The Shakespeare Graphite Mystery
Did Shakespeare ever write with a pencil?
14 April 2022
William Shakespeare was born in 1564. In that same year, if a popular anecdote is to be believed, a large lump of pure graphite was discovered under a fallen tree in Borrowdale, Cumberland.
Both events were to have a huge impact on writing across the world.
The Cumberland graphite proved to be extremely handy for drawing and writing, because it ran smoothly over paper, and also because, unlike ink, the marks could easily be erased - for example by rubbing a piece of bread on them.
Just a year after the graphite discovery, a Swiss man by the name of Gessner published an illustration of graphite in a wooden casing - the first example of what became the pencil. It would be more than 100 years before wooden pencils became established by the famous Cumberland pencil company among others, but before then, graphite sticks wrapped in string became increasingly popular as writing implements.
According to Shakespeare fan Cassidy Cash, it's very likely that Shakespeare would have come across a graphite pencil (see https://www.cassidycash.com/shakespeare-use-graphite-pencil/)
In fact, Cassidy reckons that at some point in his life, Shakespeare probably wrote with one.
That still leaves one question unanswered.
Was it 2B or not 2B?