Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A Brief Encounter with Stephens Ink

Among Nemo's many talents and endearing idiosyncrasies (the talent of submerging and resurfacing with gracious misanthropy; the penchant for ink and fine writing instruments and for distinctive implements of personal grooming) is his capacity to find ink in places where the commoner's eye would never have thought to look. 

In Nemo's account of Cranford railway station, which featured in David Lean's Brief Encounter (and a wondrous account it is - prompting - and I'm sure this was not in Nemo's intentions - a desire for travelling and exploration), there is an inky moment. Nemo points the readers' attention to an advertisement for ink that can be seen behind the heroine as she rushes out of the café and almost throws herself in front of the train. I can read "For all.. Fountain Pens."

After a spot of research I found that this poster is in fact an advertisement for "Stephens Ink". The BBC History website informs me that Dr Henry Stephens was the inventor of the famous "Blue-Black Writing Fluid" which developed into writing ink. Manufacturing started about 1834 and Henry "Inky" Stephens described his invention as a "carbonaceous black writing fluid, which will accomplish the so long-desired and apparently hopeless task of rendering the manuscript as durable and as indelible as the printed record."

Stephens Ink became a British government staple for legal documents and ships' log books. It remains so to this day. There is also a "Stephens Collection" in North London which (and here comes the travel and exploration bit) I intend to visit in the near future. I hope that Nemo of Mobilis Ink Mobili will surface again to hear about my findings.


  1. Thanks for inkforming me that it's a poster for Stephens ink. I've added a postscript to the blog entry.

  2. You're welcome! It was so excited to spot it! Seen the PS, thanks.