Friday, 24 February 2012

Stationery Store Series: Brachard Papeterie and Pen Shop, Geneva

An impressive light fixture akin to a large sculptural exotic flower or fruit suspended from the coffered ceiling welcomes the punter who crosses the threshold of Brachard Papeterie in rue de la Corraterrie in central Geneva, Switzerland. This elegant illuminated ornament draws the eye to an upper level which encircles the ground floor and it’s accessible via an equally impressive and similarly elegant curved staircase. Dark wooden shelving full of paper goods at the ground floor is set against an orange background and the space is underlined by the black and gold ornate wrought iron balustrade of the staircase and upper level. Brachard Papeterie: enter the Swiss paper paradise.

Nicholas Brachard started the business in 1839 and moved to 6 Rue de la Corraterie in 1875. Brachard changed locations over the years moving back to Corraterie in 1938 and eventually becoming a paper mill producing quality office supplies. Today it is ran by the fifth and sixth generation of Brachards.

The ground floor has a large collection of notebooks and cards, while the upper level has colour-coded stationery, paper and envelopes, loose and boxed and made-to-order invitations. The basement is comprehensively stocked with office and school supplies. Among the brands in display are Moleskin, Rhodia, Quo Vadis, Clairefontaine lines, and Crown mill pads and envelopes. In contrast, to the Continental elegance of the ground and upper levels, the basement has a utilitarian industrial chic look with a blue floor and aluminium shelving.

The abundance of paper in different forms and shapes and the curved shape of the room make the pilgrim to this Mecca of stationery to wander continuously in the belief that every corner will reveal something new (it does). Exit the maze of paper via the Rossi self-adhesive labels section and enter the office supplies department where the same sturdy aluminium shelving is beautifully set against the building’s original stone wall. Exposed brickwork is contrasting with the neon-lighting tubes.

There is a collection of storage boxes, pens, staples, record cards, post-it notes, paper clips and such, including Coccoina glue paste and sticks so hard to get in the UK. The staff are very friendly and the Chip-and-Pin machine allows you to pay in GBP should you so choose.

The marvel that is Brachard does not stop in the Papeterie for next door in even more luxurious surroundings is the Brachard Pen Shop - Ecriture. As with all fountain pen shops there is an almost religious atmosphere in the place. Glass cabinets hold delectable arrays of fountain pens, including limited editions, illuminated and untouchable in their sacred repose. The floor is white-tiled and the displays a mix of dark and white-painted wood. The magnificent arched entrance and window fronts let the light in on all the Mont Blanc plumes.

Eyes are feasting on Stipula, Visconti, Pelikan Souverain, Cross, Cartier, Caran d’ Ache, Graf von Faber Castell, Majesty, Dupont. On special display cases stand the Sailor 100th Anniversary fountain pen, the Visconti Declaration of Independence, Mont Blanc Ingrid Bergman, Tibaldi for Bentley, Mont Blanc Alfred Hitchcock, Waterman Sérénité Air.

A wooden stand furnished with ink pot and paper invites interested parties to test the pens. The pen on offer: Pilot Vanishing Point. On the paper a printed reminder: “Don’t forget to write.” Brachard is an unforgettable stationery and pen Mecca for inkthusiasts in the heart of Geneva. It trades online at as well but nothing compares to experience of the real thing - l'ambiance, as the Swiss say, of Brachard.

10 Corraterie 1204 Geneva
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 9 – 18:30; Sat 9:30 – 17:30; Sun (winter) 9:30 – 18:00

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Stationery Store Series: Papeterie in the Alps

The retailers of this French alpine resort may not have succumbed to tourist expediency as far as afternoon lunch shop closure is concerned but if ever there was a taste in paper goods this has certainly gone underground. The Passaquin Papeterie in Morzine, a ski resort close to the French Swiss border, is a stationery shop and bookshop in one and the wooden sign at the front tempts the inkthusiast with an image of an ink bottle and paint brush. How disappointing then that inside is a child's paradise of garish stationery, notebooks, backpacks, magnets and other tourist attractions but no ink.

How elegant it would have been for the ink geek to go pen-and-ink shopping surrounded by the magnificent alpine Mont Blanc scenery. Palimpsest (who, dear Readers, shuns the perceived pleasures of skiing) looks on in the hope that the Papeterie will offer an ink-refuge, in the hope that the shelves will not be stocked with heart-shaped cadeaux but with the whole series of J. Herbin ink.

Mais voila: there is a staircase leading to the basement. Does Palimpsest need to provide a secret password to the man to be led underground? Do I need to raise my two fingers - a code for Rhodia's twin-peak logo - to be ushered to the clandestine paper stocks? Exhibit my ink-stained index to identify myself as a fellow ink fiend? Palimpsest sneaks downstairs to discover a low-ceilinged room illuminated with neon lights and carrying shelves filled with Clairefontaine and Rhodia paper goods.  Under a glass vitrine stands a lone glass ink well staring empty.

And thus, dear Readers, I can testify that in the mountains Rhodia has been forced underground.

Sneak purchases of the day: Exacompta folders and Clairefontaine tracing paper 90gr and an excellent Artline ErgoLine Calligraphy Pen 2.0 (Black) by Shachihata

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Azuryte Ink

Palimpsest is puzzled as to the date of manufacture of this fountain pen ink: Azuryte. This is a  heavy ceramic pot with an azure paper label which reads:

The Permanent Blue-Black Ink
Manufactured for the Proprietors by F. Mordan & Co. ~ City Road E.C.

A red paper label below proclaims: Best Ink for Fountain Pens.

The silhouette of a man in period apparel sits on an ornate chair and writes with a long quill.

I'm informed that Azurite is a greenish blue pigment named after the Persian word  "Lazhward" meaning "blue and is chemically close to the green colourant malachite. The pigment was popular during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance but its use declined in the early 18th century with the advent of Prussian blue and later on with the development of Ultramarine and Cobalt blue. 

The bottle is sealed with cork and wax as far as I can tell.