How to hold a pen

Holding a pen

The way we hold our pens are important for two reasons; endurance, and accuracy. In this post I don’t what to explain how to hold a pen with a long write up, but rather with a short description with photos, and with a short explanation. There two methods of holding a pen. We will be looking at the medieval method, and the modern method. I can hear you rolling your eyes at me! And you are most likely saying, “Dude it is the twenty first century, we don’t care how the medieval scribe held his pen.” The medieval method is still relevant today, as there are modern pens that are designed to be held in this way. It also help us to understand how we get to the modern way of holding a pen.

Medieval method

Medieval scribes held there pens vertically, with the inside of the tips of the middle and index fingers, and holding it steady with the tip of the thumb. The remaining two fingers are curled up out of the way.





The reason for holding a pen in this way, is that the medieval scribes, and illustrators worked on a flat surface, and their ink had a high viscosity. Holding the pen in this way allows you to see the letter being formed, as you write.


Modern method

The modern method brings the pen to all most horizontal position. With the tips of the thumb and index fingers holding the pen, and with the pen resting on the middle finger. The two remaining fingers are curled up out of the way.





The change in the pen angle is due to the change in the angle of the writing surface. As scribes and illustrators started to, use the inclined work table they had to bring the pen to a horizontal position.


This video shows the modern way of holding a pen, and the medieval way. By using two modern pens. The first pen is designed to be held in the modern way, and the second in the medieval way.



3 Replies to “How to hold a pen”

  1. 29th June 2017

    I am very grateful for your attention to my paintings.
    I am very pleasantly surprised by the reactions to my site.
    Having tried without success to attract interest in another site for nearly 10 years, it is very heartening that Unique Paintings of Wales is atrracting so much in such a short time.
    I would be interested to know how you spotted my site amongst all that is on the internet.

    Thank you for your comments about Edward DUNCAN’s painting of the Welsh Market Woman.
    Sometimes they say that it is not WHAT you know, but WHO.
    Certainly by marrying the daughter of William Huggins, Edward Duncan came to the notice of Queen Victoria, but from other paintings by him which I have seen, his work did not need outside assistance for him to be successful.
    However, as in many fields, a bit of a leg up never goes amiss.

    Your coments on holding a pen are very interesting.
    I work with you people fom all over the world – teaching many of them English.
    I used to be surprised that few of them used a fountain pen for most of their writing.
    More recently, I have found that my Russian pupils don’t even know what a fountain pen is and it is not a shortage of money.

    Ball point pens and the more modern roller ball pens are quite difficult for me to control by comparison with a fountain pen.
    The fountain pen also allows for an infinite variation of thickness of line only limited by the width if the nib used.

    The work of the mediaeval scriptorium is always a marvel.
    I love an original cartoon I have which shows several monks bent over their desk copying great works with illuminated letters.
    The Abbot is asking:
    ‘Has anyone got time for a quick work on The Hundred Years War?’.

    Keep safe and well,

    Best wishes,



  2. 1st July 2017

    Thank you very much indeed for looking at my William George Lewis painting.
    I think he was a professional illustrator for a South Wales publication, but he seemed to enjoy making small landscapes.
    I will be listing more of his charming works over the next day or two.
    Provided, that is that the garden does not demand too much of my time.

    Keep safe and well,

    Best wishes,



  3. 15th July 2017

    Thank you very much for looking at F*E* Taylor’s Great Orme’s Head.
    It is a fascinating place.
    I watched another programme about it last night on television.
    Imunderstand that the National Trust bought it because there was concern that when the farm was sold that the management may not be continued for the best interests of the site.
    The have installed a new tennant whose main purpose is to farm in a style which will not only preserve, but enhance the habitat.

    We have more visitors from Spain arriving today, so it has all be a bit hectic.
    Even so I have got on quite well with listing some more of Taylor’s watercolours.

    Keep safe and well,

    Best wishes,



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