writing and drawing implement using liquid or paste ink
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Pens are devices used to apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used, with a nib of some sort to be dipped in the ink. Ruling pens allow precise adjustment of line width, and still find a few specialized uses, but technical pens such as the Rapidograph are more commonly used. Modern types also include ballpoint, rollerball, fountain, and felt or ceramic tip pens.


  • Whose noble praise
    Deserves a quill pluckt from an angel's wing.
  • Beneath the rule of men entirely great
    The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • Take away the sword;
    States can be saved without it; bring the pen!
  • Hinc quam sit calamus sævior euse, patet.
    • From this it appears how much more cruel the pen may be than the sword.
    • Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), Part I, Section XXI. Mem. 4. Subsec. 4.
  • Oh! nature's noblest gift—my gray-goose quill!
    Slave of my thoughts, obedient to my will,
    Torn from thy parent-bird to form a pen,
    That mighty instrument of little men!
    • Lord Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers (1809), line 7.
  • The pen wherewith thou dost so heavenly sing
    Made of a quill from an angel's wing.
    • Henry Constable, Sonnet, found in Notes to Todd's Milton, Volume V, p. 454 (Ed. 1826).
  • While the language of the lips is fleeting as the breath itself, and confined to a single spot as well as to a single moment, the language of the pen enjoys, in many instances, an adamantine existence, and will only perish amid the ruins of the globe. Before its mighty touch time and space become annihilated; it joins epoch to epoch, and pole to pole.[…] But for this, everything would be doubt, and darkness, and death-shade; all knowledge would be traditionary and all experience local; civilized life would relapse into barbarism, and man would have to run through his little, and comparatively insignificant round of existence, the perpetual sport of ignorance and error, uninstructed by science, unregulated by laws, and unconsoled by Revelation.
    • John Mason Good, The Book of Nature (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1834), Series II, Lecture X, pp. 288–289.
  • When a filled pen is held point downwards, the ink it contains is acted on by a variety of forces, among which may be reckoned gravity, inertia, capillary attraction, air pressure, friction, and the viscosity of the liquid, as well as several minor forces. If the pen is properly made, these forces are in a state of equilibrium, and the ink does not run out of the reservoir. As soon, however, as the point touches a surface it is capable of wetting, the action of the capillary attraction is altered, with the result that the ink is enabled to flow from the reservoir, and that the pen writes.
  • The swifter hand doth the swift words outrun:
    Before the tongue hath spoke the hand hath done.
    • Martial, Epigrams (c. 80-104 AD), Book XIV, Epigram 208. Translation by Wright (on a shorthand writer).
  • Qu'on me donne six lignes écrites de la main du plus honnête homme, j'y trouverai de quoi le faire pendre.
    • If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.
    • Attributed to Richelieu by Fournier, L'Esprit dans l'Histoire (1883), Chapter XLI, p. 255.
  • Tant la plume a eu sous le roi d'avantage sur l'épée.
    • So far had the pen, under the king, the superiority over the sword.
    • Henri de Saint-Simon, Mémoires, Volume III (1702; Ed. 1856), p. 517.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 592-93.
  • Art thou a pen, whose task shall be
    To drown in ink
    What writers think?
    Oh, wisely write,
    That pages white
    Be not the worse for ink and thee.
  • For what made that in glory shine so long
    But poets' Pens, pluckt from Archangels' wings?
  • Anser, apie, vitellus, populus et regna gubernant.
    • Goose [pen] bee [wax] and calf [parchment] govern the world.
    • Quoted by James Howell. Letters, Book II. Letter 2.
  • The sacred Dove a quill did lend
    From her high-soaring wing.
    • F. Nethersole. Prefixed to Giles Fletcher's Christ's Victorie.
  • Non sest aliena res, quæ fere ab honestis negligi solet, cura bene ac velociter scribendi.
    • Men of quality are in the wrong to undervalue, as they often do, the practise of a fair and quick hand in writing; for it is no immaterial accomplishment.
    • Quintilian, De Institutione Oratorio, I. 5.
  • You write with ease, to show your breeding, But easy writing's curst hard reading.
  • The feather, whence the pen
    Was shaped that traced the lives of these good men,
    Dropped from an Angel's wing.
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