Pencil or pen – Pen or Pencil

The mighty pencil is one of those discoveries that changed how a process was done and change the course for all eternity. We’ll talk about the mighty pencil. The mighty pen could be an even more incredible invention. Both of these writing instruments have revolutionized humanity’s written communication abilities and increased their understanding and learning. These communicating instruments were a boon for all the business world. These instruments ushered in the modern ways of today’s written communication, the typewriter, the keyboards, and the new stylus to write on modern technological inventions; computers, tablets, and cell phones. Could you ever have conceived of such? What a mind can conceive, it can achieve.

The ancient style of a stylus could be the forerunner of the pen or pencil/ pencil or pen.

In their day, the pen and pencil were a miracle.
Was the pen first or a pencil? The chicken or the egg? Does anyone know? Let us explore a bit. I would assume the first writing method was a stick in the dirt (which can be fun, by the way). Early days humans would use a piece of wood, burn it on end. As they drew or wrote on stones, cave walls, or wood, The charred point would leave markings, depicting a word or picture. Markings on rocks and cave walls using another shaper stone also left a history of stories for us. A type of stylus was known to exist in earlier days. Styluses used by the Egyptians and Mayans came from reeds and bamboo. Romans used a slender piece of iron. Styluses use was to inscribe on tablets of clay. Eventually, these methods evolved into more modern methods.

The stylus as the Egyptians used reed straws sharpened at the end and dipped into Egyptian made ink to make markings on papyrus. After the reed pens came the feather, the most elegant tool for writing. The feather called a quill that dipped into the ink could transfer the ink to parchment and paper in different formats or writing styles. The feather was sharpened at the end, cleaned and cured (baked) to make it durable. In the 19th century came the mighty fountain pen, ballpoint pens, felt pens, felt markers, highlighters. Different people are given credit for the changes in the pens throughout the years.

Parchment Scroll And Quill Pen Royalty Free Stock ...

Where and how was ink secured for these writing instruments?
India, in the 4th century BC, made ink called “masi” from burnt bones, tar, and pitch.
The Greeks and Romans were known to create ink from soot, glue, and water, called “carbon ink.”
China, in the 23rd century BC, made ink from pine sap and a mixture of glue that came from hides. Of course, I am sure there are more sources, but those mentioned are enough for this writing. I need to go back to pencil for a bit.

Faber-Castell 9000 Graphite Pencil Tin Set - 6 Lead Grades ...

As I said, the pencil’s beginning could also have come from the same methods I stated above. The impressing of markings and pictures on parchment and paper is graphite instead of ink. The casings evolved from the ideas of the reeds and stylus. Writing with graphite found its start in England. The discovery in England opened the door as did the ink for pens to forge the beginning of modern-day communication. The pencil first formed by wrapping a piece of string around the fragile strips of graphite. Then came the method of taking pieces of wood, laying the graphite in the middle, and gluing it together. Later came manufacturers that hollowed out the slim cylinder of wood and inserted a strip of graphite, automating forming pencils.

Graphite Pencil: Pumpkin Patch
Pumpkins drawn with Graphite pencils

The more graphite in pencil, the darker it writes, a tidbit of info; thus, I like the #2 lead. Some companies add clay, which makes writing lighter. The graphite in pencils first thought to be lead, hence the name lead pencil. It is a lifesaver that graphite is not poisonous; I have seen people wet the tip of a pencil with their tongue. I assume this was to make writing darker or to flow easier.

Difference between the types of Pencils | Types of Pencils

Our earlier Americans relyed on the graphite forms coming from across the great sea. After the war with England, the supply dried up. So the need for this great necessity caused our proud, hard-working, and innovative patriots to make their own here in America. In 1812 wood was used to incase graphite. A cabinet maker William Monroe made the first wood pencil in America. The end of 19th-century pencil factories located in New York and NewJersey owned by German manufacturer Faber-Castell, Eberhard Faber. Respective companies are Eagle Pencil (Bero) and General pencil Company.

Tenessee has a tree the Eastern Red Cedar used to make pencils that were fragment free so no splinters could introduce itself to your skin. Because of this tree, most of the pencil manufacturers are located in the Tennesee area.
The mighty pencil and pens are not given much thought but are just there. We pick them up and use them so often a day; they impact us more than any instrument I know. It is used by every human old enough to write. These small instruments have empowered humanity and impacted our communication in ways never imagined by those who invented them. Every business in the world uses both a pencil or pen/pen or pencil. The pencil and pens also make a significant impact on the companies that manufacture them.
Companies are moving into the 21st century with all the new technology but still rely on these instruments. The old stylus from Roman times has evolved to the new type stylus used in technology products today. From the beginning to the end – from the ending to the new beginning.

