Saturday, 26 May 2012

HM Stationery Office Supplies

“The Plan to reform the abuses found to subsist by extravagant charges of stationary [sic] is to Establish an Office under the management of a Comptroller from which every Office and Person entitled to be supplied with stationary is to be served.”
Thus spoke John Mayor of the Treasury, who was instructed in 1783 to find out all he could about “stationary. The government was intent on dispensing with “several useless, expensive and unnecessary Offices” and the extravagant charges made for stationery were among the abuses William Pitt who came to power in 1784 was keen to remove.

John Mayor Plan was to establish a “Stationary Office” (S.O.) which would provide the civil service with office supplies. Until then, stationers had contracts with the different government offices; they bought cheaply from the makers and sold at high price in the safety of their monopoly. Under the new system, the S.O. would buy from the maker and charge the buyer “at prime cost; no arbitrary price to be permitted.”

The S.O. was established in 1786 and started supplying public offices in 1787. Its customers included the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Business grew and in 1812 the Treasury ordered that buying by the S.O. of all stationery would be by open competition, and that preference would be given to the lowest tender. In 1823 it was made obligatory that all public Departments should buy all stationery from the S.O. The list of items S.O. was to provide was as follows:

Binding, Ruling, etc.
Parchment & Vellums
Court Calendars
Court Guides
Wafer Boxes – Tin
Wafer Boxes – Paper
Despatch Boxes
Bramah’s Pens & Holders
Memorandum Books
Black Ink
Seal Engraving
Ink stands – Glass
Copper Plate Printing
Packing Cases
Ink stands – Lead
Ink stands – Ebony
Ink Casks
India Rubber
Leather Bags
Ivory Folders
Army & Navy Lists
Lead pressers
Files – Pasteboard
Pounce & Boxes
Files – Wire
Card Boards
Silk Cord
Pens & Quills
Marking Ink
Japan Ink
Leather Straps
Sand Boxes

Instead of collecting payments from each department it was ruled in 1823 that the S.O. would buy all stationery and printing from an amount of money to be provided to it annually by Parliament. This system replaced the previous one under which the S.O. collected payments from individual departments. The new arrangement rested in place for 156 years.

Source: Hugh Barty-King, Her Majesty's Stationery Office  1786-1986, HMSO 1986.

All S.O. supplies bore the initials of the Stationery Office and a crown. 
See Palimpsest's growing S.O. collection on Flickr.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Lifting the Lid by James Joyce

James Joyce's desk (replica) in the National Library
of Ireland, Dublin. Photo by Lorianne DiSabato

Mr James Duffy lived in Chapelizod because he wished to live as far as possible from the city of which he was a citizen and because he found all the other suburbs of Dublin mean, modern and pretentious. He lived in an old sombre house and from his windows he could look into the disused distillery or upwards along the shallow river on which Dublin is built. The loft walls of his uncarpeted room were free from pictures. He had himself bought every article of furniture in the room: a black iron bedstead, an iron washstand, four cane chairs, a clothes rack, a coal-scuttle, a fender and irons and a square table on which lay a double desk. A bookcase had been made in an alcove by means of shelves of white wood… The books on the white wooden shelves were arranged from below upwards according to bulk. A complete Wordsworth stood at one end of the lowest shelf and a copy of the Maynooth Catechism, sewn into the cloth cover of a notebook, stood at one end of the top shelf. Writing materials were always on the desk. In the desk lay a manuscript translation of Hauptmann’s Michael Kramer, the stage directions of which were written in purple ink, and a little sheaf of papers held together by a brass pin. … On lifting the lid of the desk a faint fragrance escaped – the fragrance of new cedarwood pencils or of a bottle of gum or of an over-ripe apple which might have been left there and forgotten.

James Joyce, “A Painful Case” from The Dubliners.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Pick-a-Pen Series: Jet Pens

Carrie Bailey writes about her favorite pen store. Carrie is an editor and writer on hiatus, a coffee addict and conversationalist from Oregon, finishing a Master's of Information Studies.

JET PENS by Carrie Bailey

As a writer, I’ve spent half my life with a pen in one hand and a coffee in the other. Lately, I’ve been drawing cartoons for The Handbook of the Writer Secret Society, an anthology published by the Peevish Penman Press. I have to confess I don’t put enough thought into which pen I use when I start working on an idea. This is thoughtless, because our society firmly adheres to the belief that the pen is mightier than the sword. I’ve been rectifying my oversight by sifting through the Palimpsest archives. Even though the reviews for products on Palimpsest are compelling and I know my taste in pens can be juvenile and thoroughly un-sophisticated, I realize I’ve made it easy for myself by being loyal to one vendor I trust and enjoy buying from: Jet Pens.

Jet Pens is my candy store. I must admit, I cannot resist the colors and style of Japanese pens. Whether I want a Pilot Capless Ballpoint Pen, more Zebra Mildliner Soft Color double--sided Highlighters, or another shade of 122KCal Roll Pencil Cases (yes, I have two), I hardly need an excuse to browse the Jet Pens’ website. Their simple design interface and all the color thrill me. Jet Pens is the only non-domestic retailer for some of the Japanese products they sell, but they even ship to New Zealand where I live currently. When I used to live in the U.S. and South America, I was also impressed with the Jet Pens service: no slow-loading pages, prompt delivery, and timely response to my questions about other vendor’s products.

I’ve been doing too much traveling, but I still believe that an online vendor needs to compete with the experience of being in an actual store, where I am able to test the product and where a sales person is ready and waiting behind the counter. I get that feeling when I buy from Jet Pens.

Loyalty is a hard thing to earn for an online business, but every time I’ve contacted the company, the person at the other end of the communication channel is someone who truly appreciates my writing experience. I can buy pens from JetPens and feel confident I will get quality. It doesn’t matter what I reach for when I draw or write, because I buy from my favorite pen store and I never bought a pen from them that I didn’t like. Also, I think the little green Jet Pen logo is cute.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Pen, Paper, and Office Supplies: A Charles Dickens Collection

The Law-Writer

“On the eastern borders of Chancery Lane, that is to say, more particularly in Cook’s Court, Cursitor Street, Mr. Snagsby, law-stationer, pursues his lawful calling. In the shade of Cook’s Court, at most times a shady place, Mr. Snagsby has dealt in all sorts of blank forms of legal process; in skins and rolls of parchment; in paper – foolscap, brief, draft, brown, white, whitey-brown, and blotting; in stamps; in office-quills, pens, ink, India-rubber, pounce, pins, pencils, sealing-wax, and wafers; in red tape and green ferret; in pocket-books, almanacs, diaries, and law-lists; in string boxes, rulers, inkstands – glass and leaden – pen-knives, scissors, bodkins, and other small office-cutlery; in short, in articles too numerous to mention, ever since he was out of his time and went into partnership with Peffer.”

Charles Dickens, Bleak House, 1852-1853.

See the explanations of such terms as follscap, whitey-brown and green ferret in Orange Crate Art.

Photo: Charles Dickens' desk. By Lito Apostolakou. Courtesy of Charles Dickens House Museum.