Who Invented The Fountain Pen: What They Don’t Tell You

Picture of a worn down fountain pen with title who invented the fountain pen?

As many as the models of fountain pens out there, there are as many sources. The same goes with who was first credited with inventing the fountain pen.

While it’s not that simple to answer, here’s what I found from my hours of research on the subject. So, who invented the first fountain pen?

While the credit mostly goes to the Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru on May 25, 1987, the fountain pen as we know it was made possible through the efforts of multiple individuals such as: Frederick Fölsch, Joseph Bramah, John Scheffer, Petrache Poenaru, Josiah Mason, & John Jacob Parker.

Here’s a detailed chart of their contributions and the years by which they registered a patent:

NameDateContribution
Frederick FölschMay 1809First English Patent
Joseph BramahSeptember 1809Improved Fountain Pen Feed
John Scheffer1819 First Design With Commercial Success
Petrache PoenaruMay 25, 1827Fountain Pen With A Barrel
Josiah Mason1828Improved Nib
John Jacob Parker1832 Self-filler With A Screw-operated Piston

source: wikipedia

As with most inventions, like the fluorescent light bulb, there are many people who contributed to it’s development. One such item is the modern fountain pen as we know it.

There have already been records of the fountain pen, or a mechanism just like it, recorded in the late 900’s. Similar to an account in Egypt, as a caliph demanded his people to invent a pen that wouldn’t stain his fingers.

While having stained fingers is now considered a badge of honor in the fountain pen community, you can imagine how people of the time viewed it – being as quills, dip pens, and stained fingers were common place.


If you find yourself going on a trip, find out how to keep your fountain pen from leaking here: How to stop your fountain pen from leaking.


Fun fact: it was often theorized that Da Vinci – yes, that Leonardo Da Vinci, – invented one of his own fountain pens, as some of his notes seemed to be written with a tool with a writing pattern that largely resembled that of a fountain pen.

Contributions Of The Patent Holders

Chances are, the patent holders themselves drew ideas and inspiration from inventors before them. Given that patenting generally started at the early 1800’s, it is understandable why others weren’t given credit.

Frederick Fölsch‘s design was one of the fountain pens that received a patent. It was based on earlier models and did not yet understand the importance of air pressure and had an imperfect understanding of capillary action.

Provided I myself just barely passed physic, I understand completely.

Joseph Bramah developed a better feed based on the existing technology that was available to fountain pens.

John Scheffer effectively began the development of what would be the fountain pen’s body by creating a “half-metal, half-quill” pen, marking the beginning of what would then be used as a base. He called it the “Penographic

Take a look at the patent here.

Now we have Petrache Poenaru, whose patent is most popular for having made a fountain pen with a working barrel inside.

Josiah Mason the improved the nib, allowing many after him to develop the concept.

John Jacob Parker then developed methods on a self-filling pen which allowed those that came after him to develop the idea.

While there are many who contributed to the development of the fountain pen, these men were the first to register patents, and were therefore attributed with the credit of creating the fountain pen.


Do you want to swap nibs with other fountain pens? Find out if your fountain pen can here: Are fountain pen nibs universal?


How Do Fountain Pens Work?

Fountain pens work through the use of capillary action and the regulation of air flowing back up its feed. As you write, ink flows from the reservoir into the feed and nib through capillary action. The feed then allows air to enter & replace the ink in the reservoir to prevent any leakage.

Understanding how a fountain pen work might help you understand why the contributions of many individuals were necessary.

Basically, back before pens had internal containers, or reservoirs, to hold ink, everyone had to use dip pens or quills. As the name would suggest, they would have to dip these writing instruments into a bottle of ink to write.

Needless to say, this method was messy and very inconvenient. They could only write so many words at a time before needing to go back and dip the pen. Dipping the pen would result into their fingers getting stained with ink.

You also have to realize, the inks then weren’t the inks we use now. They were corrosive, and toxic. Some of them, from what I have gleamed from my research were even lead or mercury based.

Of course, they had no knowledge of this, as such they kept on using these inks.

Suffice it say, the whole process was difficult and annoying for most people then. (At least most people who wrote for a living, but that’s another subject altogether.)

Fast forward to the present day, our fountain pens are nearly flawless, if not for the occasional factory defect or shipping.. “occurrences”.

Modern fountain pens now have an ink reservoir, whether through a cartridge, converters, or the pen actually uses the body of the pen as a reservoir.

They flow through the feed, which then uses capillary action on the water based ink to regulate the flow and supply ink whenever needed. In the nib, a breather is placed for air to enter and balance out the flow, preventing leakage.

Most fountain pen inks, at present, are water based, and for the most part safe if you – for some odd reason – happen to ingest it. Take note, DO NOT DRINK FOUNTAIN PEN INKS. Some of them are still corrosive and have toxic ingredients.

Here’s a great video comparing how different pens work:

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many components needed to make the fountain pen work. The different contributions of these men have made it so that the fountain pen as we know it can function properly.

Given the technology of the time, some concepts were foreign to them, and they had to be discovered through trail and error, or through simple application of concepts.

One man did not created the modern fountain pen, but the patent gives us a great idea of how the development of how the modern fountain pen began. Throughout the years, the technology used in the fountain pen has undoubtedly evolved and utilized modern technologies and concepts to better improve the writing instrument.


If you want to learn more about the history of fountain pens, as well as how the evolved to what we have now, check out this article I made. I even made a timeline.. please check it out: A History of Fountain Pens.


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