Sunday, August 18, 2013

scripto ergo sum

“When you are first starting to write,
you don’t need to buy a whole lot of things.
What you need most is a fierce desire to put things down on paper;
and you need a certain sensibility, a way of seeing and feeling.”

~ Elizabeth Berg, Escaping Into the Open

For many people, in many parts of the world, this time of the year anticipates the liminal season that sees the late summer dovetail into early autumn. Northern New Englanders still have many shirtsleeve days of picnic temperatures, yet we can sense the transition. Light patterns and air currents call to mind what many call “back to school” season. Whether we are current students, recent graduates, instructors, or those whose school days reach into the previous century, this week’s cooler breezes are familiar old songs. As with music closely held, each of us have our own references for changing skies and passages of time.

Late August remains a slide toward Labor Day weekend. In childhood, summer camp ended at about this time, and the weeks leading into the start of the school year provided a breather. Later on, work schedule changes paved a gradual way into the collegiate routines. And still later on, the season became one of lesson plan resurrection. Time calls us inside from outdoor wanderings, sandlots, bug bites, popsicles, and shorts; life aligns with the seasons. Not surprisingly, this writer remembers the annual re-equipping for the academic year. The images of new shoes- and their aromas- come to mind. Fresh new notebooks, pencils, and other related materials, heralded the new embarkation. As with the new shoes and backpacks, the unused supplies had their own memorable aromas that came to associate with new ventures.

In this seasonal spirit, I’ve called upon my friend and fellow New Englander Mr. Roger Russell, who thankfully keeps numerous Scripto pencil writers renewed and refreshed with his inventory. Vaguely remembering the translucent, telescoped-graphite Scripto from distant childhood, these sturdy mechanical instruments were more recently brought to mind by an elderly colleague. I’ve rounded up enough of the tools to be able to apply Scriptos in larger archival processing group projects. Archival notation must be done in graphite, and alongside wooden pencils, the Scripto thickness is as bold as it is consistent. The graphite refill is as long as the holder itself, extending and retracting by twisting the eraser holder. To me, Scripto is “the fountain pen of pencils.”

Mr. Russell and my senior colleagues remind me of how long Scriptos have been around. The company name dates back more than 80 years, and although the pencils have not been manufactured in nearly 20 years, these resilient American-made tools can be found in many a desk drawer. Mr. Russell’s shop selection includes new Scriptos, along with refills of varying grades and colors. He has authored a Scripto history page which is colorful and informative. He also writes his observations related to backcountry hiking, but he tells me he is neither collector nor creative writer:

“I am more of a scientist than anything else and have other pages I have written about radium, gold and copper. Perhaps someday I will write about carbon that has an atomic weight of only six and exists in so many different forms. It does relate to the carbon used in pencils and the various blends that make the different grades of leads.”

His home page can be found here, and among its extensions there may be more you will want to bookmark. With gratitude, whether une vie en graphite is pursued by an engineer or an artist, the continuation of craftsmanship is equally essential. Here’s wishing all of you good seasons of creativity.


Joe V said...

Beautiful post. My Grandmother used these Scripto pencils everyday. I especially remember her doing the crossword puzzle with them. Thanks for the memories, and the link.

Bill M said...

I have not given thought to my old Scripto pencil until I read your post. You bring good memories back into my mind. I went through most of my life from about 3rd or 4th grade to college with the same translucent green Scripto. I wonder if it is still in my old pencil box where I found my fountain pens that started my fountain pen and typewriter collecting or I lost it years ago when I switched to Pentel & Staedler technical lead holders.

crofter said...

Thank you for this, I have several of these that I have not been able to find lead for in a long time, not that I was looking very hard, and what was left of the erasers were like rocks! I will order what I need, and I guess that old saying is true, "even a blind dog gets a bone once in a while!"

Thanks again.

TonysVision said...

A perfect post. Filled with the delightful smell of the changing season and new school supplies, with the added dash of the bit about Scripto pencils. A good reason to dig into the back of desk drawers, and that box in the basement labeled "Mon's desk".

Wordherder said...

I love my Scriptos and I found this website a long time ago. I grew up buying them in those blister packs at those ancient dispensaries called "Dime Stores" though most things cost more than a dime by that time! They had the feature of self-lubrication with that graphite on the inside of the barrel and I love the fat "lead" that they use as I am constantly snapping those tiny and brittle 0.7 mm ones and I've not use whatsoever for the 0.5 mm things!

Sharon said...

Wonderful writing as always.I well remember these.Thanks for the walk down memory lane.~Sharon