Saturday, 24 December 2011

O Pencil Tree

Palimpsest wishes Happy Holidays to all

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The MUJI Pencil Making Kit

Far from Palimpsest to resist a pencil making kit, especially when it comes in the very affordable price of £3.99. The pencil kit in question is on sale in MUJI, the well-know Japanese chain which offers anything from erasers to beds. It comes in the characteristic MUJI cardboard box with an English label "Sawdust Clay - Make Your Own Pencil Set Kit Creator" and 17 bullet-point instructions at the back in... Japanese. Those not able to read have to make do with six (6) pictures.

Inside the box are three blobs of clay wrapped in plastic and six pencil leads in a cardboard tube. Palimpsest is disappointed to discover that by "pencil making" MUJI actually means encasing ready-made graphite leads in clay. Palimpsest was actually naive in believing that she would actually get to make the pencil leads. Well. Moving on, moving on.

Palimpsest takes out the blob of clay which is slightly moist...

According to the pictorial instruction, the blob has to be rolled out and flattened with a roller. How thin? Who knows. Written instructions are in Japanese, remember? So I roll out the clay using the cardboard tube that contained the pencil leads. 

 Next, I cut out a rectangular piece out of it (as per instructions)... 

and place the graphite lead inside so both ends stick out...  

and proceed to wrap my clay piece around it...

And then I repeat previous steps all over again because I find the clay is too thick and thus pencil turns out to be an unwieldy piece of... well, clay. 

After a couple of attempts I end up with the above piece. 

According to my pictorial instructions I have to mould a circular piece on top of my pencil (not sure why). I do that and end up with what I can only describe as a weird fish. 

Next I sharpen the graphite with a sharp blade and try to shape the end part of the pencil to make it look like, erm, a pencil. 

 The finished product is very soft. Am I supposed to cook it? I decide to wait assuming that this is a kind of clay that hardens with air exposure. Sure enough after two (2) days, the pencil is hard enough to hold (but not really rock-hard). It writes like a cheap pencil and there is plenty of clay to make a set of 12. Xmas stocking filler? Hmm. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Eagle Pencil Company London

According to Grace’s Guide, the Eagle Pencil company, which had been founded in New York by German immigrant Heinrich Berolzheimer in 1859, opened its London office in 1864. In October 1894 a London office, Warehouse and Showroom, opened in the City of London at 14 Fore Street, where today stands the Barbican Centre, and the 1897 catalogue already referred to prize medals awarded to Eagle pencils. This is all according to Berol’s website where one learns that Eagle’s Turquoise (or “Turquois”) pencils were first produced in 1901 together with innumerable coloured pencils and “anti-nervous pen holders.”

The Eagle Pencil Co. started operating in Tottenham in north London in 1907. The History of the County of Middlesex, vol. 5 (1976) mentions that by 1920 “a few more firms, including the Eagle Pencil Co., had opened north of Ferry Lane, in wartime buildings along Ashley Road.”

In 1922 the Eagle Pencil Company advertises itself in the British Industries Fair as the largest manufacturer of its kind in the world producing black lead, copying ink, coloured, carpenters’ and diary pencils. They were also contractors to Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, Colonial, and Foreign Governments and Schools.

Pencil manufacture, which had stopped during the Second World War, resumed in 1946 first with plain unbranded pencils and later with the traditional pencil ranges of Turquoise, Verithin and Mirado. A presentation pencil set of coloured and lead pencils from the above ranges is included in the Exploring 20th Century London website. I’d love to find out more about the changing fortunes of this company and its pencils.

A selection of Eagle pencils from Australia, Canada, England, Mexico and the USA in Brand Name Pencils.

Object in the Inklinks shop today: Vintage Eagle pencil box set from Eagle Pencil Co. London. Includes a pen holder too (don’t know if it’s “anti-nervous”).

Monday, 28 November 2011

Winner of Palimpsest 2-Year Giveaway is...

Here are the results of Palimpsest's Giveaway Draw which was performed by the Grand Master of Draws himself:

 The winner is ThirdeYe! Congratulations! Please contact blogpalimpsest at gmail dot com with your details.

ThirdeYe said...
Congratulations! Here's to two more! :)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Palimpsest is Two Years Old. Thank-you Giveaway.

