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.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Handwriting in the News – The Osama Bin Laden notes

Together with the information that trickles to the press about the contents of Osama Bin Laden’s recently discovered and raided compound in Pakistan there are two scraps of handwritten notes, BBC News reports on 30 June 2011. Experts say the notes are genuine and written in typical Bin Laden style – but not necessarily by the man himself. The image of the notes published online shows two A4 sheets of ruled paper with a wide margin on the left and a two-line header where “day/date” is printed on the left hand side. The sheets are torn from some sort of a spiral notebook. The notes are written in red ink. Some parts are damaged by water, some are crossed out, some circled. What kind of pen was used? What make of notebook ? He obviously didn’t mind the English words on the header.

The handwritten notes were allegedly found in the room next door to Osama Bin Laden’s bedroom. But it is highly likely that they were not written by the ex-leader of the al-Qaeda. Handwriting experts believe the writing to be that of a teenager between 13 and 16 years old. The notes with the red ink bleeding into pink unravel a domestic scene. Bin Laden, the father, dictates his thoughts to his daughter, changes his mind, tells her to underline this or cross that out – a glass of water is knocked over and makes the ink bleed. As relics of one of the most despised men in the world these notes with the haemorrhaging ink carry the foreboding of his erasure. 

Read more on BBC News “Osama Bin Laden’s intriguing handwritten notes”, 30 June 2011 (accessed 4 July 2011).