Friday, 19 March 2010

Cumberland Pencils: Blencanthra, Stella, Grapho

I am intrigued (well, mildly intrigued) by these Cumberland pencils' names. They are displayed in the wonderful Keswick Pencil Museum in the English Lake District, in neat colour-coordinated rows. The Blencanthra. Why the name? That's easy because the Blencanthra (otherwise known as Saddleback) is a mountain in the  Lake District, which was also home to the famous Cumberland pencils. Several lead mines worked under Blencanthra's slopes but by the 1920s they were all exhausted. Perhaps the name is in the mountain's or the mines' honour.

Cumberland Pencil "Blencanthra", Keswick Pencil Museum

"Grapho" on the other hand is probably the bright idea of some Cumberland employee. Grapho (or Γράφω) is Greek for "I write". A pencil. Writes. Get it? But what about "Stella"? Was Cumberland trying to market the pencil to women? There was already a tradition of giving nibs women's names indicating that the pens were "lighter" and thus more "suitable" for the female species. A similar trend in pencils perhaps?

Cumberland Pencil "Stella" in Keswick Pencil Museum

Cumberland Pencil "Grapho" as displayed in the Keswick Pencil Museum

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