Sunday, 28 August 2011

Becoming less and less

Oblivion by polydaktyl

But now it appeared that like any number of the elderly, he was in the process of becoming less and less and would have to see his aimless days through to the end as no more than what he was - the aimless days and the uncertain nights and the impotently putting up with the physical deterioration and the terminal sadness and the waiting and waiting for nothing.
It was time to worry about oblivion.
Philip Roth, Everyman

Palimpsest will be away for a while due to a terminal illness in the family. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Steel Pen is the Root of All Evil

There is no such thing as pre-technological writing, writes Sonja Neef in her wonderful new book Imprint and Trace: Handwriting in the Age of Technology. “Writing has always been technology – handwork and action (Handlung), skill and know-how.” The new has always been resisted as a mortal enemy to things old and tested. The advent of steel pens with Peregrine Williamson of Baltimore U.S.A and Mason in Birmingham in early nineteenth century was a death knoll for quills. Victor Hugo sworn never to use these “needles” and Jules Janin who was the leading spokesman against steel pens was adamant:

“The steel pen is the true root of all evil from which society as a whole is suffering in our time. One needs to compare the steel pen that one uses nowadays with the good old quill that well served our venerable ancestors. The steel pen, this modern invention, makes an unpleasant impression upon us. It is as though one fell in love against one’s will with a little, hardly visible dagger dipped in poison. Its point is as sharp as a sword, and it cuts both ways like the tongue of slanderer…”

Sonja Neef, Imprint and Trace: Handwriting in the Age of Technology, Reaktion Books: London 2011.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pick-a-Pen Series: What's in my Pocket by Jack Labusch

Jack Labusch, a "reviving penman", has kindly shared with Palimpsest his writing instrument arsenal.

Here’s my pocket rig, those pens and pencils that in recent years I habitually stuff in my shirt pocket. 

Pilot Precise V7 (Fine) Roller Ball, Black Ink – Among liquid ink roller ball pens, the Pilot Precise seems a popular success, and a critical success, too, within the writing gear community.

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen .3mm (Fine), Green Ink – According to what I’ve read, the designation “fine” for Asian pens generally equals “extra fine” for European and American fountain pens.  I’ve been using the Preppy with the proprietary cartridges, green ink just for underscoring, circling, etc.

Papermate Flair Fiber-Tip, Black Ink –When first introduced in the States in the 1960s, the fiber tip was fairly quickly deformed with use.  But, a plastic collar and possibly other manufacturing changes since then have remedied that problem. I’ve read the tip diameter of this long-lived brand is 1.3mm.  If you want bold, the Flair is bold.

Alvin Draftmatic Mechanical Pencil .9mm, 2B Lead – I’m a longtime mechanical pencil user, but a relative newcomer to premium MPs, which are startlingly inexpensive.  For about $8-$25 (maybe £5-£16 if UK pricing is proportional), you may get knurled metal grips, lead grade indicators, adjustability, unusual mechanisms that rotate the lead for point maintenance, and all-metal construction.  My Japanese-made Alvin has been a workhorse, although I’ve been cautioned by a few Amazon (US) reviewers that Chinese-made Alvins exist and are of noticeably lesser quality.

Pilot Vpen – This very likeable and startlingly well-made fountain pen is marketed as a throwaway pen.  As so many in the writing community do, I’ll convert mine into an eyedropper after its factory charge of ink is exhausted. Several Web sites show how to do that.  In a nutshell: carefully remove the nib section, add ink with eyedropper, daub the section with a little silicone grease as a sealant, and replace the nib section.
 So that’s my current pocket rig, modestly priced, but, I think, fairly well-selected.  I’ll change up once in a while with a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil and a black .5mm 4B lead, a stick pen (biro) or promotional pen I’ve found somewhere, maybe a Hero 330 (a Chinese-made Parker 51 knock-off), or a Sailor Hi Ace, an econopen with a startlingly well-made nib that feels as though you’re writing with air.  Found pens offer the secret luxury of pitching them on a whim without loss. 

          Norman Haase at HisNibs and Jet Pens are two U. S.-based online retailers that I know have European purchasers.  Norman specializes in higher-end Chinese-made fountain pens, and he promises an examination of every nib prior to shipping.  Jet Pens offers Japanese and other Asian-made writing products, some of which reportedly are unavailable outside their domestic markets.  Overseas shipping may be costly, so you may want to bundle your purchases.

Jack Labusch

Read also Jack's pieces on the Jinhao Evening Stripes Fountain Pen at Pocket Blonde and "Why Fountain Pens" at HisNibs.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

No interest in stationery

I cannot offer an analysis of the London riots. A riot is a complex beast. It springs up from the hoods even in the midst of a languid summer and runs wild and burns and becomes its own symbol. Here in this "leafy suburb" of north London couple of shops have been smashed up overnight and yesterday one would have thought the high street was located somewhere in the Med - what with the sunshine and the pleasant breeze, the bright blue skies and the shopkeepers lingering at the doorsteps of their shops looking left and right and having some of their friends and relatives round for a chat and the friends and relatives also lingering in and out and looking left and right and looking the passers-by up and down. One could smell the fear. There was also more police. Also the sound of hammers as shops were being boarded up for the evening. The local Carphone Warehouse was one of the victims of the nightly disorder. Ryman on the other hand was intact. I take it the unknowns had no interest in stationery. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Ink Eraser

It is in the name of summer warmth and luxuriant sunshine (or the hope of it) that the human flesh allows itself to overflow from within strapless tops and shorter than short shorts, that the human toes hidden until this time are triumphantly presented to the world in all their gruesome glory (rogue hairs, bunions, fungal growths, overgrown toenails), that the picnic coolboxes come out of cupboards ready to store sweaty cheese and wilting salads, and that men with ample stomachs don Tee shirts proclaiming that “Surf’s Up”.  

Palimpsest finds Summer to be an ink eraser. Is it the light that reveals defects, unmasks, brings disarray, jumbles the signals? It feels like writing with ink on a tarpaulin. Even if it rains, summer has this quality of disorder, of erasure – it slides away unwritten. I used to enjoy the vacuum of summer, I used to wallow in its emptiness, I used to not mind its exposed flesh. Now I do not wish for erasure or un-restraint. Inscription demands order, control, discipline.

Object in Inklinks today: Sanford’s Ink Eraser