Happy birthday to Palimpsest which today completes two years of blogging. A warm thank you to dear Readers and commenters and dropping-by-chancers for keeping this blog alive through thick and thin. It has been a difficult year for Palimpsest. Here are the top ten posts of these two years:

1. Rebirth by Sharpening, on the pleasures of sharpening

2. Penwork that cramps my hand, Heaney's translation of the 11th-century poem

3. Caput Mortuum, Momie, Mommia, Mummy Brown - Gruesome Brown, on brown paint made out of dead Egyptians. 

4. Stationery Store Series: Evripidis in Athens, on an Athens suburban stationery shop

5. The Elusive Elias Wolff, on the English pencil manufacturer 

6. To mark the paper was a decisive act, on writing in the Orwellian dystopia; Brown as in Brown Pens, on... brown pens; The world of ink and paper of Alexei Karenin, on writing instruments in Tolstoy's epic

7. First manned orbital flight and Yuri Gagarin's pencil, on pencils in space, and The Pink of Pink Pens, on... pink pens

9. To boldly write, on national handwriting, and Rhodia inroads in Rymans, on stocking of the famous notebooks

10. Death of a Wyvern, on the LSE Gaddaffi scandal 

It is traditional to do a thank-you giveaway and I do not intend to break with this tradition. So leave a comment below for a chance to win a little bundle of desk supplies which includes a paperweight from Inklinks, a No. 12 Rhodia bloc (black/lined), some pencils and two Sergent-Major nibs. Dominic Althoefer will be asked to perform the draw after his successful debut as Draw-Master. The draw will take place on Monday 28, 6pm UK time. 

I will post internationally. Good luck.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Athens Polytechnic uprising 1973: In memoriam

It is November, 17 1974, the first anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic uprising. The Junta which held sway in Greece since 1967 had fallen already in July. It is evening, there is a chill in the air, I am ten years old. In front of the Polytechnic there is a dark throng of people. There are no banners, no chants. There is a raw silence. In the middle of the dark people there is a light source. I hold on to my mother’s hand as she presses through the crowd. I smell the people’s breaths and their clothes as the people part slightly to let us through. I see then what the light source is. The mangled remnants of the gate the tank crashed that eventful night are illuminated by a single floodlight and the bodies of the people are standing solemnly before them. Some kneel down and press red carnations between the gate’s distorted iron rods. My mother kneels too. With a rough voice an elderly man starts singing “You Have Fallen Victims, Our Brothers”, an old World War Two Resistance song – a requiem to war victims to the tune of Shostakovich’s 11th symphony (3rd movement). A few join in – the song is not yet widely known – and mother sings too. People stand upright with their palms folded before them as if in church. I stand there too, proud under the floodlight and I am suddenly grown-up.

37 years later in the evening of my mother’s death I am searching for memories of her. There is nothing. I remember nothing. After forty-four days it comes to me: the time when my mother and I were grown-ups, equal in remembrance, united – so rarely united before and after that – before a mangled gate.

In memoriam

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Letter Writing with a Dark Red Waterman

"This letter-writing of his has its ritual aspects. He takes up his pen, a dark red Waterman on Sunday afternoons, the first Sunday of every even-numbered month - February, April, June, and so on. An observer might note that the line of his bent back and shoulders possesses a fetal curl. His tall-windowed study is quiet. At his elbow is a cup of weak coffee, rapidly cooling. His mind is aerated by acts of private embarrassment and distressing nightmare, but for the  moment he brushes all this aside. He is a man writing a letter, performing an act of obligation. The date goes neatly into the right hand corner of the page, and as a sort of uncle-type joke, his lips tightening, he always put "AD", in parentheses, after it.

Then he takes a breath and writes: My dear Daisy. The "my" troubles him, but it would draw attention to itself should he alter it now. He then proceeds with his dull and detailed paragraphs, this dullness and detail successfully blocking the yearning he feels. He completes one page and begins another, plodding away, and feeling always reassured by his plodding, which he takes to be a sign of restraint. The loneliness latent in such objects as his Waterman or his china saucer must be kept from view. But his face bending over the paper is ripe for heresy. He longs to cover the page with kisses and to sign the letter: your loving Barker. Yours forever. Yours only.

What he actually puts down is a plain: yours sincerely, Barker Flett."

Carol Shields, The Stone Diaries, Fourth Estate: London 2009 (first published 1993).