About the author

Carmen is a wife of 59 yrs., mother of five children, grandmother of 10 grandchildren and great grandmother to 6 great-grandchildren. She embraced the world of technology and became a member and a committed advocate of Compumatrix International.


  1. Enjoyed reading your interesting blog. Since the beginning of times, men has always wanted to leave his mark on rocks, leather and later on, on paper, metals and works of art . I grew up when hand writing was appreciated not only grammatically, but also you could recognized a person by his or her handwriting style. In previous centuries, it was an art form and penmanship was studied in it’s different styles. Today in schools children don’t even learn to write cursive, but only print.
    I studied art in college and some of my classes like Drawing were done in pencil only and I loved it, unfortunately computers are replacing the way we use to write letters, notes and cards. Computers changed the way we communicate and has simplified and speed up the way we communicate and there’s no way going back; emoticons are the new expressions of how we feel.

  2. Carmen,the ancient history of pen and pencil seemed very interesting,man has gradually evolved and today technology has advanced to such an extent that innovation is taking place.But in this modern age, pencils and pens are still used,I use different pencils for sketching,2H,2B,6B Artograph and charcoal pencils,We can’t work today without so many old inventions,that is, we cannot forget many of our old inventions.Carmen thank you for sharing old history.

  3. That is an interesting blog, Carmen. I never really gave it much thought. I was always more interested in what the pen or pencil could do as opposed to where it came from and how it was made. The closest association I ever had with these instruments was when I got grades for penmanship in school and had to determine which one was easiest to write with to accomplish that goal. And now that computers have entered our lives, I sometimes don’t pick up a pen or pencil for days at a time. It seems that I only write any more for the sake of convenience, such as a grocery list of daily tasks that are easier to jot down as opposed to waiting for the computer to fire up. I sure do miss the days of old !

  4. great historical read and great info on how evolution is always happening no matter how we look at things — life is ever changing and as the cyber n crypto worlds are changing as quick as we close our eyes and then open them — it is difficult to stay up on some — but whether it was pen or pencil or egg or chicken — each of us has to accept that Change is a Fact of our existence — jmho — thanks Carmen great read —

  5. Thank you, Carmen for an interesting read. I remember as a child coming across an old shoebox in the attic with a red ribbon around it. Inside were bundles of carefully kept love letters between my parents from when they were courting. My mother always said how she and my father, would write every day to each other. I often think that young people today will never have those same memories which were created with pen and paper, the texts will have long been forgotten and romantic emails may well have been erased.

  6. It does concern me a little that the younger generation are loosing the ability to use pencil or pen. They seem only to use keyboards which occasionaly jump into predictive text which randomly changes themeaning of sentances. I get great pleasure from hand written notes or letters. Maybe I am just an old sentimentalist. I have a letter to Henry ready to go.

  7. I really enjoyed reading, Carmen, about the history and development, and evolution of the pencil and the pen. For me, a pen is a part of my hand. I can’t think how many pens I have emptied of ink over the years and still do. It would be interesting to know the number πŸ™‚ Even though I use the computer a lot too, I don’t believe I will ever stop using a pen and paper in my life. I have read that it is a powerful learning and remembering tool to put words on paper, and because I will always keep learning, the pen is a life companion for me!

  8. Interesting history on the pen and pencil, Carmen. It definitely is a part of human history which is often overlooked as just being a given. Most of us, including me, would never really be intrigued enough to research this history, but thanks to your inquisitive mind I have learned something new today.

  9. A fun read Carmen, thank you. My mother taught me how to write calligraphy, which has been the best gift of the art of pen. My 6 and 8-year-old nephews asked her to give them lessons, as they wanted to learn the art of pen. I think it is wonderful it is being handed down to a young generation, as it teaches art in conscious writing.

  10. What a great history lesson of the pen and pencil I never knew any of this very interesting to learn all the end and outs of this technology. I like the way you took it all the back to carving into the cave walls to today with the stylus that we can actually write on are computers with.

  11. Carmen, we never know what we are going to learn when we visit this wonderful Compumatrix Blog. 😁 I was “drawn in write away” (pun intended) by the picture! Before I even read your post, I started missing my days of writing with pens!!! Before computers became my primary tool for written communication, I so enjoyed writing with “a NICE pen.”πŸ‘€ I used to write so much that I had a thick callous on my finger! I really do miss the feel of a NICE pen in my hand. I used to always have a pen with me. Nowadays I use them so rarely that I typically have to look for one when the need arises.

