Eric Christiansen in The Spectator had some interesting things to say in a review of The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting (and why it still matters) by Philip Hensher. Enjoy

“…something can be done to prepare children for writing beforehand. For example, if you live near a common, poultry market or farm, get them to collect goose feathers. Do you shoot? A fat crow will pluck nicely. Then ask them to shave the shanks of the feathers so as to leave tufts at the thin end. Those plumy articles with which heroines write billets-doux in films are fiction. Next, harden the quill in hot sand, i.e. in a tin of sand, warmed over moderate heat. Not too hot or the pen will blister. Children can watch and smell this process and try it themselves.

141-quill 2“Then you show them how to carve the thick end into a nib, and split it evenly up the middle. That takes a very sharp knife; too sharp for them to use, but they can learn to hone it. You will probably have to buy the ink, since chemists no longer seem to stock iron sulphate, but however you get it, let the little ones dip and scrawl, and spill and spar, and the resulting theatre of ink, feathers, blood and tears may appeal to children of moderate ability aged four to eight enough to set them on the track which may eventually bring them to the sweet Roman hand.”

Books on the topic discussed in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore. Unfortunately, our quill pens are all out of stock. 

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