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

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Margaret Atwood's Pencils on the Go

Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, the Guardian asked authors for their personal dos and don'ts. That's what Margaret Atwood said:

1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.
2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.


"Margaret Atwood's Rules for Writers" The Guardian, 22 February 2010.

Pencils pictured: Mitsubishi 9850 HB and Tombow 8900 HB

See also: The Forbidden Pencil of Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Stationery Store Series: Quill of London

Quill, is a quiet, understated little shop in Angel, north London, with a focus on calligraphy and bespoke stationery. It stocks Kaweco fountain pens, Midori brass pencils and pens, Blackwing pencils, wax stamps, notecards and correspondence sets, and calligraphy supplies - inks, nibs, pads, and accessories. 

The products on the shelves feel curated but there is not an awful lot to browse and things don't have prices, so you got to constantly ask. The place feels more like the front room of someone's house with wooden floors, a long table in the middle and an antique chest of drawers. Quill runs regular calligraphy workshops so if this is your thing that's a place to start. They also create personalised stationery for special occasions, like weddings, and they take calligraphy commissions.

Find them on

37 Amwell St. 
London EC1R 1UR