Stuff For Sale, And a Sneak Peek at an Old Sheaffer

I’ve got a couple of notebook items I need to get rid of (including an elusive Seven Seas notebook!) so I’ve created a new page for them here: items for sale.

To keep this post pen-related, here’s a sneak peek of what I’ve been working on lately:

This is a Sheaffer Balance Sovereign c. 1938-1942. It’s one of six old Sheaffers I picked up this weekend. Unfortunately, the square-ish plastic bit near the top of the photo is broken off from the feed. 😦 And one of the tines on the nib was broken, so I ground it down into an italic. I plan on turning this pen into an eyedropper until I can find a suitable donor pen to refurbish the vacuum-filler with.

If guests at Deetjen’s could access Wi-Fi or peck away at cell phones in their cabins, perhaps fewer people would spend hours curled up with the journals. (The isolation from the breaking-news feed is total: Berto, for instance, who stayed at Deetjen’s on September 11, 2001, mentions only cheese and wine and Castro Cabin’s cozy front porch.) It’s become commonplace to ruminate on the ways social media estrange us, or how emails confound style and epistolary grace. But each time I visit Deetjen’s I’m reminded of the extraordinarily deep connections I feel with these other vulnerable, wondering pilgrims. I see their ropy cursive, their off-kilter printing, their gestural sketches and I touch the pages with my hand. None of which I could do at my computer screen. None of which has anything to do with humble-brags, polemical rants, or gratuitous selfies. Here, there’s a tangible space—nine-by-twenty, creekside—for the self to slowly unfold.

—Anna Journey, “A Close Reading of the Greatest Guest Book in the World

Librarians Don’t Have Time For Your Flourishes


Influenced by Edison and honed via experimenting on patient, hand-sore librarians, library hand focused on uniformity rather than beauty. “The handwriting of the old-fashioned writing master is quite as illegible as that of the most illiterate boor,” readNew York State Library School handbook. “Take great pains to have all writing uniform in size, blackness of lines, slant, spacing and forms of letters,” wrote Dewey in 1887. And if librarians thought they could get away with just any black ink, they could think again real fast. “Inks called black vary much in color,” scoffed the New York State Library School handwriting guide.

—Ella Morton, Atlas Obscura, “Library Hand, the Fastidiously Neat Penmanship Style Made for Card Catalogs