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I love writing letters. I love receiving letters too – a happy coincidence – but I find something especially cathartic about penning a missive. It is just one of my many contradictions that while I embrace the demise of the physical book, I find greater enjoyment in writing a letter than an e-mail. I guess it’s some sort of zen, balance-seeking, yin-yang-type thing.

To this end, it has been a Long-Term Life Goal of mine to one day own a set of dip-pens- the type with which one might scrawl an edict on vellum by the guttering light of two-score wax candles. And Lo – it is done! When in Dublin a few weeks ago I finally found what I was looking for, a nice introductory set of nibs with ink. My appetite had been whetted by the setting – for I had just seen the Book of Kells and the Long Room library – and I was in the customary gift-store. So I bought a gift. For myself…

But my journey had only just begun – for once I bore the tools safely home and brandished them to write a letter, my granny to her cabinet went, and brought forth variouse divers pens which she bestowed upon me to use. Among these were an example of the type of dip-pen she used in grade school, and a set of tiny things – scarcely needles – which my dad allegedly used for drafting in university, with which one can achieve astounding feats of miniturism.

I’ve written several letters with the pens thus far and I must say I really enjoy using them. I have been told that fountain pens and dip pens improve one’s writing. I did a comparative study, thus (click photo for higher resolution):

Its hard to be sure if one is really neater. I tend to believe the dip pens looks neater, but I am willing to put this down to confirmation bias. You decide! What I do assert, though, is that what the dip-pen writing lacks in extra neatness, it makes up for in bountiful character. That’s the good kind of character, not the type you were promised for eating your broccoli. And one certainly has to slow down and write more deliberately; lest one suffers an ink-smudge (as pictured above). I’m still getting the hang of even ink-coverage. I start a line with too much, and end up with too little, so the the lines take on a dizzying, uneven texture. But these, too, add a certain… je ne sais quoi. Or as the French would say, an “I don’t know what“.

But there is one thing which cannot be disputed by any force of FSM or earth: Dip-pens make for some seriously badass elvish:

I especially like the way “Benjamin” turned out. Let’s see you do that with a cheap biro!