Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Scottish Stationery of Old

I wouldn't have given the few samples of stationery exhibited in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh a third look, elaborate though their letterheads have been, if they were not remnants of the once thriving stationery manufacturing in the Scottish capital. Were have all the stationers gone? The Edinburgh City of Print is working towards collecting under one digital roof all that remains from the golden era of printing - objects and images interspersed in various museums and collections. But a Printing Museum remains elusive. And while Ghost Tours in the city's underground vaults and cemeteries are popular, there is no City of Print tour advertised along Edinburgh's Royal Mile. People are happy with Ryman. No time for George Waterston.  

Printing began in Scotland already in the 16th century and Edinburgh has been a thriving printing centre with stationery manufacturing rivalling the book trade. Not only had the Scots the machinery to print the stationery the legal, financial and educational establishments needed but also the paper mills to produce the very paper the stationery was made of. Papermaking began in Scotland in 1590 and in the 1800s the Water of Leigh had no less than 80 paper mills in operation. Waterston started a stationery business in 1752 that lasted until 2004 - no mean feat. 

William Waterston was an East Lothian schoolmaster who in 1752 dealt in flambeaux or wax torches and later produced sealing wax, wafers and ink. In 1828 the family opened a retail stationery shop and by the second half of the 19th century Waterston was thriving producing paper products, social and domestic stationery and art books. In 1864 it won a contract to print banknotes and in 1865 introduced a lithographic printing shop. Edinburgh City of Print has a useful list of other printing houses operating at that time and you can see their collection of photographs related to George Waterston on Flickr.

The room dedicated to the printing industry in the National Museum of Scotland has printing presses, a huge paper making machine, paper scales and samples and it is a delight to be able to see these old marvels of printing technology. However it hardly does justice to the vibrant printing centre that was Edinburgh. 

List of paper mills in Scotland, 1832. National Museum of Scotland.

Quadrant paper scales calibrated to show the weight of a ream of paper. National Museum of Scotland.

Book of paper samples 1840s-1880s by Cowan & Sons paper mills. National Museum of Scotland

model of paper guillotine at the National Museum of Scotland

The world's first successful rotary printing press was made in Edinburgh, Scotland, by the printer Thomas Nelson ca. 1850. National Museum of Scotland

Friday, 18 October 2013

Summit Cadet S100 fountain pen

I left the London Writing Equipment Show last week, dear Readers, with a Cadet in my pocket. Yes, Palimpsest is now the proud owner of a Summit S100.

Summits were made by a Liverpool-based pen manufacturer which was established in 1899 as “Lang Co. Ltd”, became Curzon, Lloyd & MacGregor Ltd, then Curzons Ltd in 1920, L. Wilson & Co Ltd in 1928 and finally settled for the name “Summit Pens Ltd.” after the Second World War – a wise move since Summit was the most successful pen this company ever produced.

S models were the most commonly available Summit models, the earliest being manufactured in 1929. You can find out all about them in the Summit Pens website created by Summit collector, Paul Martin. 

My Summit Cadet has got a stunning barrel and cap with a wonderful green marble effect, very vibrant and pearlescent. The cap is a screw-on with a black flat top (slightly concave), a metal clip engraved with the word “Summit”, and a single nickel trim. In contrast with other Cadets dating from the late 1940s I browsed in the site above this one’s barrel has a rounded end. “Cadet S100 Made in England” is stamped near the screw thread. The pen measures 124mm capped, 140.5mm uncapped. 

There is a delightful 14ct flexible nib, producing ever so smooth writing. The Cadet is a lever filler so lifting the lever compresses the ink sac inside. You place the nib in the ink, close the lever and wait for 10 seconds to allow the sac to inflate completely. I’ve inked the Cadet with J. Herbin Vert Empire (to match the exterior). The nib succumbs easily to pressure making writing a real pleasure. 

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The London Writing Equipment Show October 2013

Once more Palimpsest stood in awe at the magnificence of pens and pen knowledge both abundant at this year's London Writing Equipment Show. Sheaffer was there, too, celebrating its 100th year with a big cake. Inexpensive Lamys, £1500 Pelikans and everything else in between and probably beyond said price tag. Palimpsest was delighted to mingle with pen experts, pen dealers, pen repairers, collectors, calligraphers and keen punters. 

Until next year...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Blue Swan ink of old

No dives in Orkney Islands were necessary for the discovery of this Swan ink bottle. It was found in the most mundane of places: an eBay auction. Instead of a shell entombed within it, the bottle was full of ink. Mundane places have their advantages. Let us not forget too that an old bottle full of ink is difficult to come by – even on eBay. This one was full and the paper label in superb condition. The old swan of Swan ink was swimming elegantly amongst decorative waves. 1920s?

The paper label has got a yellow border with Blue Swan Ink written in white against a dark blue background. It reads:
“Made in England by the Swan Pen People
Swan Ink
[swan-splashing-in-water logo]
Fixed 6d Price ~ Purchase 1d tax
Mabie Todd & Co. Ltd London

The blue metal cap reads Swan Ink Trade Mark and features the same swan logo.

Mabie Todd Co. was established in New York City in 1860 and in 1884 a London office was opened. In 1914 Mabie, Todd and Co Limited was established as a British firm.

The ink that comes out of this Swan bottle is a grey blue – a dusky blue I would say, perhaps with some hint of purple. All these nuances become apparent to me only when I apply a handsome quantity of ink on paper with a paint brush. Writing with a dip pen you get a good flow, and a reasonable flow in a Lamy Safari - you wouldn't call it a wet ink, though. I would say that both shading and saturation are medium. In any case, writing with  an old ink is always a pleasure.