Episode 16: The Pen

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things you did not even know had a history; like the history of the smile, or the history of smoke. For this episode let us join the emperor of early modernism, Professor James Daybell and the narrator of naval times, Dr Sam Willis, as they pick up their quills and draft the unexpected history of the pen. Our historical scribblers will take you on a journey from Jean de Beau Chesne and John Baildon’s 1571 English writing manual to Sam’s own rocker blotter made from the teak of HMS Iron Duke, from Jane Austen’s sloping writing desk to the Folger Shakespeare Library and Elizabethan wax table books, and from Thomas Jefferson’s 1806 polygraph machine to the author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson.

James and Sam will illuminate the links to discover that this unexpected history is actually about; aspirations, portability, process, personality, individuality and introspection, and hills, well okay maybe not hills, but definitely slopes. Want to know how to pick just the right quill? Want to discover what the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century travelling scribe about town never left home without? Want to know who won in a fight between a swan and a dog?


“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”    (Malala Yousafz)

“Yea, from the table of my memory

I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,”     (Shakespeare, Hamlet).

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