I can only guess about the longevity of emails. I see the digital media as something that will soon replace paper. And with this new media, we have to learn how to preserve it too. Part of that is making backups. But those of us who have studied history realize that most of the communications of the past were lost through the years. Some special or popular documents were preserved. And if we remember what Socrates said, it’s not because we still have his notebook. It seems as if history is moving ever more rapidly, and there are more and more documents. I assume most of them will not be preserved. What’s interesting about the fountain pen is that it used a mechanism very similar to the feather, where ink was stored within, and flowed to the tip of the feather. The move to digital media is more like the change from candle to electric lamp in my opinion. A truly radical difference. But you sum it up well. We have to learn to live with change.

  40. Shimon, you can’t tell us that Hebrew has a number of accepted alphabets and leave it at that. I suggest that as this post is about pens, you need (or at least, I’m hoping for) a new post on the topic of Hebrew alphabets.

    Whenever I see a fountain pen or a pen with a nib, I remember my primary school days. My teachers also showed me examples of proper handwriting, but my handwriting left and still leaves much to be desired. We had nibs attached to wooden sticks that we constantly dipped into the ink; I constantly made a mess of things, dripping ink and smudging my words.

    I understand about the romance of the pen without necessarily having a yearning for its return. I too like the convenience of the cut and paste and multiple drafts and other computer related things and I am still attached to biros, I buy them by the bunch, but nothing will convince me I should add a fountain pen to my collection. Having said that, as long as it’s from a distance I can be admiring of your examples.

    • You’re right, Mary. Sometimes I mention things in passing that would take a long time to explain. Because we are such an ancient people, there have been a lot of changes and developments in our culture, and in our language too. Originally we used stick writing for our alphabet. And what is now known as Hebrew letters were adopted from the Assyrian people who no longer exist. But then, because the language was considered holy, and the letters themselves having a spiritual nature, there were other letters that were commonly used, to differentiate between texts. The most popular today are cursive letters which most Jews use as everyday handwriting, but there are still many who use Rashi letters which were invented by an 11th century rabbi and philosopher by the name of Yitzchaki. These letters are primarily found in commentary on the bible and the Talmud.

      Having had difficulty producing neat and attractive writing, you should rejoice at the move from paper to digital. So do I, even though I managed to write well. Because I do believe that the digital is a much better system. I never did like the biros though, and though I still have a couple in my office, I hardly ever use them. Thank you for your comment.

      • Thanks so much for explaining, Shimon. I don’t think I’ve heard of any other ethnic group that values its words and its heritage in that way. People are only too pleased to dump the old in favour of the new.
        While I’m pleased that people no longer have to suffer my terrible writing, and I do appreciate what word processing has to offer, I cannot rejoice. I will keep buying and using the biros as long as they’re available.

  41. What a great collections of pens you have, Shimon. I have also just started to use Kindle, but I still have a great affection for “real” books and don’t believe I will ever let go of them. But like you I don’t use pens to write with any more – so who knows?

    • I think that for our generation, books will remain a fixture even though we will read more and more digital books with the passing years. I find the Kindle easier to hold than books, and sometimes adjusting the type is a an advantage, but there are books that are not available digitally, and I have no reason to trade in beloved books for the new version. Thanks for coming by, Munchow, and for your comment. Good to hear from you.

  42. Shimon, you’ve drawn us into your life. This story tells us so much about who you are.

    My own struggle with writing by hand includes a love for pens and fancy mechanical pencils. But I couldn’t marshal any significant skill. Ever. My hand writing was always atrocious, no matter how I labored over it. As an adult returning to college (after a failed first attempt, and subsequent military service) I was determined to learn to write in such a way that others – and myself! – could read it. The result isn’t beautiful, but it is mostly legible, and pretty fast. I gained speed as a result of keeping journals throughout much of my adult life, and of course my hand writing morphed into a kind of combination of script and printing.

    Hand writing for me is now an organic, meditative process in which I have enough time to think while writing, but can write quickly enough to not forget what I intended to record. Very satisfying.

    The instrument itself is critical to the process. It has to flow over the paper effortlessly, or my hand cramps and I tense up. Usually a cheap ball-point pen does the job!

    Thanks for a great post, Shimon!

    • It’s good to hear that you enjoy the process of writing itself. Over the years, working as a journalist, and as a translator, and eventually as a teacher in college, I read a lot of handwriting, of a great many people. And I learned to recognize the many expressions, the moods, and sometimes the personalities of the writers as they came through in the writing. It seems to me that facility, and clear thinking are much more important than the beauty of the letters, and that even that… the beauty of the letters reflects a certain personality. Though sometimes it is more a question of education and upbringing. Thanks for your comment, Rick.

  43. For contrast, my wife has the most perfect hand writing you can imagine. And she does it quickly and effortlessly. Even the most hurried note features perfectly formed letter, perfectly spaced and planned. Part of that is certainly the artist’s eye-to-hand skill.

  44. One of my sons told me that he had almost “forgotten” how to write…he found that he only ever wrote something when he signed a check at a store (which is becoming rare, as well, with the use of our debit and credit cards). He has since “retaught” himself how to write with a pen and does so intentionally now. And if I’m not mistaken, he had also shared with me something that he heard on NPR about how our minds process our words differently when we’re hand-writing them, as opposed to typing them. I’m not sure of the science that went into discovering that, but I can understand the notion that our brains do work differently when using a pen instead of a keyboard…I’ve found my own writing to be more creative and spontaneous…tapping deeper regions.

    Thank you for the post, Shimon…for your memories and sentiments.

    • Yes, I believe that there is a difference in the way our mind relates to writing in contrast to typing. Typing demands a lot less work, especially if the writer is able to type ‘blind’. But it seems to me that this is another step in the history of man that will be seen as absolute in another generation. There are those who enjoy horse back riding even today, but it is no longer the common transportation. And there might be artists who’ll continue to draw letters in another hundred years, but they will be few and far between. Glad you enjoyed the post, Scott. Always a pleasure hearing from you.

  45. I was reading about the time before we learn to talk.Of course we can’t recall it consciously but what we felt then must affect us profoundly,Winston Churchill was 4 before he spoke.Then he may have said
    Pass the marmalade,mother!

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