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.


  1. I'm clueless, but I guess you have to ask when glass bottles and rubber stoppers (?), or screw tops, replaced ceramics for holding ink. When was a commercially prepared permanent ink (by E. Mordan) priced reasonably enough to displace iron gall ink made by the writer? There was a Mordan silversmith--any connection? Kiwi-Dave makes mention, I think, of a Mordan in connection with mechanical pencils. I'll go 1850--and step aside for anyone with a better dating. Jack/USA

  2. Jack and I are birds of a feather. 'E. Mordan' is probably a descendant of Sampson Mordan, the 1840's British silversmith and manufacturer of propelling pencils (early mechanical pencils like as not were fashioned from silver). Just based on the appearance of the label my guess is your ceramic inkpot is of Late Victorian or perhaps Edwardian origin. Coincidentally, 'Mordan' is the name of a mountain in Iran. Fancy therefore suggests the original Mr. Mordan was an early immigrant from Persia to the Sceptered Isle.

  3. Thank you Jack and Anon, my research also pointed to a Mordan silversmith but I couldn't see his connection to ink. Exciting. I like the fanciful connection to Persia.

  4. Thanks, Palimpsest and Anon. I didn't like my 1850 guess very much, but thought anything more recent would have me running headlong into mass-produced blown and molded glass jars.

    A Persian silversmith making his way to England via, e. g., British India? Sounds plausible to me in the absence of anything else. Stralsund, Germany, along the Baltic, has some of its more important streets named after an Italian merchant who'd been invited to settle there after one of the Crusades. Some once prominent trading families along the Baltic coast are of Scottish descent--the "ei" in their names is Scottish, although pronounced in the German manner. Jack/USA

  5. Jack, as far as dating goes, your guess is as good as mine; the ceramic pot certainly looks like it could be from 1850, and you raise a very good point about the prevalance of glass. Possibly Palimpsest's pot holds a large volume of ink and was used to refill your molded glass inkwells? My cursory research indicates Sampson Mordan bought out several early partners, one whom was a stationer. Did he keep up this end of the business and sell or supply nibs and ink (I can't help but think of Dickens now, but the only specific which comes back is the ragman in Bleak House and his evil moggie, which is not quite apropos to my
    speculation. Palimpsest certainly has better examples of stationery themed passages from Dickens.)

    I think any real hope of establishing a connection between Sampson and E. Mordan lies within the pages of the Dictionary Of National Biography. It would also be helpful to know where the original Mr. Mordan's business was located. If I recall correctly, City Road E.C. is an address within an early north-central London postcode and Wikipedia states that postcodes weren't in evidence until the mid-1850's. So much for making a Mordan out of a molehill. Guesses, usually bad guesses, are among my chief enjoyments!

  6. Graces Guide has got info on Samson Mordan and S. Mordan & Co. In 1822 Mordan patented his first propelling pencil and in 1838 the firm did produce ink stands among other things. Since the business's listed address is 41 City Road, London EC1 in 1929 I assume it is the same firm that produced this ink pot.

    On Mordan see also "List of Silversmiths":

    S Mordan passed his business to Sampson and Augustus. No mention of F. Mordan. It IS F not E (on closer inspection - my eyesight is failing).

  7. Thanks, Palimpsest, and, again, Anon. I guess if I were a silversmith, a maker and seller of consumer durables, I'd want a branded consumer disposable that would keep my name in the public eye. (That's one guess, at least, as to Mordan's motive for getting into ink-making.) Thanks, Palimpsest, nice blog. Jack/USA