Transcribed below. Cheap fountain pens by Jinhao and Hero; ink by Noodler’s, Robert Oster, Diamine, and Waterman.

If you have not kept up with the craft of writing, you may have missed the surging popularity of fountain pens among the fashionably semiliterate.

This is nothing but good news for writers in general and for lovers of steel pens in particular. A good fountain pen is a joy to write with—not as expressive as the best steel pens, but a more versatile instrument than just about anything else that carries its own ink with it. Bot even more important for lovers of steel pens is that fountain pens create an environment—an ecosystem, as biologists would say—in which steel pens can thrive.

For example, there is the matter of ink. Many steel pens will write very well with many fountain-pen inks. We cannot make a more definite statement than that: which pen writes well with which ink is a question to be answered by experiment. There is room for a great many experiments now, because the number of different kinds of ink is incalculable. To mention a specific figure, Dr. Boli’s favorite stationer carries 771 items in the “bottled ink” category, and there are several well-known brands missing from that list. Since chemically compatible inks can be blended in any combination, “incalculable” is not a hyperbolic exaggeration.

Paper is another necessity for the steel-pen user, and fountain-pen culture comes to out aid here as well. If you read reviews of notebooks and such on line, you will often run across reviews rating the paper on whether it is “F. P. friendly.” If the paper is good for fountain pens, your steel pen will like it.

Finally, a certain percentage of fountain-pen users will eventually want to take the next step up to writing with a steel pen. If the number of fountain-pen users is large, then the number of steel-pen users will be sufficient to keep the makers of pens and pen holders in business.

Fountain pens themselves are worthy objects of admiration. Even very cheap fountain pens can be a joy to write with. The intricate relationship between the nib and the fountain makes it impossible to manufacture nibs as versatile as steel pens, but the fountain pen is more portable. It solves the problem of writing well when a desk and inkwell are not available. For young people who are not yet familiar with the technique of the steel pen, fountain pens are good training: they reward the light touch necessary with a steel pen, but they are not so fussy about it, and are less likely to punish the first attempts of a lifetime ballpoint user with paragraph-sized blots.

So once again we have the distinct pleasure of recording a fad that benefits the upholders of timeless values. Never has it been so easy to find so many different fountain pens; never has it been so easy to find ink in so many different colors and compositions. For writers who appreciate liquid ink and the tools that make it into words, this is the golden age.


  1. KevinT says:

    Has Dr. Boli any recommendations for error-correction when using steel or fountain pens? Wite-Out? Or does one need to begin all over again, at the very start with a clean sheet of paper?

    • Dr. Boli says:

      The neatest and simplest way of correcting a mistake is to strike a line through it and write the correction beside it. For more complex editing, it is usual in manuscripts to leave wide margins for writing corrections, revisions, and additions, and in fact a very efficient code has been developed to standardize that end of the work. It is also usual to mark the changes in a different color of ink, which of course is easy when you are working with ink. The people who make word processors have put enormous effort into “track changes” functions that attempt, with less than perfect success, to duplicate the process of editing with a pen.

  2. tom says:

    I like to look at Fountain Pen Hospital now and again, just to see how much people are willing to pay for these curious devices.

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