Writing implement comprising central graphite core surrounded by wooden casing. Can be used for drawing as well as writing. One end is sharpened to a point, whist the opposite end is flat.
That's right, it's a pencil!
Colour: Brown (wood).
This pencil is approximately 8.5cm and so fits small caches such as clip lock boxes.
The ancient Romans painted fine outlines and wrote on papyrus(a type of paper made from reeds) with a tiny brush which they called a penicillus, or little tail.
The ancient Egyptians, and the Greeks and Romans, too, used a small lead disc for ruling guide line on the papyrus to keep the lettering even. The Romans called it a plumbum - Latin for lead.
It was only logical that someone should eventually think of using a thin rod of lead for scribing fine lines, and equally logical that the invention should be called a 'lead pencil'. Who first invented, or who first named it, is unknown, but such pencils were in use by the fourteenth century, primarily as an artists' tool. Very beautiful, pale grey drawings, done with rods of lead, zinc or silver can be found in museums today, though all of them are now classified as silver point drawings.
Small things in daily use often seem so obvious that no one takes the trouble to write about them; and it was not until 1565 that one Conrad Gesner of Zurich described a pencil. Even then, it was only an aside in his Treatise on Fossils, but the description is sufficently detailed so that we know the writing rod was held in a wooden case.
It took a discovery in 1564 to make the name 'lead pencil' a complete misnomer. In that year, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a deposit of graphite (pure black carbon) was found at Borrowdale in Cumbria, in a form so solid and uniform that it could be sawn into sheets and then cut into thin square sticks. (it is interesting to note that these were still made square by tradition as late as 1860, though the reason for this shape had long since vanished). Little chemistry was known in 1564, so the material was called plumbago, or that which acts(writes) like lead. The pure graphite of the Borrowdale mines was the only such deposit ever found, and its value was fantastic. It was mined only six weeks a year; armed guards escorted the wagons to London; and export of the ore was prohibited. The English Guild of Pencilmakers hand-carved wooden cases for the writing sticks, and enjoyed a world monopoly on the sale of the finished product.
Less pure deposits of graphite were available in many parts of the world, but it had to be crushed and the impurities removed. Naturally, many experiments were made to discover a satisfactory binder to reform the powdered ore into usable sticks. The Germans apparently solved it first. By the seventeenth century, they were using a mixture of graphite, sulphur and antimony. The exact processes and formulae were undoubtedly trade secrets, but the German white lead sticks were usable and competed for favour with the English pencil.
In 1779, K.W. Scheele made a chemical analysis of plumbago that proved it to be a form of carbon, not of lead; and in 1789, A.G. Werner suggested the more appropriate name graphite, from the Greek word to write.
It wasn't until 1795 that the basis of the present process was finally discovered. War had cut off France from both the English and German sources of pencil supply, and Nicholas Jacques ContJ, an officer in Napoleon's army, was commissioned to develop a satisfactory substitute. The young inventor mixed powdered graphite with clay and fired the mixture like china in a kiln. This method was not only serviceable, but also enabled him to grade sticks from hard to soft by varying the proportion of graphite to clay. With the end of the war, the new method spread abroad, and was adopted by all pencil manufacturers.
Few pencils were made in early America (though Henry Thoreau, the naturalist, ran a small pencil factory in the 1850's), but the period from the Civil War to the turn of the century saw the development of the country's pencil industry to international importance. The Eagle Pencil Company was founded by Mr. Alfred Berol in 1856, and has pioneered the invention and perfection of the many kinds of pencil we use today. In 1971 Eagle acquired Venus Pencil Co. and the new company was called Berol Ltd.
Drawing pencils required a control of grading far beyond the old hand-testing methods, so a scientific laboratory was set up at the Berol plant and special testing machines perfected to produce seventeen degrees as accurately spaced as the markings on a rule.
Coloured pencils have been developed from brittle and unreliable sticks of natural earth pigments to a rainbow of colours of remarkable strength and uniformity.
Today, the pencil industry is an international business, bringing raw materials from every corner of the globe and sending its finished pencils out again to give the peoples of the world an ever improving writing tool.
(With thanks to www.berol.co.uk)
For more information on pencils see http://www.berol.co.uk/About-Berol/Learn-about-pencils/