Quills were used to write between the 6th and 19th centuries. They were eventually replaced by the metal pen, which was first patented in America in 1810 and was mass-produced by the year 1860.
The strongest quills were made from the wing feathers of geese, turkeys, crows, owls, hawks and eagles. Swan feathers were scarce so they were considered ‘luxury’ quills.
Right-handed writers normally prepared feathers from the left wings since these curve out to the right and thus away from the hand. On dipping the tip of the quill in ink, its hollow acts as a reservoir; during writing, the ink flows by means of capillary action.
Some people today still prefer writing with quills instead of pens, because the strokes made by the feather are sharper.