When it comes to pencils and erasers, there’s no chicken and egg quandary to sort out: the pencil, a writing instrument that uses graphite to mark paper, first appeared in the 16th century, but rubber erasers didn’t appear until the 18th century. What then, did people remove their pencil marks with before they were armed with proper erasers?
Although there were a variety of early precursors to the modern eraser (like bits of wax), the most widely used tool was the easiest to acquire: bread. A chunk of crustless bread, rolled up into a ball, makes a remarkably effective eraser. By gently rubbing and tapping the paper, you can easily remove graphite marks. Despite the evolution of erasers over the years, some artists still use bread to lighten and smooth their pencil marks.