Ink used: J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary edition
Pen used: Lamy Safari

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Ink in Dystopia

Under the clear blue skies of Yevgeny Zamyatin’s One State there is no place for ink. Ink with its unpredictability and propensity to stain is contrary to uniformity and productive efficiency. In Zamyatin’s We the One State is surrounded by a glass wall which shields it from the feral nature without. The One State’s citizens are uniformed and numbered, marching in step and following precisely their hourly tasks as set by The Table and under the eye of The Benefactor and The Guardians. How ink is even allowed to exist, let alone being used in this benevolent brave new One State?

D-503, State mathematician and chief engineer of The Integral, the spaceship that will carry the One State’s teachings to the rest of the universe, is having second thoughts. Dreams are invading his structured world, disrupting his state-prescribed sleep, clouding his judgement and adoration for the One State. Falling in love with I-330 he is inadvertently embroiled into the Mephi, the One State’s enemies. “An ink droplet had clouded [his] transparent solution.”

The permanently blue skies of the One State are no more. “Then another wound: a blurred smudge on the bottom right-hand corner of the page where a drop had fallen... I can’t stand smudges – whether it was the ink or from...” The Day of the One Vote when all ciphers vote unanimously in favour of The Benefactor – a cause for pride and celebration – is ruined. The unif that symbol of equality, efficiency and uniformity is ruined by a spot of ink. The revolt gathers pace and “it’s like having the rug pulled out from under you – and you, along with everything that is here on the table – the paper, the ink... The ink spills and everything is smudged.”

Was it ink that D-503 used to keep the record of his thoughts and doubts? The inside of his mouth is dry “as though coated with blotting paper.” He relents. He denounces. He has the Great Operation to remove his imagination. He recognises his handwriting but none of the feelings. He is healthy, smudge-free and able to watch I-330, his lover, tortured and put to death. Ink has no place in dystopia.

Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, first published 1924 in English with a translation by Gregory Zilboorg 

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Retreat - No Pen Required

Gestures of retreat: ... acts of separation, of secession ... : whether the gesture obviously fulfils, comforts the subject, or whether the gesture of retreat performed by another makes us feel envious... by projecting us into its scenario.
R. Barthes, The Neutral

There is a profusion of writing these days: analyses, admonitions and calls to arms, peppered with statistics and satire, and written by the wise, the ignoramuses, the desperate and the desperados. Conditions are ripe for the awakening of one’s misanthropic streak – retreat is on the cards. If retreat cannot be performed then projection of oneself into a retreat scenario would have to suffice. I was made envious of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s gesture of retreat and I have got Roland Barthes to blame (or thank) for it.

I would ask nothing better, says Rousseau in his Reveries of the Solitary Walker, than to be let to stay in the isolated place where I could have no communication or correspondence with the outside world. Rousseau arrives in a little island in the Lake of Bienne, he sends for his books and his few belongings and does not unpack a single box or trunk. He lives in the house as if it had been an inn – a guest likely to depart at will – his books safely packed, no pen, no writing desk.

“One of my greatest joys was above all to leave my books safely shut up and to have no escritoire”. To suspend writing – to do nothing – is to cleanse the mind from the clutter of daily words, is to resist or shun the past and sculpt the future from materials unknown.  

“Everything is in constant flux on this earth. Nothing keeps the same unchanging shape, and our affections, being attached to things outside us, necessarily change and pass away as they do. Always out ahead of us or lagging behind, they recall a past which is gone or anticipate a future which many never come into being: there is nothing solid there for the heart to attach itself to. [...] What is the source of happiness in such a state? Nothing external to us, nothing apart from ourselves and our own existence; as long as this state lasts we are self-sufficient like God.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Reveries of the Solitary Walker, trans. Peter France, Penguin Classics 1979 (first published 1782); Roland Barthes, The Neutral, trans. R. Krauss & D. Hollier, Columbia U. Press 2005.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

In disarray

Palimpsest has lost all sense of routine and habit, dear Readers. The regularity of the weekly posts has been thrown out of the window, as the expression goes. Palimpsest and its trading section, Inklinks, and Mrs Palimpsest's family as well, have moved house. "I can't be very coherent (we are breaking up our household here, now reduced really to complete disarray and I'm writing with a fountain pen I'm not yet used to.") Well, I'm actually marking cardboard boxes with a WHSmith marker to be exact.

