As I mentioned before in this blog, there is a famous pencil collector in the country where we currently live. Actually, Señor Emilio Arenas doesn’t only collect pencils; he also collects keychains, ashtrays, perfume bottles, etc., and he holds Guinness World Records in multiple areas. On his estate near the city of Colonia del Sacramento there is a separate building housing his collections, to which he welcomes visitors year-round.
Granja Arenas is actually a working farm, and there is a restaurant, produce shop, and gift shop on the premises next to his private museum. No doubt bustling on the weekends and during school trips, but it was quiet on the weekday we visited, and employees came out to unlock doors for us at our request.
There were three rooms dedicated to pencils, with other rooms housing other kinds of artifacts. I couldn’t linger as long as I wanted to, since the girl who guided us through the rooms clearly had another job to get back to. I apologize for the hurriedly taken photos, glares and all :(
The pencils are generally organized by type and by origin, but sometimes the taxonomy is unclear; this may be a result of specimens being added later on. I got the impression that, while major brands and flagship pencils are well represented, Sr. Arenas likes novelty and variety. He truly loves all kinds of pencils. There are jumbo pencils, neon pencils, anime character pencils, feathered pencils, you name it.
One of the highlights of his pencil-collecting career must have been his visit to the headquarters of Faber-Castell in Germany. There was a special display case in commemoration of the event.
If anybody is interested in how official Guinness World Record certificates look like, here they are!
At the end of the tour I got to meet the man behind the collection himself, in the farm shop ringing up sales of his homemade jams. He told me he had “five or six” Korean pencils in his possession, all pretty old, but by that time my family was glaring at me from the courtyard so I had to leave. Next time I think I will go more prepared, and ask him if he has certain pencils in his possession…
But I don’t know. Looking is fun, but for me this kind of display has its limits. I guess I’m more interested in the story of each individual pencil, how it came to be born, how it was received in its time and how it came to its end (as so many pencils seem to have done). At least I want to know how it writes, and the frustration of not being able to take it out of its vitrine and test it might get to me in the end ;)
But that is the irony of the pencil. If you use it, you will shorten its life. In order to live, it must keep some of its mysteries to itself. If Sr. Arenas had used up his pencils he would never have had a collection this large.
A delightful memento of the visit, courtesy of Faber-Castell: