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SKU: C0225 Category:



A Congratulations card featuring an inkwell with a quill in the inkwell and a trace of blue ink, and text ‘Congratulations’

Before quill pens there were reed pens used by the ancient Hebrews, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. They are still used by today by calligraphers who use them primarily for making bold strokes.

The problem with reed pens is that they are very stiff. And they don’t retain a sharp point for very long. So from about 700 A.D., the quill pen was the principal writing instrument. It has a long history – it dominated the writing scene for over a thousand years until superseded by the dip pen.

Hand-cut goose quills are still used today by calligraphers, however, because they allow a sharp stroke and are more pliable than steel pens.

Not all flight or wing feathers can be used by quill makers. Sometimes only two or three feathers from a suitable bird can be used, with the strongest quills coming from the primary flight feathers taken from living birds in springtime.

Goose feathers were and are the most commonly used. Swan feathers were used too, but they were less common and therefore more expensive. Crow feathers were the best for making fine lines. Eagle, owl, hawk, and turkey feathers were also used.

Interestingly, the left wing is best for creating quill pens that right-handed people like because the feathers curve out to the right, away from the body of the writer holding the pen.

After plucking the feather, the barrel or shaft needs to be carved to the desired shape. This requires a special type of sharp knife, which led to the origin of the word ‘penknife’.

There is a connection between the words ‘quill’ and ‘pen’. The Latin for feather is penna, and in the plural penne it means feathers and also a wing.

In Late Latin the word referred to a pen for writing. In modern Italian, penna is the singular of penne, which is of course a cylindrical form of pasta. That derives from the cylindrical shape of the quill.

And pen is the English name for a female swan. And the quills of female swans are the preferred quills for the finest writing instruments.

How’s that for a wonderful set of connections!

SKU: C0225


An inkwell with a quill in the inkwell and a trace of blue ink, and text 'Congratulations'