Long ago, writing instruments were made from many materials, including actual lead (the metal). One recipe called for a for a goose quill, a bullet, a melting ladle and a turnip. You figure it out. (OK, a hint: Start by sticking the quill upright in the turnip.) But when the great graphite mine of Borrowdale, England, was discovered around 1565, graphite pencils (confusingly, still referred to as lead) quickly took over because of the superior smooth, dark line they made. In 1600s Germany, an entire guild of craftsmen did nothing but hand-saw square "leads" from pieces of Borrowdale graphite.