Ongoing Research

Most collectors are content with the information that can be found in books or on various websites. Those with a more scholarly bent, however, will eventually find these resources inadequate. The following is a guide to those who wish to look deeper into the history of writing instruments -- a history that is still extremely patchy, and which incorporates much hearsay, conjecture, and outright error.

The historiography of vintage pens is remarkably brief. Starting in the late 1970s, Cliff and Judy Lawrence began publishing the Pen Fancier's Magazine, in which original advertisements, catalogs, and company literature were reproduced. There were also profiles of penmakers and of pen and pencil designs, which drew upon a wide range of sources. The Pen Fancier's Magazine continued its pioneering work for over ten years, although in later years much of the material was being republished from earlier issues. Selections of the Lawrences' material were also published in book form, though distribution was limited.

The Lawrences pretty much defined the essential framework for pen history for the period from around 1880 to 1970. Later writers elaborated upon their structure, but few broke significantly new ground. In fact, the Lawrences' imprint has been so strong that even when their conclusions have been contradicted by subsequent research, the effect on popular history has been minimal. An example of this is the Waterman's ink blot story, which by all evidence was a marketer's later invention, but which was enthusiastically endorsed by the Lawrences and has since become well-nigh ineradicable.