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The History of Writing Instruments

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❶In the early literate societies, as much as years passed from the first inscriptions to the first coherent textual sources:

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Stylus, Quill and Pen: The Short History on Writing Instruments
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Without it, great ideas would be forgotten, information would stay at the place where they originated and we would have to invent things a thousand times over. To write we have writing implements that changed throughout history. Reed pens are one of the first more sophisticated writing tools in history.

They appeared after the carving tools and styluses and practically replaced them. They were not perfect and were later replaced with quills. Read more about history of reed pens. Quills were the most sophisticated writing instruments for a long time some 15 centuries. Many large birds gave their contribution to the spreading of knowledge until metal pens replaced feathers in writing.

Read more about history of quill pens. Fountain pens replaced standard metal pens because they were easier to use and were less messy. After years of improvements and after appearance of ballpoint pens which are even easier to use they became a sort of status symbol. Read more about history of fountain pen.

Beginning of use of pen and ink marked the start of new era of easier recording of information. Without them, early scientific discoveries would be forgotten and development of humanity would be much slower.

At the first glance, who could tell that the first ballpoint pens appeared some years ago? But they did and were intended for writing on leather.

Today, billions are made and sold every year and we almost cannot imagine our day-today life without them. Read more about ballpoint pen history. Mechanical pencils are also old invention dating even from 16th century. First ones were relatively simple mechanisms, only to become more complicated with time. Today we have mechanical pencils which can write and draw very precisely. Compared with other art mediums, colored pencil is relatively new. It appeared at the beginning of the 20th century.

Here you can read more about colored pencil history. It is easy to write something. But what to do when you make a mistake?

Erasers come to the rescue! The latter was adapted into the first writing instrument. The cave man scratched pictures with the sharpened-stone tool onto the walls of his cave dwelling. The cave drawings represented events in daily life such as the planting of crops or hunting victories. With time, the record-keepers developed systematized symbols from their drawings. These symbols represented words and sentences, but were easier and faster to draw and universally recognized for meaning.

The discovery of clay made portable records possible you can't carry a cave wall around with you. Early merchants used clay tokens with pictographs to record the quantities of materials traded or shipped. These tokens date back to about 8, B. With the high volume of and the repetition inherent in record keeping, pictographs evolved and slowly lost their picture detail.

They became abstract-figures representing sounds in spoken communication. The alphabet replaced pictographs between and B. The current Hebrew alphabet and writing became popular around B. Greek was the first script written from left to right. From Greek followed the Byzantine and the Roman later Latin writings. In the beginning, all writing systems had only uppercase letters, when the writing instruments were refined enough for detailed faces, lowercase was used as well around A. The earliest means of writing that approached pen and paper as we know them today was developed by the Greeks.

They employed a writing stylus, made of metal, bone or ivory, to place marks upon wax-coated tablets. The tablets made in hinged pairs, closed to protect the scribe's notes. The first examples of handwriting purely text messages made by hand originated in Greece. The Grecian scholar, Cadmus invented the written letter - text messages on paper sent from one individual to another.

Writing was advancing beyond chiseling pictures into stone or wedging pictographs into wet clay. The Chinese invented and perfected 'Indian Ink'. Originally designed for blacking the surfaces of raised stone-carved hieroglyphics, the ink was a mixture of soot from pine smoke and lamp oil mixed with the gelatin of donkey skin and musk.

Only people from certain backgrounds were allowed to train as scribes, in the service of temple, royal pharaonic , and military authorities. Geoffrey Sampson believes that most scholars hold that Egyptian hieroglyphs "came into existence a little after Sumerian script , and Dreyer's findings at Tomb UJ at Abydos in Upper Egypt clearly show place names written in hieroglyphs up to four in number recognizable as signs, which persisted and were employed during later periods and which are written and read phonetically.

The tomb is dated to c. It is argued, therefore, that the Egyptian writing system, which is in any case very different from the Mesopotamian, could not have been the result of influence from a less-developed system existing at that date in Sumer.

