“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle.” ~ Marilyn Monroe

Image representing Creative Commons as depicte...

So this showed up in my e-mail today regarding this post:


I noticed on your blog that you state: “Please don’t appropriate my words or pictures without contacting me first. This blog may be linked to other blogs or websites.”

I hope that you will extend the same courtesy to me, since the images on your Blackwing pencils post are from my website, blackwingpages.com. And the quote with which you begin your post was first posted on my site as well.

Sean Malone

It appears I have erred again. Here is my response to Mr. Malone:

Dear Sean Malone,
Please let me clarify one thing: I did not find that image on your blog. I found it while doing a search on Google Images with the qualifier “creative commons.” If you do the same search, you will find the image. Unfortunately, your image is associated with several articles on the web, and it is from those articles that I gleaned my information for my post: The Hollywood Reporter, Dangerous Minds, and The Daily News (and of course, the Blackwing site). What spawned my interest in Blackwings was a post on tumblr; unfortunately, I do not remember which post.

The quote originates from The Paris Review, one of its “The Art of” series. I may have found the quote on your site. I honestly do not know. I quote from The Paris Review frequently.

I’m not trying to be pedantic here, only to explain. Yes, the image is yours, but I did not take it from your site, as I have explained. I use the creative commons tag when doing image searches. That I found the image on several sites without attribution led me to believe–erroneously, obviously–that it was an image that could be used under fair use. I am truly sorry that your image has been appropriated, and I will remove it from the post if that is what you would prefer, or I could reference it, link it, and name you as its creator. I will abide by whatever you wish.

Please know that I try very hard to do my due diligence. When I find the same general information on many sites, that indicates that the information is in the public domain. However, the big caveat here is that because we are now a digital world, public domain is a term that is wracked with inaccuracies, as is shown by the number of people on the web who used your image without attribution. It is a double-edged sword that we work under in our desire to share our interests with those out there in the ether, never knowing what tack that information will take on its journey.

This has been an overlong explanation and apology. I do want to say that I just spent a good amount of time perusing your site, and it is a wonderful harbinger of information on the Blackwing.

Again, my apologies. Please let me know how you wish me to proceed.


So this is my question to you: Do I sound bitchy (because I really wasn’t trying to be)?


“I’m not in the employ of Eberhard Faber, but I regard it as duty to set down his devotion to the Blackwing.” ~ Joseph McElrath, from John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews

Vladimir Nabokov writing draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil getty image
Vladimir Nabokov writing a draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil
(Getty Image attributed to his wife Vera)

Writers are a funny bunch . . . I have always insisted on using Ticonderoga #1 pencils because of the softness of the lead. Believe me this desire has caused consternation for many an office manager.  Then there is my need to write on graph paper, usually four lines per inch; I even use a grid when working in Word, which has frustrated many people when I send them a document that still has the visible grid.

Oh well.

In fact, I’m down to my last box of #1 pencils, but my goal is to replace these yellow Ticonderogas with Blackwings . . . some day.


Blackwing 602 by ursonate fcc
Vintage Blackwing 602
by ursonate (FCC)

When Eberhard Faber discontinued production of the original Blackwing in 1998 because of production costs, original 602’s could be found on E Bay for as much as $50 per pencil. Devotion is a wicked mistress.

“Since the pencil’s introduction in the 1930s, the Blackwing has developed a cult following of artists, writers, and designers. Vladimir Nabokov preferred Blackwings for sketching out his novels on index cards, Truman Capote kept boxes of them on his nightstand, and John Steinbeck once declared the the pencil  ‘the best I have ever had.’ (He used some 300 of them to complete East of Eden.) The pencils have appeared on “Mad Men” and in the hands of the likes of Quincy Jones and Stephen Sondheim.”

~ Margaret Eby, An ode to the Blackwing 602, Vladimir Nabokov’s favorite pencil


From the Palomino website:

Palomino founder and CEO Charles Berolzheimer re-introduced the Blackwing pencil in 2011, both in its original form (the “602″) for devotees, writers and everyday users, as well as a modified version with a slightly softer lead for artists.

Some of the world’s most legendary Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer and Academy Award winners have created with Blackwing pencils. The list of known users includes John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Chuck Jones, who proudly used Blackwings to create Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters.

Its roots go back to the 1930’s when it was first introduced by Eberhard Faber. In 1998, after several corporate acquisitions, it was discontinued, but not forgotten. In fact, fans began paying as much as $40 on eBay for a single Blackwing pencil.