-"You have to choose to answer two security questions for future checks", said the lady in HM Customs where I called to notify them of my change of address. 
-Where were you born?
-That's easy, I'll remember the answer to that. 
-Right. Second one."What is your favourite animal?" 
-Hmm, many. Can I choose another one? 
-Certainly. "What is your main hobby?"
-Um, I don't know. I don't really have a main hobby. Another one?
-"What was your favourite pastime as a child?"
-What? I don't remember. What is that? What happened to "mother's maiden name" as a security question?
-Oh, we don't do "maiden name" anymore, it is too obvious.
-Well, if I give you my mum's maiden name you'll have a hard time writing it down.
-Yes, but we don't do maiden names anymore. Look, I run out of questions. Just leave it and next time you call the system would have generated some more.

I'm sure that by the time I move again (and I hope it won't be very soon) the System would have devised even more interesting security questions for me to ponder on. "What is your favourite ink" or "What's the best writing instrument you've ever written with" or more likely "When did you buy your first iPad?" And I wouldn't be able to give one definite answer to those either.

I'm no good with giving one definite answer. I don't have "best" films and "favourite" colours and I like many inks. And by the time you ask I'll have different ones. I'm in disarray.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Wolff, again

Back in March 2011 Palimpsest has written about the elusive Elias Wolff and his pencil works. In July a cast iron E. Wolff & Sons Eclipse Inkstand popped up. In September, Inklinks sold a tin of Wolff’s Royal Sovereign pencils. Now a kind Palimpsest reader made Palimpsest aware of a photo showing Wolff’s pencil works at 54-56 Great Queen Street, Holborn, central London. It was taken in 1906 and is in the London County Council Photograph Library, London Metropolitan Archives.

Wolff’s pencil packaging in Inklinks today: Royal Sovereign Pencils

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Post a Stub: Graf von Faber Castell to the last inch

Palimpsest does love a well-sharpened pencil. Author of the Blackwing Pages, Sean, kindly contributed a piece about sharpening and two wonderful photos to Palimpsest's Post-a-Stub Series:

Deciding when to retire—and therefore, when to sharpen a new pocket pencil from Graf von Faber-Castell—is never easy, especially so when they are the older pencils, with the brass-threaded ends, which are no longer available. The eraser and cap screw onto the end much like the modern refills for the Perfect Pencil. But these older pencils, from the mid-1990s, seem to be a full shade darker and a bit softer than those available today. These come from the silver-plated extender, rather than from the Perfect Pencil, but the extender allows you to get the last inch out of every pencil.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Out of Ink

The kidney expert is detailing the management of the patient’s final stage in a soft yet professional manner and I nod. I am aware of the situation. I ask for a few clarifications and yet I have one burning request which I dare not put forward. This is not an ordinary off-the-shelf writing instrument that peaks out of the good doctor’s white-coat pocket. It is a gleaming Montblanc Meisterstück – black and gold. Could I see it? Could I ask what kind of ink it contains? I decide instantly it is inappropriate to advance such a request at such a grave moment. Callous to inquire about ink in the face of death. Perhaps it is not even a fountain pen but a rollerball or a ballpoint. I decide it is probably not a fountain pen for how else but with a rollerball could the doctor write on the flimsy paper of the Patient’s Prescription Booklet and expect his writing to go through the carbon to the next page? The nib would have to be pressed hard, the ink would have to bleed through – no, the kidney expert is too clean shaven to risk the infliction of such an inefficient mess. But perhaps he reserves the pen for other occasions: written instructions, for example, or signatures or he secretly doodles in his spare time – or maybe the paper is not as flimsy as I thought and can receive the exquisite nib with sympathy. And so when the moment of truth comes – when he is handed the Prescription Booklet – I smile inwardly for I am certain he will now reach for the Meisterstück, that he will now reveal the Meisterstück, retrieve it from his white clean freshly-pressed pocket and deign to use it to inscribe the patient’s last ever prescription – but he doesn’t. He looks around and waits and smiles a half-embarrassed smile. I wait too for an instant, trying not to stare at the Montblanc star luminous against the black resin.

“I ran out of ink,” he says.

And I know now that I was right. That they won’t be any grand gestures, any gleaming words or meaningful inscriptions on the way to the inescapable end. Things will be unwritten, words unspoken. Out of the person who was my mother there will be issued unintelligible sounds, inarticulate commands – sometimes screams. My mother is out of ink. Death rages like a moth wrapped up in discarded human hair lodged up in her throat. No request can be put forward, no conclusion, summation, intimation, there are no expectations – only the waiting. When the ink runs out there is only a small sound – a quiet, almost intimate, final exhalation – to sum up a lifetime.


