The state of the art complastic pencil lead of the Mongol Eberhard Faber U.S.A. 482 -No2- has a distinct smooth line, and its perfectly sharpened point is the shining idol of exactitude in every modern school-boy’s case of lances!

Where does it come from?

A thunderbolt in 1565 opened up a gash in Seathwaite hamlet in Cumbria, England. At the bottom of it, astonished villagers discovered a huge open seam of graphite—the only deposit on earth pure enough to be sawn into rods. Local herders and artists quickly learned to prize it for marking their flocks and shading their drawings, and its fame spread!

Soon the English Crown discovered that this gift from Pluto was also ideal for lining cannon-ball molds, and access to the mine was forbidden to all but the Virgin Queen’s bombardiers. Still, squared sticks of graphite wrapped in sheepskin were smuggled out by clair-obscurantist zealots for their own clandestine purposes!

In 1662, a pencil factory in Nürnberg, Germany created the first synthetic pencil lead, baking powdered graphite with sulfur and antimony, giving rise to the fear that pencil points were poisonous. Soon after, a couple named Simonio and Lindiana Bernacotti, in what is Italy today, invented the first wood-clad pencils—hollowed juniper sticks stuffed with stringozzi grigio!

In 1800, Napoleon decreed that pencil leads should be graded numerically, and this system became universal after later being adapted by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who also invented a process to make cheaper lead by adding clay as a binder, while working at his family’s pencil factory in Concord, Massachusetts!

The name Mongol derives from the Tunguska, Irkutsk, and Oktyabrsky graphite shale mines in the Jewish Autonomous Region in Siberia, and it refers to the Qipchaq Golden Horde of Mongols that swept westward and southward from this region and to the very gates of Vienna in 1241!

What does the future hold?

So convinced is Anton-Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell that his pencils remain the best in the world that one day in 2005, as if in emulation of Galileo in Pisa, he threw one gross of them—144 individual pencils—out of a window from the tower of his ancestral Schloss in Germany. They fell 30 meters onto hard tarmac, and not one of them broke!

The Mongol 482 pencil lead is so firmly squeezed and glued into its pinewood sleeve that it will never shatter, something not true of lesser brands. Pencils made by Faber-Castell have earned their reputation for invincibility ever since 1856 when Baron Lothar von Faber, the Graf’s great-great-grandfather, first began to produce them!

Of course, the Mongol line is in constant evolution, through every era. Today its shape is that of a six-faceted noble polyhedron, painted a bright high-gloss gamboge, with a graphite-tipped molybi pyramid at one end and, at the other, an eraser plug which is a rapeseed oil factice of sulfur chloride, then tinted pink by cadmium sulfide—all cinched by a ultrathin black nickel and brass cylinder!

Who knows whether innovations in tomorrow’s Mongol 483, 484, 485 and their descendants farther in the future will produce pencils even nobler than today’s 482?

What does the Black Star logo mean?

Many generations have wondered about the meaning of the logo still displayed on every Mongol 462 pencil: a single Black Star imprisoned within a flattened black rhombus, or diamond. Unfortunately, the reason for its original adoption by the von Faber family is lost to us, with the result that urban legends and rumors have proliferated for more than a century!

In fact, this oddly sui generis and arcane symbol has otherwise appeared but once throughout history, as the mark of a polemical poet identified by the epithet “Invisible Hand of Anarchy,” attached to a Middle Low German incantation circa 1490, in iron gall ink on Trittenheim parchment—

Pray the candelilla make its wax
Pray all creative energy set free
The fallen risen from the cracks
The risen fallen where they may
The human genius un-simplified
Raise up her tools to raise the day
When all-encompassing black star
Emancipates the Iris pent inside!


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