Thursday, 13 September 2012

Stephens Ink for S.O.

Stephens Ink for S.O. by polydaktyl
Stephens Ink for S.O., a photo by polydaktyl on Flickr.
Among the suppliers of Her Majesty's Stationery Office was Henry Stephens, producer of the famous Stephens' Ink writing fluid whose formula was invented in the 19th century. A rare find this glazed stoneware half pint ink bottle has a paper label in excellent condition and the distinctive S O and crown at the top.

Text on label:

Writing Ink
O. No. 6835
Caution. Wash out any inkwells which have contained other ink before filling them with thin ink. Use clean pens. Henry Stephens Ltd London N5
Code no. 43-86
Date of Manufacture 1-3-58"

See the HMSO office supplies on Flickr


  1. Palimpsest, is that "writing fluid" or "writing ink" on the label? Jack/USA

  2. Jack, you're right. Ink it is. I've corrected it.

  3. Palimpsest, thanks. Anyone who wants to take a shot at distinguishing "writing fluid" from "writing ink" ought to do so.

    I know we have oil-, shellac-, and water-based inks. Right? Gel stuff, too, right? (Thank you, Japan.) Then there are writing solids, such as chalk, graphite, sticks daubed in mud, etc. (Thanks to that graphite blob in England.) How about "air nibs"--spray paint and air brushes? Just cogitating a bit out loud, that's all. Jack/USA

  4. My understanding is that "writing fluids" were generally chemical solutions (such as iron gall inks), whereas "writing inks" were suspensions of pigments (like carbon or Indian ink). Though I think there was a lot of leeway in the nomenclature.