Sunday, 28 August 2011

Becoming less and less

Oblivion by polydaktyl

But now it appeared that like any number of the elderly, he was in the process of becoming less and less and would have to see his aimless days through to the end as no more than what he was - the aimless days and the uncertain nights and the impotently putting up with the physical deterioration and the terminal sadness and the waiting and waiting for nothing.
It was time to worry about oblivion.
Philip Roth, Everyman

Palimpsest will be away for a while due to a terminal illness in the family. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Steel Pen is the Root of All Evil

There is no such thing as pre-technological writing, writes Sonja Neef in her wonderful new book Imprint and Trace: Handwriting in the Age of Technology. “Writing has always been technology – handwork and action (Handlung), skill and know-how.” The new has always been resisted as a mortal enemy to things old and tested. The advent of steel pens with Peregrine Williamson of Baltimore U.S.A and Mason in Birmingham in early nineteenth century was a death knoll for quills. Victor Hugo sworn never to use these “needles” and Jules Janin who was the leading spokesman against steel pens was adamant:

“The steel pen is the true root of all evil from which society as a whole is suffering in our time. One needs to compare the steel pen that one uses nowadays with the good old quill that well served our venerable ancestors. The steel pen, this modern invention, makes an unpleasant impression upon us. It is as though one fell in love against one’s will with a little, hardly visible dagger dipped in poison. Its point is as sharp as a sword, and it cuts both ways like the tongue of slanderer…”

Sonja Neef, Imprint and Trace: Handwriting in the Age of Technology, Reaktion Books: London 2011.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Pick-a-Pen Series: What's in my Pocket by Jack Labusch

Jack Labusch, a "reviving penman", has kindly shared with Palimpsest his writing instrument arsenal.

Here’s my pocket rig, those pens and pencils that in recent years I habitually stuff in my shirt pocket. 

Pilot Precise V7 (Fine) Roller Ball, Black Ink – Among liquid ink roller ball pens, the Pilot Precise seems a popular success, and a critical success, too, within the writing gear community.

Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen .3mm (Fine), Green Ink – According to what I’ve read, the designation “fine” for Asian pens generally equals “extra fine” for European and American fountain pens.  I’ve been using the Preppy with the proprietary cartridges, green ink just for underscoring, circling, etc.

Papermate Flair Fiber-Tip, Black Ink –When first introduced in the States in the 1960s, the fiber tip was fairly quickly deformed with use.  But, a plastic collar and possibly other manufacturing changes since then have remedied that problem. I’ve read the tip diameter of this long-lived brand is 1.3mm.  If you want bold, the Flair is bold.

Alvin Draftmatic Mechanical Pencil .9mm, 2B Lead – I’m a longtime mechanical pencil user, but a relative newcomer to premium MPs, which are startlingly inexpensive.  For about $8-$25 (maybe £5-£16 if UK pricing is proportional), you may get knurled metal grips, lead grade indicators, adjustability, unusual mechanisms that rotate the lead for point maintenance, and all-metal construction.  My Japanese-made Alvin has been a workhorse, although I’ve been cautioned by a few Amazon (US) reviewers that Chinese-made Alvins exist and are of noticeably lesser quality.

Pilot Vpen – This very likeable and startlingly well-made fountain pen is marketed as a throwaway pen.  As so many in the writing community do, I’ll convert mine into an eyedropper after its factory charge of ink is exhausted. Several Web sites show how to do that.  In a nutshell: carefully remove the nib section, add ink with eyedropper, daub the section with a little silicone grease as a sealant, and replace the nib section.
 So that’s my current pocket rig, modestly priced, but, I think, fairly well-selected.  I’ll change up once in a while with a Pentel P205 mechanical pencil and a black .5mm 4B lead, a stick pen (biro) or promotional pen I’ve found somewhere, maybe a Hero 330 (a Chinese-made Parker 51 knock-off), or a Sailor Hi Ace, an econopen with a startlingly well-made nib that feels as though you’re writing with air.  Found pens offer the secret luxury of pitching them on a whim without loss. 

          Norman Haase at HisNibs and Jet Pens are two U. S.-based online retailers that I know have European purchasers.  Norman specializes in higher-end Chinese-made fountain pens, and he promises an examination of every nib prior to shipping.  Jet Pens offers Japanese and other Asian-made writing products, some of which reportedly are unavailable outside their domestic markets.  Overseas shipping may be costly, so you may want to bundle your purchases.

