My friend Marilyn has been trying to get me to buy a fountain pen. I’m tempted. When she takes out her sleek implement with its gold and platinum nib, I love the way her hand grasps the chunky stem and the ink emerges in a smooth, velvety line on the page. It would be nice to own such a lovely thing, which turns writing into a sensual experience and makes the writer look stylish. A little research yields additional advantages: Fountain pens don’t wear out but get better with use; they decrease the likelihood of writer’s cramp; they are marvelous objects to collect and learn about; and they bring you into contact with like-minded enthusiasts. All of this appeals to me. And yet I have resisted buying one.

It helps to begin by positioning the fountain pen in the context of its history. Although now a quaint, even archaic tool,… More…