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Mechanical Pencil Month

While digging around in the Repertory of Arts for Brunel patents, I came across a familiar design from the early 19th century. Granted to civil engineer John Isaac Hawkins (inventor of the polygraph) and pen maker Sampson Mordan, patent number 4742 “for improvements on pencil-holders or port-crayons, and on pens, for the purpose of facilitating writing and drawing, by rendering the frequent cutting or mending the nibs or points unnecessary” is generally considered to be the very first design for a mechanical pencil.

Dated December 20, 1822, it means that this year marks the bicentenary of the mechanical pencil. In recognition of this unheralded anniversary, I hereby decree that December be named Mechanical Pencil Month.

Patent heading for Hawkins and Mordan's mechanical pencil 20 December 1822

To mark the occasion, over the next twenty days I will attempt to post a daily pencil-related item. Think of it as a kind of metric advent calendar, as opposed to the usual duodecimal one (are advent calendars even a thing in the rest of the world?)

This will be a challenge, not least because my collection of mechanical pencils is not exactly on a par with Dan Linn’s, so expect some odd and obtuse objects (in advent calendar terms, the equivalent of a bell or a sheep). Besides which, I have not yet photographed anything for this project, so each day promises to be a surprise for me as well. Roll on Mechanical Pencil Month!

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