Graphite Pencil: The English invent an erasable marker
“A short pencil is more reliable than the longest memory.” by Proverb
The graphite pencil was invented in England in 1564 following the discovery of an extensive deposit of pure graphite at Seathwaite Fell near Borrowdale in Cumbria. The Borrowdale deposit was so pure it could be cut into sheets and subsequently into tiny square-profile lengths. The material left a darker mark than other less pure graphite composites, possessed a greasy texture was extremely brittle and quickly dirtied the hands of the user, thus requiring some form of protective sheath. However, the fact that it could be erased made it popular alternative to ink.
The first known account of a graphite pencil was written in 1565 by the German scientist Konrad von Gesner. He described a rudimentary lead pencil “enclosed in a wood holder” and it was not until the 1660s that a Keswick joiner hollowed out a piece of wood to create the forerunner of today’s graphite-rod pencil. Graphite was known as blacklead or plumbago (latin “loead ore”) until the new name was coined by the Swedish chemist K.W.Scheele a footnote to his “Treatise on Fossils (1779)”.
The Seathwaite Fell deposit remains the purest deposit of graphite ever found. It was so valuable and easily extracted that in 1752 the British parliament pass a law making the theft of graphite punishable by imprisonment. The first commercial production of pencils began in Nuremberg, Germany in 1761.