  12. Carme, I enjoyed reading your article. You always write nice blogs.
    Who wouldnt want to use a Parker fountain pen and enjoy putting pen to paper?
    I, for one, would love to do that.
    Thanks to the pencils and pens that we used while in school and college, we are able to write and put our thoughts on paper.
    I would still love to receive a hand-written letter from a friend, relative or a loved one. The majority of people prefer to send a text message or an email, for communication purposes.
    But, there is a special delight in using pens and pencils , however old-fashioned or outdated may that be.For that personal touch..

  13. Well, that is just fascinating, Carmen! I have picked up on many types of writing implements in my readings of historical novels, research materials, etc…but I’ve never put it together like you did in this article. It’s so interesting how many types of pens/pencils were devised in the earliest recorded “civilizations” – Egyptian, Roman, etc. – and how it evolved over the thousands of years following. I love working with both pens and pencils for various things, writing creatively and even drawing. So I am especially glad that as this world goes ultlra-modern with high tech at an alarming rate, pens and pencils are still available for all to use. And I’m predicting they will be around for as long as humans are….hopefully!

  14. I feel like a fossil after ready this. Still used the old ink wells and dip-pens in junior school. The ball point pen was just starting to come out but we were not allowed to use them. They did not have real ink.. We were allowed to use the new ink pens that refilled with a small lever on the side of the pen which squeezed out the air in the ink bladder and sucked up ink when the lever was released to its filled position. Lots of blotting paper was needed to clean up the spills which was part of the process. Never flick you pen full of ink! Ha, those were the days.

  15. I never think about pencils however I use them every day. They are one of the most used implements I use all the time. When the pencil I am using gets too short, I just pull out the next one out of the box and carry on making my lists, notes and some times a drawing. After reading this blog, I realized that the evolution of this pencil that I use has not changed much in many years. Pencils are just like a box of matches, they still work the same as when they were invented.

  16. Carmen, I enjoyed reading your article. Nice to read something about the historical background of pen and pencils I really loved the pencil drawing of the pumpkins. Especially because it is pumpking time

  17. Interesting read about the Pen and the Pencil. Also intrigued by the Eastern Red Cedar as to not get any splinters. It’s always interesting to look back at different everyday things to see the origin of them. Were, what, when and how they were developed. Also who would have been the first to ever use a writing thing.

  18. Interesting about the Tennessee Eastern Red Cedar Carmen. I know some folks who live there, and have been there a number of times, but didn’t ever hear anyone talk about that tree. Any kind of wood that wouldn’t leave you with splinters is my cup of tea. You also mentioned the clay in the pencils. I think I know what you are talking about there. It’s in the lead.

    1. Jeff the first pencils made here in America were in natural wood, so it was important to have a wood that did not splinter once it was smoothed. It was several years before they were painted. Years later they began to use them for advertisement, and wood print the name of a company on the pencil. This was a great advertisement ploy because pencils were in every household and you read their name every time you picked it up. Same with the pen, the advertisements are stilled carried on today. I meant to include this in my blog.
      I appreciate your comment and everyone who comments on my blogs.

    2. Meant to also say, The Tennesse Eastern Red Cedar is the state tree of Tennesse. The only pencil manufacturer left in the South is the Musgrave Pencil Company, a family-owned business in TN has been in business for 100 years. At one time there were six different manufactures in the same area.
      The clay I mentioned was mixed with the graphite to make it stronger but it did write a very light shade, manufactured by The General Pencil Company located in NJ.

  19. I remember years ago cleaning the rooms of the school with my father who was a janitor for a short time. The smell of the shavings from those pencil sharpeners was strong. My job was to dump them into the trash can. Regardless, the combination of wood and graphite is indelible in my memory. This was a fun and interesting blog to read.

  20. Carmen very interesting your blog about the history of the pencil and the pen! It made me think how important these 2 items are in the history of mankind! They are literally used to write our history!

  21. Interesting blog, Carmen! It is amazing how much history we can find in a simple day-by-day object like a pen or pencil. Image how interesting are the histories of other trivial objects around us like a flip flop or a candle for example. I bet it would be fun to take some free time to investigate other histories like yours.

  22. Thank you Carmen for the great blog, you don’t really think about pencils anymore. There are so many now its amazing, regular, electric, etc.This group in Compumatrix is like a bunch of different pencils and all amazing! I like #2 !!

  23. Interesting article about all the different kinds and origins of writing instruments. My favorite has always been the elegant fountain pen. When I was young, my dad gave me one. I quickly learned that the elegant writing that I had seen in his yearbooks was not magically produced just by having a fountain pen. It’s an art form. I discovered that there was a technique that you had to learn if you wanted to write in such fancy way as they did back then.

  24. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article Carmen: learning so much about the β€˜common’ pen and pencil. It made me realize how many other tools we use in our day-to-day lives without giving thought as to how they evolved and have been used in different cultures.

