It wasn’t until Matthias from Bleistift clued me in on Schnapszahlen that I began to understand many of the anniversary-related products Faber-Castell has offered over the years. Milestones such as their 250th anniversary made sense, but…their 222nd?
To be honest I was a little cynical when I first saw that 222nd anniversary set years ago. It gave me the impression of an overburdened marketing director sitting at a desk, missing out on Christmas dinner with the family, staring blankly at the big red circle around January 1st on the calendar, muttering over and over again: “I must think of something. I must think of something…”
As its turns out, in some parts of the world those types of anniversary numbers are worth celebrating every bit as much as the rounded ones.
Schnapszahlen are an example of “repdigits”: numbers that enjoy a slightly elevated sense of privilege owing to their repeated digits. They are palindromes by nature and in certain instances, express symmetry.
So it all made perfect sense when I first saw this new Faber-Castell gift set, celebrating the 111th anniversary of the Castell 9000: the perfect National Pencil Day* gift for the pencil- blogging musician(s) in your life.
While searching through periodicals from the turn of the twentieth century, I often come across travel notices: lists and lists of ships and the souls they carried onboard, with the occasional spotlight on the more well-to-do. It must have been very exciting for first-time travelers, and a point of pride for them to have had their names published in the newspaper.
The following notice from 1927 tells of a trip taken by the Fabers to Europe:
With Neumarkt so close to Stein I’m curious to know if Eberhard Faber stopped by A.W. Faber-Castell. He interned there as a young man (when he was still John Robert Faber), but had to return home to New York upon the passing of his father. Years of lawsuits between the two companies ceased around 1913 but I’m not certain if Eberhard Faber II ever came in contact with Count Alexander (who died the following year). Alexander’s son, Count Roland, took over the company in 1928.
An expression I like to use, Bleistifte sind geduldig (pencils are patient), is a variation of the more well-known expression Papier ist geduldig (paper is patient). I thought of both when I saw this pencil, but a third also came to mind: Bleistifte beschweren sich nie (pencils never complain).
The pencil above was fashioned by my brother, who is a pediatric physical therapist. I’m told that the added weight of the pencil helps with a child’s sense of proprioception, that is, the stimuli and responses related to the position and movement of the body. This is especially important with kids who have cerebral palsy.
Seeing this pencil strapped with the added weight is what brought about the notion of pencils never complaining—some metaphor I was going for about the weight we sometimes carry with our work. But what dawned on me was the silent burden that those children bear, and the remarkable way how they—and the people dedicated to helping them—do so without complaint.
Commemorating 130 years, the Mitsubishi Pencil Company has issued limited-edition sets of their Uni and Hi-uni pencils.
The quality of the finish is as high as it has ever been, though these are made a little more special with the inclusion of my name in Katakana. So if I happen to lose one of these on the train to Tokyo, the odds that it will be returned to me have now dramatically improved.
The Hi-uni art set has also received the anniversary treatment:
The range of this set encompasses 22 discrete grades of hardness.
Each of the three sets comes with a small lined notebook, whose paper is incredibly smooth and rather thick—it’s a shame they are not offered separately.
Special thanks to my friend Yumiko!
Does it hold only magic pencils?
If the holder itself is where the magic happens, then using a card to remove it (as suggested by the manufacturer) might be giving away the secret.
But this item looks less magical than it does dangerous, even for 1890 (when this advertisement appeared). I think I’d rather take my chances running with scissors than taking a spill with this thing (and the sharpened pencil it’s holding) attached to my shirt.
© Thomas Scherer 2016
Some 2,000 citizens joined the family of Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell last night in Stein, walking silently behind the horse-drawn carriage which bore the Count, to hold vigil at Martin-Luther-Kirche. Members of the fire brigade held torches to illuminate the route:
© Thomas Scherer 2016
Funeral services will be held at Martin-Luther-Kirche on Friday and a video feed will also be sent to Stein’s town hall, owing to the church’s capacity of only 340 persons. You can read more at Nordbayern.de, and at tvbayern.de.
This is an Eberhard Faber Van Dyke 601 pencil with a paper insert, explaining how to lengthen the clamp eraser. I’m speculating that this insert was a forerunner to the cutout arrow found on later ferrules:
It seems the company didn’t want to leave anything to chance, and so printed the same instructions on the barrel of the pencil:
In case those two clues got past you, there was always the cover of the box to remind you:
The paper tag is interesting though. I wonder if it was part of an automated process, and if so, whether new machinery was designed for it or if existing machines were modified. My guess is that it was done by hand during finishing and packaging. But seeing how it would have been such a time-intensive procedure, I also wonder if those tags might have been used only on display pencils, and/or part of salesman’s sample kits.
A repeat appearance, but worth repeating.