Vignette: The Art of Fountain Pens
February 12, 2013 through January 26, 2014
Before the electronic stylus and tablet, before the laser printer, before fiber- and ceramic-tipped pens and even before the ballpoint, fountain pens were everyone’s writing instrument. Developed in the late 19th century, fountain pens—the kind filled from a bottle of ink—were ingenious, often beautifully designed and handcrafted, and ubiquitous until the 1970s.
Today, though still used by a few, they are collected and cherished as little works of art. In this vignette, the Morse presents its collection of fountain pens dating from 1875 to 1975, giving these beautiful, functional objects much-deserved attention.
We are grateful to Dr. J. Peter Kincaid and Mrs. Calliopi “Poppy” Deliyanni Kincaid for their generous gift of the pens shown in this exhibition, our first-ever devoted to writing instruments as art objects. Though the earliest record of a pen using ink from a reservoir dates to the tenth century, it was not until the mid-19th century that the technology in terms of nibs, hard rubber, and free-flowing ink had evolved to make the fountain pen viable to consider for broad consumer use. Mass production began in the 1880s. In this exhibition, more than a hundred pens have been organized into three groups, those from 1920 to 1940, the “golden age” of fountain pens, and those before and after. They include pens from the great names of the industry, including Waterman, Sheaffer, and Parker. The pen selection is complemented by period advertisements, Tiffany desk sets, and other writing accessories. With this vignette, we invite you to enjoy the art of fountain pens and reflect on a time when the art of writing was central to everyone’s life.