Thinking about inkwells

No sketching at Fort Nisqually today.  I sewed and mended during my entire shift.  However, I did advance my knowledge as an interpreter of sketching.  D, one of the staff interpreters, brought in his writing kits to show me.  He fixed one small writing desk and made a box to carry his tools.  All very impressive.

I’ve not been happy with the cork stoppered bottle I am using for ink when I draw as an interpreter.  D showed me the reproduction of a period travel ink well that he uses.


This is a much better solution.  After some searching, I found one from an Etsy seller that I bought.

D also told me about a book in the Fort’s library.  When I completed my sewing tasks, I went over and read through it and took some notes.

Fountain pens were invented earlier but were unreliable.  Waterman developed a more reliable one and they became popular after 1885.  Ink was made from lamp black, “gum” (Gum Arabic?) and water.  Then formed into cakes or sticks.  Vinegar replaced water to make the ink more permanent on paper.  By the 18th and 19th centuries, ink was sold in bottles.  Victorian travel inkwells were often a leather bound box holding a glass bottle.

In the additional resources section of this book was mentioned The Writing Equipment Society. Since the publication date of the book was 1980, I wondered whether this organization still existed. Indeed, it does!

Another resource is the Abbey House Museum in Kirkstall, Leeds (England, W. Yorkshire).  When I lived in Leeds, I went to Kirkstall a few times.  I’ll have to look back in my slides to see whether I went to the Museum.  And then there is a Postal Museum in Bath.


About redharparts

Born in Michigan. Attended undergrad and graduate universities there. I've lived in England, Germany, Southern California and now Washington (state). I'm a retired Medical Social Worker with a past specialty in Oncology. I've enjoyed exploring historical re-creation through the SCA. I costume in several fandoms. Lately I've returned to Art and have taken up Urban Sketching, a version of en plein air painting.
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7 Responses to Thinking about inkwells

  1. Joan Watson says:

    Fascinating Kate! Really enjoyed this, as I do all of your experiences that you share here.

  2. miatagrrl says:

    Really intriguing history you are digging up!

  3. JOAN says:

    I’ve been fascinated by writing instruments since I was a child. Come to find out my great grandfather was a scribe in the Civil War. Wish I had some of his writing instruments! My own father had the most beautiful penmanship I’ve ever seen by a man. I love the ink well…a good reproduction by Mr. D.

    • redharparts says:

      Oh, it would be wonderful to have grfather’s writing equipment! What a treasure that would be. I realized the way I wrote it that it would be confusing…. Mr. D didn’t make them he showed them to me and helped me find source for more reproductions.

      • redharparts says:

        Oh, and my father calligraphed the address on the letters he wrote to my mother. I have some of them.

        I also fixed the wording on that paragraph about the reproduction.

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