Issue 0: we're here

It’s been a while (or for some of you, never) since we last sent a newsletter. But we’re back! Or, more accurately, we’re here!

Let us (re)introduce ourselves: we are Born Free Press (the newsletter).

The newsletter is produced by The Free House. The Free House used to be called Born Free Press (yep, we know this is confusing).

The Free House makes enamel pins, apparel, and things. We also used to publish a magazine called Phox Pop.

The magazine is on hiatus, but our writing bug is back, so we’re resurrecting this newsletter to share stories that inspire us. Stories about the curious and the creative.

You can expect to hear from us monthly, with Issue 1 arriving in your inbox on Friday 30 October.

Let us reassure you that these newsletters are about sharing great stories, not trying to sell our products. There will inevitably be the occasional mention of items in The Free House shop, but we promise you: no hard sell or over-the-top marketing.

A short story to get us started

You’ll notice we use a yellow pencil in our logo and newsletter banner.

We’re writers, we’re note takers, we’re stationery addicts, and we love a good pencil!

Have you ever wondered where the iconic yellow pencil ✏️ originated?

The answer is 1889 Paris. It was the Exposition Universelle - or world’s fair - under the shadow of the newly opened Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure in the world at the time.

Smaller, but no less influential, was the unveiling of the Koh-I-Noor 1500.

Produced by the Czech company, Hardtmuth Pencil, the Koh-I-Noor 1500 was painted with 10 coats of yellow paint and its end dipped in 24 carat gold.

It was a bold move. Previously, makers of high-quality pencils left them unpainted in order to show off the wood grain. Painting a pencil was seen as a sign of imperfection and suggested that makers had something to hide. And when it was done, pencils were generally painted dark colours.

So why yellow?

Well, at the time, the finest available graphite (the ‘lead’ in a pencil consists of graphite and clay) came from China.

In China, yellow had long been associated with royalty. So by painting its pencil yellow, Hardtmuth was communicating both the origin of the graphite and the superiority of the product.

To make sure nobody missed the point, they called the pencil Koh-I-Noor, after the famous 105.6 carat diamond from the British Crown Jewels.

Hardtmuth’s move payed off. The Yellow Koh-I-Noor 1500, with its 24ct gold accent, was seen as the height of sophistication and not surprisingly, other manufacturers copied the colour, and an icon was born.

So much so, that 100 years later, the effect was still being felt.

Henry Petroski, author of ‘The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance’ (published in 1989) wrote: "Today about three out of four pencils made are yellow."

Thanks for reading. We look forward to you joining us on this new publishing journey. Feel free to hit reply to share your thoughts or feedback.

Til next week,

Amy @ Born Free Press

PS: If you enjoyed this newsletter, please forward it to your friends/family/workmates. If you're seeing this newsletter for the first time, subscribe to get it delivered direct to your inbox.