Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Handwritten Note

I read somewhere that history may look upon us as The Lost Generation because there will be little permament written record of our existence.  Our photographs are digital and our correspondence is by text and email.  Much of what we know about early civilizations was carved into stone or written on papyrus scrolls.  But with the digital revolution I fear our generation has lost the art of the handwritten missive.  I am complicit in this cultural shift; this very blog is merely bits of data floating in the ether.

So I have resolved to make a concerted effort to write more notes.  I am under no illusion that writing a few notes will change the course of history, but I do believe that in this digital age a handwritten note can be gracious, mannerly and distinctive.  A handwritten note is appropriate for expressing many sentiments including thanks, condolence and congratulations.

To follow through with this resolution I have ordered some personalized correspondence cards from a local office supply store.  I purchased a new Pelikan fountain pen from Richard Binder and some Diamine ink (manufactured in the UK since 1864) from Swisher Pens.  (As an aside, for an outstanding review on a vast array of fountain pen inks check out Glenn's Pens.)

For my daily correspondence I will continue to use email and text.  But when it really counts, I resolve to put ink to paper.


  1. Which series did you order? And, why not just use a ball point or gel-ink pen?

  2. I ordered a 215 series Pelikan like the one pictured above. The 215 series comes standard with a steel nib, but I upgraded to a 14k gold nib from the 400 series. One nice thing about Richard Binder is that you can buy Pelikan pen bodies and nibs separately.

    Your question about using a ball point or gel-ink pen is a reasonable one. They are cheap, readily-available and reliable. I suppose there are many reasons that a person might prefer a fountain pen. The wide choice of ink colors is a benefit. There is one company that sells 37 different colors of fountain pen ink. Some people enjoy mixing their own ink to have their own distinctive color.

    Some may think that a ball point pen is dull and boring and that a fountain pen is a more elegant choice of writing instrument. Some may see the use of a fountain pen as a nod to heritage and classic style.

    A fountain pen produces a more interesting written word than can be produced with a ball point pen. The width of the line varies with the pressure exerted on the nib making the writing appear more expressive, and the shading of the color is more attractive.

    On the other hand, a fountain pen requires some maintenance. It must be flushed out with clear water periodically, and must be filled with ink when it runs out.

    Ultimately the choice is a personal one, and for several of the reasons outlined above I chose a fountain pen.

  3. Excellent pen choice, sir. I ordered a Pelikan fine point a while back and have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have long enjoyed using a fountain pen, but what inspired me to use it more often was the discovery of my father's journal that he wrote aboard his ship during World War II. He kept a journal that included general notes regarding his duties as an officer on the ship (the USS Cumberland Sound), as well as thoughts and daily events. Reading about their reaction upon hearing of the end of the war, their experiences going into Tokyo harbor, visiting government and military installations in Japan, and his thoughts on how history might remember the war, had a powerful impact on me. He died last July, and there are so many questions that I have now that I wish I could ask. The diary was written using his fountain pen. That pen is now being restored by someone who specializes in that sort of work.

    One lesson learned from my father's journal is the need to use high quality paper. The notebook that he used was not the best quality, and the pages crack as it is opened and read. In addition to using "bullet proof" ink (Noodler's Legal Lapis), I try to use good acid-free paper for anything other than a temporary note.

    Thank you for your thoroughly enjoyable blog!

  4. Your father's journal is truly a family treasure. It is a tragedy that we are quickly losing so many members of "The Greatest Generation" who fought to protect the freedom we all enjoy.

    Might I suggest you submit a photograph, if you have one, of your father for the vintage family photo contest? I would love to see him in uniform.

    And thank you for the kind words about the blog.

  5. I tried to submit two photos, but the photos did not show up. Only blank spaces appeared. I have another photo that has an interesting history behind it. It is one of my mother's relatives and was taken in a Russian concentration camp located in Latvia. They are well dressed, smiling, and appearing to be thoroughly enjoying life. That photo is the last anyone ever heard of them. All we can do is speculate on their fate.

    I can send you links to the photos, but it doesn't look like photos can be added in a comment.

    Stephen Clay McGehee

  6. Email the pictures, along with the story behind the photos, to the blog email address listed in the sidebar and I will publish them as a post.