Thursday, 10 March 2016

Jane Austen's Harriet Smith, Pencils and Tunbridge Ware

The pencil stub that for a time meant so much to Harriet Smith set me wondering how long pencils as we know them have been in existence.

I discovered that pencils had existed for a long time. At first, sticks of graphite were wrapped in string. Later, the graphite was inserted into wooden sticks that had been hollowed-out by hand. The wood-cased pencil was born. 

I took this photo at the famous Pencil Museum in England's Lake District.
The first mass-produced pencils were made in Nuremberg, Germany in 1662.

Incidentally, Harriet’s treasures are kept in a Tunbridge Ware box. Tunbridge Ware was popular at the time. Quite expensive decorated wooden boxes and wooden toys were manufactured in Tonbridge. Several shops in the Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, were noted for selling them.