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Some of the history’s greatest works of fiction began life in the most unassuming ways. Truman Capote used yellow legal pads on which to write his novels. Nabokov composed all his works on index cards. J.K Rowling famously formulated her initial idea for Harry Potter on a sheaf of napkins.
But even those literary leviathans who use the more commonplace notebooks or file paper to write their tales long hand need a writing implement – so what are the chosen pens and pencils of some of the most renowned authors in history?
He may not be the first name that springs to mind when you think ‘author’, but Winston Churchill both wrote and spoke some of the most iconic phrases of all time. And whilst this is not the pen he used, it bears his name – the Montblanc Sir Winston Churchill 53.
When Bonhams sold one such of these pens earlier this year (for £22,000 no less) the respected auction house dubbed the English Prime Minister “a dedicated Montblanc fancier”.
“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.
In 1903, Mark Twain, the legendary American author, expressed the virtues of this 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.”
Becoming the official spokesman for The Conklin Pen Company, Mark Twain discovered yet another benefit to Conklin’s Crescent Filler several years later, stating, “Also, I prefer it because it is a profanity saver; it cannot roll off the desk.”
Touted for its fast-drying ink, Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas was famed for being very fond of his Parker 51 Fountain Pen, and was photographed with it in one hand and a cigarette in the other on many occasions.
Although the author of The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men favoured the Mongol 480 pencil, his writing implement of choice was the Blackwing. Steinbeck ‘despised’ yellow pencils as he found them to be a distraction, and he looked for a hard, dark graphite core.
Every day, before putting graphite to paper, he would sharpen 24 pencils and place them by his desk. Each pencil lasted just long enough to dull its point – usually four or five lines – before being placed in a box, point down. After all 24 pencils had been used, the author would resharpen each pencil, and begin the process anew.
The second parker to make the list, Sherlock Holmes himself sprang from the nib of a Parker Duofold fountain pen – and was a favourite of Arthur Conan Doyle during the forty years in which he wrote tales of the detective.
The Duofold is also known to be a favourite of English novelist Graham Greene, who wrote Brighton Rock, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair, amongst other novels.
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 the modern understanding of the universe.
The theoretical physicist himself favoured a Pelican 100 N, a tour de force in fountain pen technology. This was the first pen that didn’t threaten to cover your hands in ink upon refilling – leaving less time washing up, and more time to solve the mysteries of our existence.
Hemingway, although not partial to one model of Montegrappa in particular, was fond of these pens as he was stationed next to the factory which produced then, in Bassano del Grappa at Villa Ca Erizzo, during World War I.
The pen pictured above is from Montegrappa’s modern ‘Mightier than the Sword’ collection – and is named for Hemingway to celebrate the American novelist’s intimate relationship with the brand.
‘No mistakes’ was Jack Kerouac’s mantra – and the novelist and poet of the Beat Generation would write reams of verse and prose without stopping or editing.
Clearly, his writing implements had to be either hardy or disposable to fit this purpose, and Kerouac plumped for the latter. Plain pencils were known to be a favourite of the writer, but the Bic Cristal, a pen that is produced to this day, was also a frequent sight in Kerouac’s hand.