Sunday, 3 May 2020

Writing in the time of The Plague

He would often go to join Rieux in one of the hospitals, where he would ask for a table in some office or ward. He settled down there with his papers as though he was sitting at his table in the Hotel de Ville, in air thick with the smell of disinfectant and of the disease itself, would shake his papers to dry the ink on them. 

Albert Camus, The Plague, first published in 1947.

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Writing the Tin Drum

When I said to Bruno, "Oh, Bruno, would you buy me a ream of virgin paper?" he looked up at the ceiling ... and replied, "You mean white paper, Herr Oskar."  I stuck with the word virgin and told Bruno to ask for it that way at the shop. When he returned later that afternoon with the package, he seemed a Bruno in thought. ... "That word you recommended was right. I asked for virgin paper and the salesgirl blushed red before she gave me what I wanted."   
Fearing a long conversation about salesgirls in stationery shops, I regretted having emphasised the paper's innocence by calling it a virgin, and said nothing, waited till Bruno had left the room. Only then did I open the package with the five hundred sheets of paper.    
I lifted the resilient stack for a moment and tested its weight. Then I counted off ten sheets and stored the rest in my bedside table. I found the fountain pen by my photo album in the drawer: it's full, it won't fail for lack of ink; how shall I begin?

Gunter Grass, The Tin Drum, first published in 1959.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Pen and ink in Nausea

A feeling of immense disgust suddenly flooded over me and the pen fell from my fingers, spitting ink. What had happened? Had I got the Nausea? No, it wasn't that, the room had its paternal, everyday look. At the most the table seemed a little heavier and more solid, and my fountain pen more compact. 

Four o'clock strikes. I've been sitting here in my chair for an hour, with my arms dangling. It's beginning to get dark. Apart from that, nothing in this room has changed: the white paper is still on the table, next to the fountain pen and the ink well...but I shall never write any more on this page I have started.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea, 1938.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Luminous ink in the Time of Cholera

Nevertheless, after a resigned siesta, he submitted to reality and wrote her a note excusing himself. He wrote it by hand on perfumed paper and in luminous ink so that it could be read in the dark, and with no sense of shame, he dramatized the gravity of his accident in an effort to arouse her compassion.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Ink: J.Herbin 1670 Red Hematite ink

More inks in the Time of Cholera

Monday, 24 February 2020

Iris Murdoch's Black Prince in a Rathbone Place stationery shop

Winsor and Newton shop in Rathbone Place, London
(picture from Winsor and Newton Catalogue of Artist's Materials, London 1874)

I turned into a stationer's shop in Rathbone Place. I can browse indefinetly in a stationer's shop, indeed there is hardly anything in a good stationer's shop which I do not like and want. What a scene of refreshment and innocence! Loose leaf paper, writing paper, notebooks, envelopes, postcards, pens, pencils, paper-clips, blotting paper, ink, files, old-fashioned things like sealing wax, new-fangled things like sellotape....I had to load somebody with presents. I collected for Rachel a ball of red string, a blue felt-tipped pen, a pad of special calligrapher's paper, a magnifying glass, a fancy carrier bag, a large wooden clothes peg with URGENT written on it in gold, and six postcards of the Post Office Tower.

Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince, 1973

picture from Winsor and Newton Artist's Materials Catalogue, 1874

Rathbone Place, a street off Tottenham Court Road in central London, has been populated by artists since the 18th century and by the 19th century, there were many art supplies shops in the street. Renowned artist colour manufacturers George Rowney and Co, suppliers to J.M.W. Turner, traded there from 1817 to 1884; William Winsor and Henry Charles Newton set up business at No. 38 in 1833 and continued trading in the area until 1987.  Jackson and Sons also set up shop in Rathbone Place in 1817. Charles Dickens has spoken of the Winsor and Newton "Rathbone Place magicians":
Has anyone ever seen anything like Winsor and Newton's cups of chromes and carnations...and crimsons, loud and fierce as a war-cry, and pinks, tender and loving as a young girl?
old George Rowney pencil,
featured in Pencil Archaeology