Mr. James Perry, of London, has contributed, we believe, more than any other individual to the introduction of the modern improved steel pens; he has brought out several steel pens of a very ingenious and original description, and devoted more than ordinary attention to the forming them to suit a variety of hands and tastes, which he regularly classed, advertised, and humorously puffed in rhyme, by which means he acquired a celebrity to which no previous pen-maker had attained. Mr. Perry first overcame the extreme rigidity of the ordinary steel-pen, by the introduction of apertures between the shoulders and the point, thereby making them elastic below instead of above the shoulder: this was the subject of his patent of 1830. "The double patent Perryian pen," the merits of which have been so much placarded throughout the kingdom, received its odd cognomen from the circumstance of a second patent taken out by Mr. Perry, in 1832; the pens described in the specification of which are represented as combining the superlative qualities of both inventions. Fig. 1 is a sketch of Mr. Perry's "double patent pen," which distinctly shows the position of the aperture and the lateral slits, by which a great degree of elasticity is obtained.
Fig. 2 is Mr. Perry's ingenious "regulating-spring pen," consisting of one of his patent pens, with the addition of a sliding spring, which increases or diminishes the flexibility of the pen, according as it is placed further from, or nearer to the point. In another instance Mr. Perry employs the elasticity of Indian-rubber, by twisting a thread of this material round the nibs of the pen, the yielding of which permits the opening of the points, in proportion to the pressure applied. The care which Mr. Perry takes in the correct manufacture of his pens, has mainly contributed to the general preference given to them; for, however excellent may be the principle of the structure, if the workmanship of the nibs be not nicely performed, the pens will not write well. It is from defects of this kind, we believe, that many apparently excellent metallic pens, that have been successively brought out, have met with a comparatively small sale.
As the extremities of the nibs of metallic pens of the ordinary form become worn, they progressively increase in breadth, until they become useless, unless their original form should be restored by skilful filing, or grinding, upon an oilstone: these being operations which no economist of time will perform, at the present low prices of the article, Mr. Gillott, of Birmingham, took out a patent in 1831 for an improvement in metal pens, designed to remedy the defect mentioned. This he proposed to effect by making the nibs of his pens parallel sided, that is, an equal breadth to the points for about an eighth of an inch long, the remaining portion or upper part of the nibs being cut either inclined in the usual manner, or terminating with a shoulder next to the parallel nibs. "The whole length of such nibs," says Mr. Gillott, "may of course be worn away, without increasing the breadth of the strokes in writing." This construction, it however appears to us, will not only fail in obtaining the advantages sought, but will entail disadvantages to which the tapered form is comparatively free; namely, a greater tendency to take a set in opening during the downward strokes of the pen, and a deficiency of reacting force in the up-strokes to bring the nibs together; the narrowness of the points also prevents the ink from flowing down in sufficient quantity to give a constant and unfailing supply.
Mr. Gillott, although a pen manufacturer, is evidently no great pen-user, for all persons who are in the habit of using steel pens know that in a short time the abrading action of the paper, produces a basil edge on the under side of the nib, converting it into a very efficient chisel, which, catching the paper in the up strokes, renders the pen unfit for further use. With respect to their wearing away uniformly, this can never be the case, unless the pen be held vertically, that is at right angles to the plane of the paper, in which manner ordinary writing cannot be executed. This will at once show the fallacy of Mr. Gillott's proposition; and it would appear as if Mr. Gillott was himself conscious of the error; for we have never met with any of his pens made in accordance with his patent, that is, with parallel points, but as Fig. 3, which is one of Mr. Gillott's pens, as now manufactured; otherwise this is a pretty good pen, and ranks with the best of the three-slit class.
The position in which a pen is usually held causes the wear to take place in an inclined direction, slightly rounded at the edges, and the right hand nib to be more worn than the left. When one nib becomes shorter than the other, the longer nib bears harder than the shorter upon the paper in the up-strokes, and produces thick and blotted writing. It was probably with a view of obviating these effects that the scribes of olden time wrote their letters either upright, or inclining to the left hand, both of which modes are retained by the lawyers. Making due allowance for the obsoleteness of many of the characters, we think it must be admitted that such wirings possess more clearness and intelligibility of form than our modernized writing.
In order, however, that we may be able to incline our letters in the right direction, and yet save our pens from rapid destruction, Messrs. Mordan and Brockedon introduced, and patented in 1831, pens with inclined slits, which they very appropriately designated the "oblique pen." It has been stated, as a well-authenticated fact, that ninety-nine persons in every hundred fail to attain, permanently, the art of writing with a pen in the true position; that is, with the hand removed a little to the right, and the tip of the pen pointing to the right shoulder, when the slit of the pen will be in the direction of the writing, and both of the nibs addressed fairly to the paper. Fig. 4 is a representation of Messrs. Mordan & Co.'s oblique pen. The direction of the slit in this pen being that in which the writing usually slopes at an angle of about thirty-five degrees, both nibs are brought equally down upon the paper - the writer is not confined to any particular position, but at liberty to use the pen freely, without the restraint of attitude, so strongly insisted upon by teachers of writing.