"IN these days of Public Schools and extended facilities for popular education, it would be difficult to find many people unaccustomed to the use of steel pens; but, although the manufacture of this article by presses and tools must have been introduced during the first quarter of the present century, the inquirer after knowledge would scarcely find a dozen persons who could give any definite information as to when, where, and by whom this invention was made. Less than two decades ago there were three men living who could have answered this question, but two of them passed away without making any sign, and the third – Sir Josiah Mason – has left on record that his friend and patron – Mr. Samuel Harrison- about the year 1780, made a steel pen for Dr. Priestley.
This interesting fact does not contribute anything toward solving the question, Who was the first manufacturer of steel pens by mechanical appliances ? In the absence of any definite information, the balance of testimony tends to prove that steel pens were first made by tools, worked by a screw press, about the beginning of the third decade of the present century, and the names associated with their manufacture were John Mitchell, Joseph Gillott, and Josiah Mason, each, in his own way, doing something toward perfecting the manufacture by mechanical means.
Among the earliest refernces to pens are those in the Bible, and are to be found in Judges v. 14, i Kings xxi. 8, Job xix. 24, Psalm xlv. I, Isaiah viii. I, Jeremiah viii. 8 and xvii. i. But these chiefly refer to the iron stylus, though the first in Jeremiah – taken in reference to the mention of a penknife, xxxvi. 23 – would seem to imply that a reed was in use at that period.
There is a reference to “pen and ink” in the 3rd Epistle of John, 13 th verse, which was written about A.D. 85, and as pens or reeds, made in brass or silver, were used in the Eastern ans Roman Empires at that time, it is probable that a metallic pen or reed was alluded to.
Recent discoveries in Egypt have made us acquainted with inscriptions relating to very ancient writing on goat-skins.
The Century Magasine, January, 1890, contains an article by Miss Amelia B. Edwards (“Bubastis : An Historical Study”), from which we extract information respecting the existence of writing on skins, with some kind of pen or reed, at a very remote period of Egyptian history. In this article the authoress states that in one of the crypts of the Temple of Denderah, in Upper Egypt, Mariette discovered an inseription which identifies the earliest sanctuary built upon that spot with the times of the Horshew (followers of Horus, possibly recognized in a prehistoric age as the supreme Sun-God). The inscription is as follows: -
“There was found the great fundamental ordinance of Denderah, written upon goatskin, in ancient writing of the time of the Horshew. It was found in the inside of a brick wall during the reign of King Pepi.” [ Circa B.C. 3650.]
In the further end of the same crypt another inscription was found as ‘follows : -
“Great fundamental ordinance by Denderah. Restoration made by Thothmes III., in accordance with what was found written in ancient writing of the time of King Kufu.” [ Circa B.C. 4206.]
Miss Edwards, in the same article, speaking of the discoveries of M. Naville, at Bubastis, in Lower Egypt, mentions that the walls of the Hall of Festival, in the Great Temple, were lined up to a considerable height with processional subjects, among which was the sacred scribe with “pen and palette.”"