Imagine if authors from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, were lauded with the same kinds of product endorsements afforded to today’s sports stars. Then we may have seen the “Hemingway Lumograph”, or the “Ayn Rand Microtomic”, or perhaps even the “Capote Mongol”. It’s also interesting to discover what every-day items luminaries used to create their not-so-every-day masterpieces, especially if you share a preference for a particular pad, pen, or pencil.
One of the most frequently cited quotations about the Blackwing comes from John Steinbeck. Late in his life, Paris Review published an article titled “The Art of Fiction”, which hobbled together quotations from across the span of Steinbeck’s career that spoke to the components of his work flow. On page 7, under the section “On Work Habits”, Steinbeck shares an important discovery:
“I have found a new kind of pencil—the best I have ever had. Of course it costs three times as much too but it is black and soft but doesn’t break off. I think I will always use these. They are called Blackwings and they really glide over the paper.”
Joseph McElrath, in his book John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews, reinforces Steinbeck’s fondness for the 602:
“I’m not in the employ of Eberhard Faber, but I regard it as duty to set down his devotion to the Blackwing (“Half The Pressure, Twice The Speed”).
In fact, many well-known authors and musicians had a fondness for Blackwings as we’ll see in future posts. There is even a significant body of citations for Blackwings in fiction works as well, and in more than one instance, boxes of this pencil are offered as prizes for readers of literary magazines, so it seems this pencil enjoyed an excellent reputation during its lifetime. This makes one wonder, then, about the pencil’s eventual decline: is it connected only to “technosprawl”, or was it something else?