By Abdullah Ismail

Pencils are my passion, my emotion, sentiments, and perhaps I live for pencils.

In 1955 my family decided to put up a pencil factory in Pakistan. I was a student of Class-8. In those days we were importers of pencils from Faber-Castell and Staedtler.

We started making pencils in 1955 with German technology. After completing my studies, I joined my family business. Because we were in the pencil making business I started collecting pencils of all makes, and I still do. It has been over 40 years that I have collected and bought pencils of all origins, but they must be something unique. I have about 10000 pencils, mostly purchased or received from a friend.

I found myself travelling for pencils. I had information from a friend that he saw hand-made pencils at an airport bookstore in Singapore, and believe me, I flew to Singapore to buy some hand-made pencils. Later I could not find these pencils. Once I traveled all the way to China to see a pencil factory upon invitation and for technical advice.

I have very unique types of pencils, other than the hand-made pencils; pencils with grip cuts, made in America, the pencils that change color when held in the hand, given to me by Jeannine Zuber-Naubauer of Fr.Ehrhardt, Germany, pencils showing temperature, pencils made of finger joint slats, pencils showing horoscopes, cosmetic pencils, carpenters pencils, pencils made of recycled material (not wood), plastic pencils, surface treated pencils, printed pattern pencils, a variety of transfer film pencils etc.

I have spent thousands of dollars for my hobby pencil collection. Since 1958 I started collecting information and articles published about pencils ----- with no idea as to the purpose of collecting articles on pencil history. This lead me to consider writing a book not only on pencils, but also including its history, manufacturing and technology. The book is in its final stages. Many leading foreign pencil makers have contributed articles and many have granted me permission to include information. In short this book will be of immense interest for general readers, informative and helpful for manufacturers, and indispensable for those who want to enter the pencil making business. I have made sure that this book is far different than that of a book on pencils written by Henry Petroski.

Maybe I'll qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records; I am contacting them.

Abdullah Ismail
Venus Pencil Co. (PVT) Ltd.

Webmaster Note: Mr. Ismail has written a book about the history of the pencil industry, which includes a compilation of histories written by numerous authors, along with a wealth of additional information about the pencil industry and pencils in general.

Here are just a few excerpts from the book:

The real impetus to the pencil's progress came with the discovery that it was graphite, not metallic lead, that formed the best writing material. This innovation, dating from about 1550, has a touch of romance about it. One morning, up on the craggy pastures of the English Lake District in Borrowdale, near Keswick, the shepherds were out, anxious for the safety of their sheep following a violent storm the previous night. Up on the mountain called Glaramara, in the Seathwaite Valley, they noticed that a number of trees had been blown down, tearing away the mountain subsoil as they fell and leaving exposed to view large masses of strange black material. Pieces of this odd stuff were later dug out and the shepherds thought at first that it was coal - but it would not burn. Quite by chance they discovered it was excellent for marking sheep. It was, of course, an untouched deposit of graphite or pure soft black carbon of probably volcanic origin.
Consider the pencil . The ubiquitous, yellow (mostly), seven-inch, two-for-a-quarter lead pencil-the simplest, most convenient, least expensive of all writing instruments. The most useful, least-appreciated, most stolen article in the world.. The foot soldier of writing. Servant of poet and banker alike. Companion of deep-sea diver and astronaut. Mightier than the pen or the sword. Nevertheless , the pencil is taken for granted-as though it had no mystery, no background, no wonder.

The wood-cased pencil is, perhaps, man's closest approach to perfection. The modern pencil can draw a line 35 miles long, write an average of 45,000 words and absorb 17 sharpening. It is nearly weight-less and totally portable. It deletes its own errors but does not give off radiation. It doesn't leak and never needs a ribbon change, isn't subject to power surges, and is chewable. You could eat one every day without harming yourself. Any legal document that does not expressly forbid it can be executed with a pencil.

From Lyra in Germany we get a story, going back to a small country in Africa, even before the "underdeveloped" countries graduated to "developing" countries, which placed an order for pencils that had to be extra cheap and to accomplish this they not even require the pencils to contain leads. It turned out to be solely for people who wanted to wear these pencils behind their ears as status symbols to create the impression that they could write.
"Here's how safe the pencil is. Any human being, regardless of age, can eat at least one pencil a day without suffering any injurious effects to his health."

For information about the book, contact:

Abdullah Ismail
Suite 8-38, Arkay Square, Shahrah Liaquat,
Karachi.74000 - Pakistan
Phone: 92-21-2416495

© 2002