Jack Labusch

Read also Jack's pieces on the Jinhao Evening Stripes Fountain Pen at Pocket Blonde and "Why Fountain Pens" at HisNibs.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

No interest in stationery

I cannot offer an analysis of the London riots. A riot is a complex beast. It springs up from the hoods even in the midst of a languid summer and runs wild and burns and becomes its own symbol. Here in this "leafy suburb" of north London couple of shops have been smashed up overnight and yesterday one would have thought the high street was located somewhere in the Med - what with the sunshine and the pleasant breeze, the bright blue skies and the shopkeepers lingering at the doorsteps of their shops looking left and right and having some of their friends and relatives round for a chat and the friends and relatives also lingering in and out and looking left and right and looking the passers-by up and down. One could smell the fear. There was also more police. Also the sound of hammers as shops were being boarded up for the evening. The local Carphone Warehouse was one of the victims of the nightly disorder. Ryman on the other hand was intact. I take it the unknowns had no interest in stationery. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

Ink Eraser

It is in the name of summer warmth and luxuriant sunshine (or the hope of it) that the human flesh allows itself to overflow from within strapless tops and shorter than short shorts, that the human toes hidden until this time are triumphantly presented to the world in all their gruesome glory (rogue hairs, bunions, fungal growths, overgrown toenails), that the picnic coolboxes come out of cupboards ready to store sweaty cheese and wilting salads, and that men with ample stomachs don Tee shirts proclaiming that “Surf’s Up”.  

Palimpsest finds Summer to be an ink eraser. Is it the light that reveals defects, unmasks, brings disarray, jumbles the signals? It feels like writing with ink on a tarpaulin. Even if it rains, summer has this quality of disorder, of erasure – it slides away unwritten. I used to enjoy the vacuum of summer, I used to wallow in its emptiness, I used to not mind its exposed flesh. Now I do not wish for erasure or un-restraint. Inscription demands order, control, discipline.

Object in Inklinks today: Sanford’s Ink Eraser

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Brother Deluxe

A typewriter knows how to spit out the words, how to propel the letters forward like bullets or cannon balls or missives or missiles. It forces them out and as they hit the page they make a noise defiant and triumphant and they don't care. Hit-hit-hit. Each key is a catapult that demolishes whatever it is that prevents the words from escaping the tyranny of silence.

Second typewriter bought in 30 years: Brother Deluxe (1960s)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Elias Wolff: The Ink Stand

Neville Beechey is a French polisher by trade, jewellery maker and owner of Antiques and Fine Furniture in Colac Victoria, Australia. Remember Elias Wolff? Palimpsest wrote about him and his pencils, Bleistift elaborated on Wolff’s and Staedtler’s story and Neville has got the ink stand. He wrote to Palimpsest wondering about its value. Does anyone know how many of these inkstands were made, or anything else about them? Neville provided some details and attached some photos of this interesting item.

The ink stand is made of cast iron and weighs 2.12 lbs or 1.23 kg. The lid is inscribed E. Wolff & Sons Eclipse Inkstand. There are three ink wells labelled “red”, “black” and “copy". Above the inkwells there is the inscription E.W. & Sons; Reg. 1883 No.6722. The ink wells can be taken out to be filled. The lid turns to reveal one inkwell at a time.
Neville S. Beechey is on Antiques Plus Vintage, Collectables, Retro and 20th Century Design, where his contact details.

Happy inking.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Immaterial Handwriting

I mentioned before the wonderful G. Lalo envelopes and cards sent to me by Exaclair and the pressure said cards exerted on me to “write well.” Making a mark on such exquisite paper? I better have something significant to say. And I don’t.

Even in notebooks I use the last page – as if my thoughts are akin to footnotes to something larger that I haven’t written yet (ah, the cruelty of the first page). I use scraps of paper from wrappings, drafts, discarded printouts, envelopes. Sometimes I collate them – a concoction of inks coming out of different writing instruments – Lamy Safari, Pilot Pluminix, TomBow, Sheaffer, dip pen – and pencil markings (Palomino, Faber, Tombow) on square or almost square paper scraps piled next to the laptop and kept warm by its busy circuits. They are these paper scraps like Proust’s paperolesTemps Perdu not included. Perhaps Marcel, too, felt the pressure of good paper, the tyranny of the good nib. I don’t know. But unlike Proust my writings are immaterial and perhaps better fitted to binary code not to ink inscriptions. What use is a good nib if the product is unworthy of its iridium magnificence?

