I, Pencil is Leonard Read's most famous essay. The full title is "I, Pencil. My Family Tree as told to Leonard E. Read" and it was first published in the December, 1958 issue of The Freeman. It was reprinted in The Freeman in May 1996 and as a pamphlet entitled "I...Pencil" in May 1998. In the reprint, Milton Friedman wrote the introduction and Donald J. Boudreaux wrote the afterword. Friedman (the 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize in economics) used the essay in his 1980 PBS television show Free to Choose and the accompanying book of the same name.
"I, Pencil" is written in the first person from the point of view of an Eberhard Faber pencil. The pencil details the complexity of its own creation, listing its components (cedar, lacquer, graphite, ferrule, factice, pumice, wax, glue) and the numerous people involved, down to the sweeper in the factory and the lighthouse keeper guiding the shipment into port.