The undeciphered Proto-Elamite script emerges from as early as BC. It is believed to have evolved into Linear Elamite by the later 3rd millennium and then replaced by Elamite Cuneiform adopted from Akkadian.

The Middle Bronze Age Indus script , which dates back to the early Harappan phase of around BC in ancient north western India and what is now Pakistan , has not yet been deciphered. Mortimer Wheeler recognises the style of writing as boustrophedon , where "this stability suggests a precarious maturity.

The first pure alphabets properly, " abjads ", mapping single symbols to single phonemes, but not necessarily each phoneme to a symbol emerged around BC in Ancient Egypt , as a representation of language developed by Semitic workers in Egypt, but by then alphabetic principles had a slight possibility of being inculcated into Egyptian hieroglyphs for upwards of a millennium.

The Proto-Canaanite was probably somehow influenced by the undeciphered Byblos syllabary and, in turn, inspired the Ugaritic alphabet c.

Anatolian hieroglyphs are an indigenous hieroglyphic script native to western Anatolia , used to record the Hieroglyphic Luwian language. It first appeared on Luwian royal seals from the 14th century BC.

The earliest confirmed evidence of the Chinese script yet discovered is the body of inscriptions on oracle bones from the late Shang dynasty c. From the Shang Dynasty , most of this writing has survived on bones or bronze implements bronze script. Markings on turtle shells, or jiaguwen , have been carbon-dated to around BC. There have recently been discoveries of tortoise-shell carvings dating back to c.

These pictographs are reputed to be similar to the earliest characters confirmed to be written Chinese. If it is deemed to be a written language, writing in China will predate Mesopotamian cuneiform, long acknowledged as the first appearance of writing, by some 2, years; however it is more likely that the inscriptions are rather a form of proto-writing , similar to the contemporary European Vinca script.

Linear B, the writing system of the Mycenaean Greeks , [24] has been deciphered while Linear A has yet to be deciphered. The sequence and the geographical spread of the three overlapping, but distinct, writing systems can be summarized as follows note that the beginning date refers to first attestations, the assumed origins of all scripts lie further back in the past: A stone slab with 3,year-old writing, the Cascajal Block , was discovered in the Mexican state of Veracruz, and is an example of the oldest script in the Western Hemisphere, preceding the oldest Zapotec writing dated to about BC.

Of several pre-Columbian scripts in Mesoamerica , the one that appears to have been best developed, and has been fully deciphered, is the Maya script. The earliest inscriptions which are identifiably Maya date to the 3rd century BC, and writing was in continuous use until shortly after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century AD.

Maya writing used logograms complemented by a set of syllabic glyphs: The Phoenician alphabet is simply the Proto-Canaanite alphabet as it was continued into the Iron Age conventionally taken from a cut-off date of BC. This alphabet gave rise to the Aramaic and Greek alphabets. These in turn led to the writing systems used throughout regions ranging from Western Asia to Africa and Europe.

For its part the Greek alphabet introduced for the first time explicit symbols for vowel sounds. The Brahmic family of India is believed by some scholars to have derived from the Aramaic alphabet as well. The history of the Greek alphabet started when the Greeks borrowed the Phoenician alphabet and adapted it to their own language.

Several varieties of the Greek alphabet developed. The other variation, known as Eastern Greek , was used in present-day Turkey and by the Athenians, and eventually the rest of the world that spoke Greek adopted this variation. After first writing right to left, like the Phoenicians, the Greeks eventually chose to write from left to right.

Greek is in turn the source for all the modern scripts of Europe. The most widespread descendant of Greek is the Latin script , named for the Latins , a central Italian people who came to dominate Europe with the rise of Rome.

The Romans learned writing in about the 5th century BC from the Etruscan civilization , who used one of a number of Italic scripts derived from the western Greeks. Due to the cultural dominance of the Roman state, the other Italic scripts have not survived in any great quantity, and the Etruscan language is mostly lost. With the collapse of the Roman authority in Western Europe, the literary development became largely confined to the Eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Empire.