I shall copy. Copy books must be my companions. Dedicate myself to producing the perfect A, or the ideal g or the well-formed k. Submit to the tyranny (nay, the refuge) of form since I cannot realise the ideal of substance. Become a Vere Foster disciple and revere his Copy Book. “Lettering Plain and Ornamental” it says on the cover and it is Number 10 of the Vere Foster Original Series. It is bound simply with a piece of thread. I like its discipline and simplicity.

Each page features a writing style: Roman; Italic; Egyptian; Engrossing; Old English; German text; Old English Ornamented, and so on. Letters are written paradigmatically in squares and it is within the empty squares stacked neatly below that the student is called upon to emulate them. Attentiveness is required. Precision is demanded. Form is all. Copying letters is an exercise in meditation, a celebration of inwardness as the mind is captured by the movement of the pen, the gliding of the ink, the borders of the empty square within which the form has to abide and comply. No intellectual strain is required, no inventiveness demanded. There is no need for a substantial contribution. Copy books are perfect for my immaterial writing.

Today's object at Inklinks: Vere Foster's Copy Book Number 10

Friday, 15 July 2011

Pick-a-Pen Series: My favourite pen by Martin Wilson

Martin P. Wilson talks about his Montblanc companions to Palimpsest:

It may be an anachronism but I use a fountain pen for all handwriting. I rediscovered the pleasure of writing with a nib on fine paper when my sister bought me a Parker fountain pen. After a year or two I felt it was not as smooth as it could be. Therefore, it did not become a constant companion but inspired me to try others. I bought a mid-range Scheaffer that was a step up in quality. I used it routinely for several years.

Originally, I avoided Montblanc because of “yuppie” overtones. All my pens are mementoes of major assignments and my first Montblanc was a large black with gold trim Meisterstuck (149 for the pen geeks). With a broad nib, it is ideal for handwritten letters and signatures on typed documents.

For everyday use, the nib was too broad so I bought a small black and silver Meisterstuck (146) with a medium nib. I used that frequently but being bottle filled it was not convenient when I was spending my time on client sites. Somehow, the nib just did not provide the same writing pleasure as the broader nib. Using a good fountain pen with a nib that matches one’s writing style brings a tactile, even sensual pleasure, to the act of writing, especially on a fine, smooth paper. I increasingly reverted to a quality ballpoint pen, but it was not satisfying.

Eventually, I bought a stainless steel Montblanc with a fine nib; it is cartridge filled with one in use and a spare in the barrel. It is much more convenient and cleaner to use. It has been in constant use; pretty well all day every working day for seven or eight years. It has acquired a patina from constant use; its dents and scratches are testament to the work it has done. It must have covered hundreds of miles.  It is my workhorse and when it starts to protest it is serviced by Montblanc and then works as new.

Now I spend less time on client sites so my original broad nib pen is my first choice for making notes, sketching out articles and other ideas. Of course, it has always remained my first choice for formal and personal letters. It is just so smooth. The medium nib pen may seem neglected but it sits on my desk, always available for making quick notes.

I know that as soon as I start spending time away on business I will go back to the fine nib stainless steel bodied pen. Without doubt, it is the pen of which I am fondest; we have done a huge amount of good work together with more to come. It is not pristine, none have been mollycoddled, all are working tools but the marks and dents are well earned battle scars which tell of a long and interesting journey.

 Writing this article has sparked some wider thoughts so I will be writing a longer article about How I Write for my own web site: Martin’s Miscellany Magazine

Palimpsest thanks Martin for sharing this and invites more pen aficionados to write about their writing instrument companions. Send your piece to blogpalimpsest at gmail dot com.

Thursday, 7 July 2011


I interrupt this program to bring you news from the olde shoppe at Etsy: Inklinks. Inklinks which has been selling vintage office supplies since January 2011 has opened a Facebook page and is looking to launch itself forewith in that platform. Each "Like" will be rewarded with eternal gratitude from me and two lucky "Likes" will win one of the following Inklinks goodies:

Hard-at-Work Paperweight

and a vintage memo box with 200 hand-cut sheets

Two winners will be chosen at random on 14 July 5pm GMT. 
Dear readers are kindly encouraged to launch themselves on Inklinks FB page and press Like to their heart's content. Tweeting this post will double your chance for a win. Tweet.