Combination Retractable Pen and Pencil

This 3-3/4" ornate square silver handle has two slides. One extends a round holder in which a pencil lead appears to be inserted. (Similar instruments sometimes had pricking points for use in creating and duplicating engineering drawings.) The other slide extends a pen point.
The top of the handle unscrews so that the user can adjust a ring collar marked with the first letters of the days of the week (in French): L, M, M, J, V, S, D. The ring sits atop 7 columns of 4–5 numbers (1, 8, 15, 22, 29; 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; and so on). By adjusting the ring, one can use these numbers as the calendar for any month. The dates of objects purchased with this writing instrument and the increasing availability of metal nibs suggest it was made in the late 18th century.
Reference: Howard Dawes, Instruments of the Imagination: A History of Drawing Instruments in Britain, 1600–1850 (n.p.: The Dawes Trust Ltd., 2009), 5.
Currently not on view
date made
late 18th century
place made
Physical Description
silver (overall material)
overall: 1 cm x 1 cm x 9.5 cm; 13/32 in x 13/32 in x 3 3/4 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Drawing Instruments
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Pens and Pencils
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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