Latin, never one of the primary literary languages, rapidly declined in importance except within the Church of Rome. The primary literary languages were Greek and Persian , though other languages such as Syriac and Coptic were important too. The rise of Islam in the 7th century led to the rapid rise of Arabic as a major literary language in the region. Arabic and Persian quickly began to overshadow Greek's role as a language of scholarship.

Arabic script was adopted as the primary script of the Persian language and the Turkish language. This script also heavily influenced the development of the cursive scripts of Greek, the Slavic languages , Latin , and other languages [ citation needed ]. The Arabic language also served to spread the Hindu—Arabic numeral system throughout Europe. By the 14th century a rebirth, or renaissance , had emerged in Western Europe, leading to a temporary revival of the importance of Greek, and a slow revival of Latin as a significant literary language.

A similar though smaller emergence occurred in Eastern Europe, especially in Russia. At the same time Arabic and Persian began a slow decline in importance as the Islamic Golden Age ended. The revival of literary development in Western Europe led to many innovations in the Latin alphabet and the diversification of the alphabet to codify the phonologies of the various languages.

The nature of writing has been constantly evolving, particularly due to the development of new technologies over the centuries. The pen , the printing press , the computer and the mobile phone are all technological developments which have altered what is written, and the medium through which the written word is produced.

Particularly with the advent of digital technologies, namely the computer and the mobile phone, characters can be formed by the press of a button, rather than making a physical motion with the hand.

The nature of the written word has recently evolved to include an informal, colloquial written style, in which an everyday conversation can occur through writing rather than speaking.

Written communication can also be delivered with minimal time delay e-mail , SMS , and in some cases, with an imperceptible time delay instant messaging.

Writing is a preservable means of communication. Some people regard the growth of multimedia literacy as the first step towards a postliterate society. There is no very definite statement as to the material which was in most common use for the purposes of writing at the start of the early writing systems. In the latter case there is this peculiarity, that plaster sic , lime or gypsum was used along with stone, a combination of materials which is illustrated by comparison of the practice of the Egyptian engravers, who, having first carefully smoothed the stone, filled up the faulty places with gypsum or cement, in order to obtain a perfectly uniform surface on which to execute their engravings.

To the engraving of gems there is reference also, such as with seals or signets. The common materials of writing were the tablet and the roll, the former probably having a Chaldean origin, the latter an Egyptian. The tablets of the Chaldeans are among the most remarkable of their remains. In Egypt the principal writing material was of quite a different sort. Wooden tablets are found pictured on the monuments; but the material which was in common use, even from very ancient times, was the papyrus.

This reed, found chiefly in Lower Egypt, had various economic means for writing, the pith was taken out, and divided by a pointed instrument into the thin pieces of which it is composed; it was then flattened by pressure, and the strips glued together, other strips being placed at right angles to them, so that a roll of any length might be manufactured.


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The writing instrument that dominated for the longest period in history (over one-thousand years) was the quill pen. Introduced around the year , the quill is a pen made from a bird feather. The strongest quills were those taken from living birds in the spring from the five outer left wing feathers.

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The kind of writing implements used at various periods in history have a lot to do with the surfaces that people used to write on. We're accustomed to paper, and even though a lot of our communicating is done on computers now, paper is everywhere.

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But they did and were intended for writing on leather. Today, billions are made and sold every year and we almost cannot imagine our day-today life without them. Read more about ballpoint pen history. Wax tablets were not heat resistant. Because of that people tried to find other solutions. They appeared in the form of writing tools that use pigment of some sort. Scribes of Ancient Egypt used reed pens which were made from a single reed straw, cut and shaped into a point. As a surface for writing with these pens was used papyrus.

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The History of Writing Instruments Laszlo Biro, a Hungarian journalist, invented the first ballpoint pen in Biro had observed that the type of ink used in newspaper printing dried rapidly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. Back in ancient times, the stylus was the writing utensil of choice. Generally made of metal or bone, this long pointy tool was used to incise letters (often cuneiform) into tablets which were covered in .