The pens of the world’s most famous authors

From Ernest Hemingway’s favourite fountain pens to Ian Fleming’s gold-capped Biro, we’ve jotted down a list of iconic author’s choice writing implements…

Some of history’s greatest works of fiction began life in incredibly unassuming ways. Novelist Truman Capote would write his novels on yellow legal pads. Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov composed almost all of his works on index cards. And Irish writer James Joyce scrawled his first drafts on huge scraps of cardboard.

But these literary leviathans — and even those more conventional dramatists, poets and wordsmiths — needed a trusty writing implement. And, just as Capote and Joyce had a favoured writing material, most iconic writers also had a preferred pen. Here, from Ian Fleming to Ernest Hemingway, we’ve jotted down some famous authors’ favourites…

Mark Twain used a Conklin Crescent Filler

In 1903, Mark Twain, the legendary American author behind such seminal works as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Gilded Age, extolled the virtues of the Conklin Crescent Filler — a unique self-filling fountain pen — by saying, “I prefer it to ten other fountain pens, because it carries its filler in its own stomach and I cannot mislay even by art or intention.”

In the years that followed, Twain became the official spokesman for The Conklin Pen Company. And, after penning several great American novels, the author went on record to reveal another benefit of the Crescent Filler, stating; “Also, I prefer it because it is a profanity saver; it cannot roll off the desk.”

Conklin Crescent Filler


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Dylan Thomas used a Parker 51 Fountain Pen

Swansea may be miles from Shullsburg, Wisconsin — but the Welsh poet and writer, Dylan Thomas, favoured a particular pen developed by American industrialist and Shullsburg native, George Safford Parker; the Parker 51 Fountain Pen. 

Renowned for its handy fast-drying ink, Thomas would go on to pen many famous pieces of writing with his Parker, including Under Milk Wood and the poem ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’. The Welshman was also photographed, on many occasions, with his Parker 51 in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

Parker 51 Fountain Pen


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John Steinbeck used a Palomino Blackwing Pencil

Although the author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men was also fond of a ‘Mongol 480’ pencil, his writing implement of choice was the Palomino Blackwing (a model The Great Gatbsy author F. Scott Fitzgerald was also commonly photographed holding). Steinbeck ‘despised’ yellow pencils, as he found them to be a distraction, and preferred a hard, dark graphite core.

Every day, before putting his pencil to paper, he would sharpen 24 pencils and place them by his desk. He would use each pencil for around four or five lines of writing — until its point had dunned — then place it in a box, point down. After all 24 pencils had been used, the author would resharpen them, and begin the process over.

Palomino Blackwing Pencils x 12


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Stephen King uses a Waterman Hémisphère Fountain Pen

“One final note,” wrote the author of Carrie, The Shining and Misery in the back of his novel Dreamcatcher, “This book was written with the world’s finest word processor, a Waterman cartridge fountain pen.”

A major US pen brand, Waterman was established in 1884, and King claimed that it put him “in touch with language” in a way no other way of writing could. “It slows you down,” he said, during an interview on CBS. “It makes you think about each word as you write it”. The specific model favoured by the master of horror literature is the Hémisphère Fountain Pen, with its elegant, slim shape and chiselled detailing.

Waterman Hémisphère Fountain Pen


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Arthur Conan Doyle used a Parker Duofold Classic

The second Parker pen to make this list; Arthur Conan Doyle favoured a Parker Duofold Classic. That’s right — Sherlock Holmes himself sprang from the nib of this model, and it was religiously used by Conan Doyle during the forty years or so in which he wrote tales of the famous detective.

Coincidentally, the Duofold is also known to be a favourite of English novelist Graham Greene, who wrote Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter and Our Man in Havana, amongst other novels.

Parker Duofold Classic


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Ian Fleming used a Gold-Capped Biro Cristal Ballpoint

The James Bond author’s writing implement of choice remains something of a mystery — much like the superspy himself. Ian Fleming reportedly used an S.T. Dupont fountain pen, although others claim it was a Dunhill model. In the books, 007 uses a Montblanc — so perhaps that was his pen of choice? All we know for certain is that, when he wasn’t tapping away on his Royal Quiet Deluxe Portable typewriter, Fleming would use a much humbler Biro Cristal.

It’s a pen choice Fleming shared with famed Beat Generation author and On The Road author, Jack Kerouac. But the Bond author zhuzhed his ballpoints up somewhat; having a bespoke gold cap created that he could swap from pen-to-pen when their ink ran dry.

Bic Cristal Ballpoint Pens


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Ernest Hemingway used a selection of Montegrappa Fountain Pens

Hemingway, although not partial to one model of Montegrappa pen in particular, was especially fond of the brand. Why? Because, during World War I, when the American author served as an ambulance driver on the Italian Front, he was stationed next to the pen manufacturer’s Bassano del Grappa factory.

The pen pictured above is from Montegrappa’s ‘Novel’ series, and named for Hemingway. Elegant, ergonomic and surprisingly sober of design, the tobacco and amber pattern on the barrel is particularly evocative — and features Art Deco laser-cut frames with the writer’s signature in contrast.

Montegrappa ‘Ernest Hemingway’ Limited Edition Fountain Pen


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Albert Einstein used a Pelikan 100N Fountain Pen

Fiction may be important, but Einstein’s works on the theory of relativity and evolution of physics are some of the most integral pieces of writing to contribute to our modern understanding of the universe.

And the theoretical physicist favoured a Pelican 100N Fountain Pen, itself a tour de force in the world of writing implements. This was the first pen guaranteed not to cover your hands in ink upon refilling – meaning any scientists can spend less time tidying their desks, and more time solving the mysteries of our existence.

Pelikan Classic M200 Fountain Pen


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Winston Churchill used Onoto Fountain Pens

Britain’s most heralded wartime Prime Minister both wrote and spoke some of the most iconic phrases of all time. And, whilst Churchill’s first documented pen purchases were Swan fountain pens from Mabie, Todd & Baird Penmakers in 1905, he used Onoto pens for most of his adult life. 

Allegedly, the politician preferred to fill his Onoto fountain pens with red ink. And, during the First World War, whilst he was serving in the Belgian trenches at Ploegsteert, he even wrote to his wife, Clementine, with the words; “Send me a new Onoto pen. I have stupidly lost mine”.

Onoto ‘Scholar Rosso’ Fountain Pen


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