BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
In a fast-paced world where typing on a computer (or cell phone) has largely supplanted handwriting, few things seem more antiquated than the fountain pen. But this venerable writing instrument still has its adherents.
Among them is Matt Borders of The Briar & The Burley on the downtown Square, which stocks a selection that is, locally, second to none. “The average person just thinks a pen is a pen is a pen,” says Borders. “But when you get into fountain pens, the ink flows so smoothly … it’s really a joy to use. I still use a fountain pen to write most stuff, including checks.”
A fountain pen is defined as a pen with an internal reservoir of liquid ink and a tapered metal nib into which the ink flows by gravity and surface tension. The fountain pen in its current form dates back roughly to 1850. Its flexible nib allows the writer to create dynamic lines of varying widths, not unlike a paintbrush.
The Briar & The Burley carries models by Parker, Waterman, Faber-Castell, and Porsche Design, and prices run from $30-40 for a basic model to upwards of $500 for the highest-end pens. For ink, aspiring scribes can choose from black, blue, red, and brown, both bottled and in cartridges.
The shop also offers rollerball pens, “sort of a compromise between a ballpoint and a fountain pen,” explains Borders. They use liquid ink, as opposed to the paste ink found in ballpoints, and their nibs can withstand far more punishment than the tips of fountain pens.
“A lot of folks just prefer to write rather than type,” says Borders. Customers who purchase pens from The Briar & The Burley range widely in age, he claims, and include collectors, gift-givers (especially at graduation), and students who are rediscovering the art of handwriting.
Pygmalion’s Art Supplies also carries a basic fountain pen starter kit, made by Art Alternatives, for $22.49. These no-frills pens are an affordable entry into the world of fine penmanship, says owner John Wilson. “But if you want a traditional fountain pen,” says Wilson, “I would send you down to The Briar & The Burley!”