My excitement soured but sadly it was only open during the hours of my course. Luckily it was just a short walk away so (unable to miss this opportunity) I decided to go during my lunch break. And boy, I'm so glad I did!
I went in, planning the briefest of visits but was warmly welcomed and offered a guided tour. I decided I would probably learn far more by accepting this offer rather than dashing round on my own, and again, it was a good decision. I learnt so much and I will definitely be going back for a more leisurely visit. But let me take you on the guided tour and show you why:
Making a pen nib is a five stage process and each machine cuts or imprints a different part. I was invited to make my own! I can't use it as the metal would have been hardened after manufacture but it is a lovely keepsake.
The museum is on the site of an original Victorian pen factory and it's hey day Birmingham provided 75% of the worlds pens! Can you imagine how successful and busy this trade must have been! The museum provides a wonderful legacy to that bygone era and is a hidden treasure.
The pens were weighed after production and this 'LOT' is one persons daily production:
There are examples of all kinds of pen nibs, from basic to specialised. I never knew music scores were written with a five point pen nib but it makes sense when you do know!
And then there are the beautiful and specially designed:
In the next room there are display cases of exhibition pieces. Unfortunately it was difficult to get a good photo in the time allowed and with the reflection but these give you some idea of the skill and magnificence of the work:
And other writing related collections were also on display. Beautiful staplers:
Typewriters that you could use...
A machine to print Braille.
What's more, I was invited to print my name. Wonderful!!
And a Stenograph. It seems these did not last long and like the forerunner, shorthand, it had to be transcribed afterwards.
As does the now used taped recordings!
As well as pens there are beautiful ink wells. Does anyone remember using ink at school? My ink came in a bottle or in a small ceramic pot on the corner of my desk. Gosh - I am showing my age!
What a shame most children today don't learn proper handwriting using ink. And even more worrying, I listened to a TED TALK video where Jake Weidmann says that some schools in US are doing away with handwriting altogether and teaching children to write using computers and modern technology.
There are so many reasons we can't let this happen, if only because the physical action of using the hand connects with how we process thought and retain memory. Thank goodness there are people like Jake around who keep the art of writing and using ink alive. Otherwise beautiful penmanship like this would be lost. Do take a moment to view if you can. It is breath taking.
Meanwhile I took the opportunity to quickly write with a quill pen. It was so smooth and easy, and I have been collecting large feathers to make my own quills. I also have a collection of unopened inks in various colours. I don't propose for one minute to try and copy Jake's work but I might play a bit, and show my granddaughters. After all, it is up to our generation to keep this alive too.
If you want to find out more or visit the Pen Museum there is information here.
POSTSCRIPT: In case you miss it, 'Lady Ella' left a comment below and included a link to another interesting read. It seems Finland is also planning to stop teaching children joined up writing.
As the author states 'Handwriting is the face of a person out of sight, as distinctive as their gait, their features or their dress'.
How true!! In the days of real letters arriving through my door I would get excited looking at the distinctive handwriting and guessing who it was from. Somehow an email arriving into my box doesn't have the same thrill, but luckily some of my friends agree that real letters are both a joy to send and receive, and that hand writing is a thing of beauty even if it is not a work of art. So I do still get happy mail and the joy of guessing who it is from, and from hereon I am going to write by hand even more! And I am going to use pen and ink!