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Petroski Henry. The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance

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Petroski Henry. The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance
NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2010. — 522 p. — ISBN 978-0-307-77243-5.
Like most other human artifacts, the common pencil, made and sold today by the millions, has a long and complex history. Henry Petroski, who combines a talent for fine writing with a deep knowledge of engineering and technological history, examines the story of the pencil, considering it not only as a thing in itself, but also as an exemplar of all things that are designed and manufactured. Petroski ranges widely in time, discussing the writing technologies of antiquity. But his story really begins in the early modern period, when, in 1565, a Swiss naturalist first described the properties of the mineral that became known as graphite. Petroski traces the evolution of the pencil through the Industrial Revolution, when machine manufacture replaced earlier handwork. Along the way, he looks at some of pencil making's great innovators-including Henry David Thoreau, the famed writer, who worked in his father's pencil factory, inventing techniques for grinding graphite and experimenting with blends of lead, clay, and other ingredients to yield pencils of varying hardness and darkness. Petroski closes with a look at how pencils are made today-a still-imperfect technology that may yet evolve with new advances in materials and design.
What We Forget
Of Names, Materials, and Things
Before the Pencil
Noting a New Technology
Of Traditions and Transitions
Does One Find or Make a Better Pencil?
Of Old Ways and Trade Secrets
In America
An American Pencil-Making Family
When the Best Is Not Good Enough
From Cottage Industry to Bleistiftindustrie
Mechanization in America
World Pencil War
The Importance of Infrastructure
Beyond Perspective
The Point of It All
Getting the Point, and Keeping It
The Business of Engineering
Competition, Depression, and War
Acknowledging Technology
The Quest for Perfection
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