Thursday, 23 June 2011

Ink Bottles

There is something about ink bottles: a potential, a possibility, a raw material whose shifting shape speaks to the changing meanings of what it produces. One wrong move and I had to change a square meter of carpet under my desk. The culprit was Private Reserve Ebony Purple. It splattered on the wall, on the radiator, on my skirt and penetrated my skin, it went through the carpet’s underlay and I suspect onto the 1930s floorboards. I was properly inked. One has to be careful with ink bottles.

The dip pen dips its steel beak just enough to drink, retains the fluid for a few sentences, goes in for some more. It depends on the ink bottle or the inkwell and respects its volatility. The nib transforms the liquid within the bottle into marks; they too are volatile. New ink concoctions were invented, new paper produced, new pens manufactured to rid the ink user of the sandbox and the blotter – to actually rid the ink user of the view of ink altogether. Ink was inserted in cartridges and in tubes and its liquidity banished from view.

But ink bottles still happily exist in the margins of a rollerball-dominated world. The ink within moves darkly, it smells of tannin, it is full of words that are contained in its depths and its pigments. The old bottles stand like remnants of things unsaid. It is too late now. The ink has dried up and rattles within. The inkwell has only one desiccated drop to give. Still: the ink, depleted though it may be, colours the glass and makes the light shine through in aquamarine subtlety.

Ink bottles on Inklinks today: Sheaffer Skrip, Veteran Series, Reeves, Melanyl.


  1. Yes, a shame bottles have vanished from sight. Even though I know it's best to keep inks in a drawer, I keep my two office workhorse inks — Levenger Cardinal Red and Diamine China Blue— out on my desk, just so I can catch a glimpse of them from time to time.

  2. You write with a poet's soul - even about dumping ink all over the place. Beautiful phrasing of your ugly disaster. But - what do you think of the ink?

  3. Private Reserve Ebony Purple was wonderful - while it lasted... black with a hint of purple with good flow and saturation. It cost me around £100 including a square meter of new sisal carpet.

  4. Lito, I love the second ink well image and wonder if you might contact me to discuss terms for using it on my writing website. Tried to reach you with no success. My email is Thanks so much for the lovely posting!