    As an artist, Iβ€˜ve worked with detailed drawing with both graphite and coloured pencil. You can see so much about how an artist relates to their tools by the expressiveness of their mark making. While I appreciate very fine work, I’m now far more impressed when I see a freedom of expression in gestural lines.

  25. Very interesting blog about pens and pencils. Small objects but they can convey a deep love for someone in the form of beautiful letters or poems but on the other hand, they can kill people. A signature under a declaration of war or the execution of a death penalty.

  26. Wow.. Never knew as much as I do now about a simple writing instrument. Thanks for the lesson. I will never take my pen OR pencil for granted again πŸ™‚

  27. When I went to elementary school we used more pencils than pens, but thanks to the pencils and pens that I used while in school, I’m now able to put my thoughts on paper. In today’s society the majority of people prefer to send a text message to communicate but as for me I still prefer the telephone as my primary method to communicate.

  28. Nice article Carmen. I’m old enough to remember those No.2 pencils we used in grade school along with the Big Chief writing tablets. All throughout history there have been different writing instruments, I still use a pen today to take notes, write and address sympathy cards, computers have taken the place of most cards and pens today. Send and email and then reply to it and then there is no need for pen or pencil. It’s so impersonal. The history lesson was great but for some of us it reminds us of times gone by.

  29. Carmen, thank you, i must make a point of checking on my grandchildren’s hand- writing! Also, I recall a tale someone must have made up to please the masses. When it was realized that cosmonauts would not be able to write in space with ordinary pens, the Americans solved the problem after undertaking serious research and development and spending a great deal of money. The Russians simply used the pencil. πŸ™‚

  30. It’s sad to me that the pen, and even the pencil, have receded so far from modern culture, and of course, the people in it. I used to spend hours trying to create the letters I was writing as perfectly as possible, whether printing or cursively writing (another dying art that many of us older-timers lament). I never knew so much about the implements we are losing touch with, thank you so much for this article. Like Kevin said, a nice pen was a huge gift to have and use, and now I too can barely find one when I need one…any pen at all, forget pencils.

  31. Thank you Carmen for this informative blog. It is interesting to read about the history of pens and pencils and how they were and still can be useful for us. Although most things I write, I do on my keyboard these days but I also still use pens and pencils when making drawings with my granddaughter.

  32. There are so many different kinds of pencils, such as graphite, liquid, charcoal, and carbon. Graphite pencils are encased in wood and its composition allows for the smoothest strokes which I think sort of symbolizes the strength and guidance of some of the members in Compumatrix. By comparison, there are charcoal pencils that are abrasive and smudge easily, which would be the disposition that we most try to avoid.

  33. The amazing thing about a pencil is that you can chop away at it and chop away at it, and even break it in half and it still keeps working. It is an amazing example of resilience in having the toughness and capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.

  34. the history in this Blog and the thoughts of so many –makes for great learning and also Biz looking at our own Compu Biz and where we as a company of Entrepreneurs have been and are going –makes for smiling and looking ahead at some very exciting times — we stay the course and stay up with tech — wow is just ahead — jmho –thank you for great inspiration

  35. …very good read indeed carmen, as usual learned some more “stuff” and yes
    Jane, agree wholeheartedly about the young ones getting away from the “good ole pencil”. Like not knowing what a rotary phone is…lol. Cedar is some good wood, always
    loved it in my parents home, hmm maybe they have some old pencils hidden
    about. I wanted to mention the good old “finger” ah, not giving the finger, but
    dipping the finger in the blood of animals and such and writing or putting your
    mark, like cave markings and pictures. Yes Carmen, good stuff…yep…

  36. Thank you for such an interesting and intriguing post, Carmen. I remember our desks at school still had the old ink wells, immersed in blotchy dark blue ink stains. And like Hendrik describes above, we all had to use refillable ink pens with the lever on the side which were lovely but incredibly messy. Scratchy little ‘Stylus’ ink pens followed (even the thought of them gives me goosebumps at the sound they’d make), which were nothing like the Stylus pens nowadays, but in which you could fit 2 small replaceable ink cartridges (including a spare) that seemed to run out far too quickly. Nowadays with email, etc. I seem to write so little by hand that my once tidy handwriting has deteriorated to the point where I feel quite tense writing things by hand – a drawback of modern life. But I do still draw, so pencils are still very much an essential!

  37. Carmen,a nice post regards Pen and Pencil.Use of these instruments helped preserve the various achievement by man in the field of literature science the local lores etc.Most of the old Indian text were initially passed on by word of mouth. With advent of instuments,The Veda,Upnishad,Gita,Mahabharat ,Ramayana have been preserved forever in witten text.I started writing as a child with a Crafted Baboo shook on a writing board called Takhti

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