Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used with a nib of some sort to be dipped in the ink. The writing instrument that dominated for the longest period in history (over a thousand years) was the quill pen, introduced around 700 A.D.
The quill was a pen made from a bird feather. The strongest quills were those taken from living birds in the spring from the five outer left wing feathers. The left wing was favored because the feathers curved outward and away when used by a right-handed writer. Goose feathers were most common; swan feathers were of a premium grade being scarcer and more expensive. For making fine lines, crow feathers were the best, and then came the feathers of the eagle, owl, hawk and turkey.
A quill pen lasted for only a week before it was necessary to replace them. Early European writing parchments, made from animal skins, required much scraping and cleaning. To sharpen the quill, the writer needed a
Quill pens were still widely used in the 18th century, and were used to write and sign the Constitution of the United States in 1787.
special knife (origins of the term "pen-knife".) Beneath the writer's high-top desk was a coal stove, used to dry the ink as fast as possible.
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