Pencils
[ Issue 9 ]

Pencils hold a lot of interest for Emily Bronto

Permit Bikwil to reveal the delights of Pencils

Pencils

Fizzgig wants to know about pencils.   Can anyone assist?
 

The whole question is intriguing, and any light that readers can shine on it will be most welcome. Are there one or two calligraphers out there able to help?

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From the Back Verandah Fizzgig

Copyright


Perhaps you can assist. I'm trying to find out when pencils began being graded as "H" for "Hard" and "B" for "Black". It's certainly far earlier than I would have thought, as the following quote attests. The author is Robert Hay, one of those Englishmen of means who became artist-travellers dedicated to recording information about ancient Egyptian monuments. It is 1824 and Hay is working at the Great Temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel:

The paper becomes quite damp with the atmosphere and a very curious thing I have remarked is that an HH pencil which is in this climate as soft as an HB in a cold climate becomes so hard that it even scratches the paper . . . on quitting the temple is soft again.

Did you notice the "HH" (as opposed to "2H")? It could be that there were two stages in this labelling of pencils: originally they may have been marked "BBB", for example, then at some later date this got abbreviated to "3B", etc. I suspect, too, that this method may be confined to the UK and its old dominions, because there seems to be a different grading system in the United States, which goes "1, 2, 3 . . .", though this may be just for school pencils.

Anyway, the whole question is intriguing, and any light that readers can shine on it will be most welcome. Are there one or two calligraphers out there able to help?

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