Eberhard Faber Assortments

Eberhard Faber Van Dyke Set 19161916

The Graphic Arts and Crafts Year Book1907

Eberhard Faber Novelty Case for Children 19161916

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Glenn Gould, une vie à contretemps.


Artist Sandrine Revel has published a new book: Glenn Gould, une vie à contretemps. 

It’s not enough to call it an illustrated biography of Gould; it’s also a performance in and of itself. It’s the evidence of an inward journey, a pursuit to capture and visually express an experience that is in one sense profoundly personal and singular, yet at the same time deeply-shared among Gould’s admirers; similar perhaps to the “ecstatic experience” he pursued his entire, albeit abbreviated, life.

gg2© 2015 Dargaud

I’ve been reading and writing about Glenn Gould for most of my professional life, and I’m constantly amazed by the continued diversity and richness found in the multi-disciplinary presentations of his life and work. It’s difficult to think of many other musicians who have had their legacies and cultural impact so described in books of poetry, plays, sculptures, paintings, audio essays, films, and multimedia installations, etc. It’s almost if words aren’t the appropriate place to start.

While there are several excellent biographies written about Glenn Gould, perhaps the contrapuntal nature of his life and the intensity of his work require similar modes of expression in pursuit of their description—a contrapuntal answer to frame its subject, giving rise to episodes and counter-expositions.

Sandrine Revel’s website is here, and the publisher of the book can be found here.

N.B. I have only seen a preview of the book and am not affiliated with the author or the publisher.

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Eberhard Faber Empress 434

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601, 602, 603

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‘Winging It

Anyone who has searched eBay for vintage pencils knows how daunting it can sometimes be. You could spend a lifetime scrolling through page after page of “pencils” so you add qualifiers to your search, but your results only account for those who have spelled things correctly in the auction titles and descriptions. And searching by category only helps if the seller listed the items in sensible groups to begin with (e.g.  “collectibles” vs. “home and garden”).

“Junk drawer” auctions can be interesting, but they require even more vigilance when it comes to examining the (often) distant and/or blurry pictures that are provided. Still though, one such auction yielded a 19th-century A.W. Faber Artists’ Pencil leadholder (among other things) for a few dollars, so it can be worth the effort. But this recent find makes me wonder how much must get overlooked on a daily basis:


As it was listed there wasn’t too much to get excited about: mainly colored pencils, but the box of Black Warriors might be nice (though they were grade 2.5). What grabbed my attention was the Eberhard Faber box in the background—it was the taller kind, the ones that were used for the Blackwing and Microtomic pencils to accommodate the clamp ferrules. But there was no mention of such in the description, and even more frustratingly there was no photo of the box flaps, which would have the brand name printed on it.

However, there was one photo of the Berol box where you could barely see the end of the Eberhard Faber box. The built-in magnification tool revealed the following:


Blackwing 602. Still, there was no guarantee—for all I knew there were more Colorbrite pencils stuffed in there just to make use of the box. But I decided to wing it and kept my fingers crossed.

The items arrived yesterday, on National Pencil Day no less, and inside the box were 13 unsharpened genuine Blackwing pencils—not to mention the Black Warriors and a few dozen colored pencils from Eberhard Faber. I was the only bidder; the total was less than $20:


Luck? Perhaps. Or maybe—just maybe—it’s the first documented National Pencil Day miracle.

(That, or I just spend too much time online looking for pencils and the law of large numbers finally kicked in.)

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National Pencil Day, 2015

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Pencils in MANH(A)TTAN

“MANH(A)TTAN” is a series from WGN America about the race to build the first atomic bomb. Set in 1943 it follows the lives of mostly fictional characters, though they are based on people who actually worked at Los Alamos.

There are many scenes set in laboratories so there are all kinds of pencils to be seen (so far, the Ticonderoga is the most recognizable). In the middle of the season you get a glimpse at the competition: the laboratory of Werner Heisenberg in Germany, which has a conspicuously placed box:

manhattanWGN America

What I’d like to know is, would a 1940s Staedtler pencil box—found in a lab in Nazi Germany—have English writing on its side? Perhaps it would. Or perhaps it’s because one can’t know the position of the box and its momentum simultaneously. (Something also tells me that the laboratory desk of a German physicist probably wouldn’t have been so disorganized.) Either way it was an impressive example of set-dressing detail.

(Since I’m not very knowledgable of Staedtler and their history I will leave it to others to tell us if they are Noris or Tradition pencils, or something else altogether.)

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From bleistiftschmerz or, ‘pencil weariness': the distance measured between the imagined, hoped-for quality of an unknown vintage pencil, and the thorns of pitiless reality.

(Note to self: Don’t be swayed by the word “special”, even if it is stamped on the barrel.)

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No. 1548


This Eberhard Faber flat pocket pencil has got me wondering something. It’s similar in design to countless other versions made by the company but this one has a clamp eraser, and the patent date for the clamp is embossed on the body of the holder. This means that 1921 is the earliest possible date for its manufacture (NB: the eraser is slightly larger than those used for clamp-bearing pencils like the Van Dyke and Blackwing.)


Here is an advertisement for an earlier version of the 1548, which had a slightly different finish, but take a look at the eraser:


It looks like there is a clip holding in the eraser, just like with the clamp design. The thing is though, the advertisement is from 1902.

It’s not unusual for products to enter the market prior to their patent or trademark date, but 19 years ahead of time is a bit much. There were previous designs on the lead-up to the clamp, such as this one:


And it may be that the illustration is of something similar, but it has me wondering how long it took Lothar Washington Faber to finalize his design.

This also means that flat pocket pencils were being manufactured at least up until 1921; when did they finally fall out of favor?


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Eberhard Faber Hevi-Check 6339


I had always thought of the Hevi-Check as being a colored pencil: either red, blue, or half of each. It turns out there was a graphite version too.


It’s an oversized pencil, and so has a large lead core. I assumed it would probably write something like the Editor pencil or others in the same category, such as the Draughting 314RavenSpecial BlackNewsEbony, etc. Instead it’s more like an American No. 1—more powdery than waxy, and it holds a point for a long time.


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