Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year with Ink Cocktails

This post from a few years ago is still relevant today as it was back then.
Here's another helping of INK COCKTAILS

To facilitate the use of writing instruments, Palimpsest recommends that writers first endeavour to lubricate their thoughts and minds with these reputable ink cocktails. After all 'Tis the season. Palimpsest raises its glass to all fellow bloggers and dear readers and wishes an inkfull new year to all.

The recipes come from the classic Savoy Cocktail Book of legendary bartender Harry Craddock who worked at the Savoy Hotel in London between 1920 and 1930.

Ink Street Cocktail

2 oz. lemon juice
2 oz. orange juice
2 oz. whiskey
Shake and strain

Fleet Street, London

I presume the cocktail was invented by Craddock for his Press clientele who inhabited Fleet Street, also called Street of Ink (meaning printer’s ink), home of the British newspapers, and famous for its “alcohol-fuelled culture” (it’s all over now). Craddock recommends Canadian Club Whiskey for his Ink Street cocktail and advises shaking the mixture for 10 to 20 seconds before pouring it in a cocktail glass.

Artist’s (Special) Cocktail Or
Ink of Inspiration

1/3 Whisky
1/3 Sherry
1/6 Lemon Juice
1/6 Groseille Syrup

Shake and Strain

Recipe is from Craddock Savoy Cocktail Book and comes with a note:
“This is the genuine ‘Ink of Inspiration’ imbibed at the Bal Bullier Paris. The recipe is from the Artist’s Club, Rue Pigalle, Paris.”

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Kimberly

When I was contacted by Pedlars around a year ago about suggestions on new pencils, little did I know about the existence of the Kimberly. The blogosphere may have been awash with odes to the Palomino Blackwing but none similar could I find to exalt that green and gold writing instrument of General Pencil Co. So on my recent trip to New York I made sure I'd acquire a Kimberly and there it was sitting pretty in A. I. Friedman. There were only two grades available, F and 2B, so I got them both and couldn't wait to try the pencil once I was over the Atlantic.

I wasn't disappointed. First of all, the Kimberly is pleasing to the eye: a green hexagonal pencil with striking gold lettering and a golden top. The brass capped end of the pencil really makes it stand out and give it a kind of vintage feel without making it top heavy.

The Kimberly is a cedar pencil with a Carbo-Welded graphite core which apparently makes it able to withstand four times the normal pressure. The Kimberly F being harder produces a much crisper line than the 2B - and also darker than the Staedtler Tradition's equivalent grade (I only had Staedtler's F pencil to compare it with). Kimberly F had an unsightly barcode imprinted which was not the case with the 2B one. 

From above: Kimberly, TomBow Mono, Palomino, Berol Mirado - all 2B
Doesn't look that there are any significant differences in blackness here, except perhaps for the Mirado which appears more grey compared to the others. 

2B is dark and smooth with good point retention. I've compared it to TomBow Mono 2B and found it pretty similar. It is softer and darker than Berol Mirado 2B but is beat on both counts by the Palomino 2B. It smudges much less though. I think I'm won over by the Kimberly and I will admit that the brass top makes me ever so slightly biased in its favour.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Signet 100: New pencil on the block.

Who is not attracted by an orange pencil box? This one that arrived in the post courtesy of Pedlars has been lovingly designed by Well Made Studio and is a sensory experience in itself: fine buckram emboss texture, solid colours, bold white-foiled type, elegant contrast of the grey pencil drawer with the orange case, grey ribbed ribbon loop to serve as a drawer pull-out and two white-foil pencil shapes on the sides of the box to complete the perfect picture.

The box also purported to contain the Perfect Pencil, one developed after years of Pedlars scouring the world for the best stationery available, as the (orange) card inside informs. The pencils are made in the Czech Republic and the wooden casing is American basswood. The shaft of the hexagonal pencil is a lacquered orange with silver foil lettering and band. The design seems to me a nod to Palomino while the epithet cannot but make one think of Faber Castell's claim to perfection. Signet is an elegant name for a pencil, and appropriate too since with Signet Pedlars aspires to make its mark to the pencil world. Do they manage to?

The Signet 100 is an HB pencil but feels to me a bit harder than that. It is perhaps for this reason that it holds its point very well and does not smudge. It produces more of a grey than a black mark. If you are a fan of Blackwing's or TomBow's darkness this is not for you but what the Signet lacks in darkness it makes up for point retention. For one who is used to have a sharpener as the Palomino Blackwing's constant companion, the Signet 100 seemingly writes on for ever without going anywhere near a razor.

The writing is crisp and the point does not yield to the paper as does the Palomino's. You definitely get feedback from the pencil as you write and you cannot call it smooth but it is not as waxy as the Wopex. I reckon that one could easily switch from writing to drawing lines and designing without switching to an H pencil. It sharpens easily and erases completely. It could replace the Staedtler Noris as the staple school pencil if it wasn't for the price (£2.50 a pop) and the happy student would get the cool orange box to double up as pen and pencil case. It feels like a dependable pencil to have around and the designer box is an extra bonus.

Messrs Pedlars: Welcome to the world of pencil makers.


Thursday, 4 December 2014

All Quiet on the Western Front: the waiting pen

I try to think myself back into that time. It is still there in the room, I can feel it at once, the walls have preserved it. My hands are lying on the back of the sofa; now I make myself comfortable, tuck my legs in and sit easily, cradled in the sofa's arms. The little window is open, and shows me the familiar view of the street with the church spire looming up at the end. There are a few flowers on the table. Pens, pencils, a shell for a paperweight, the inkwell - nothing has changed. It will be just like this, if I am lucky, when the war is over and I come home for good. I shall sit here, the same as before, and look at my room, and wait.

Erich Maria Remarch, All Quiet on the Western Front, p. 122.

Friday, 21 November 2014

5 Years of Palimpsest

386 posts and 876,479 views later,Palimpsest finds itself modestly celebrating its 5th year of existence. Prolific writing may not come naturally to its author but nevertheless the blog plods along in good faith and as much consistency its owner can master. Since its inception in November 2009, Palimpsest has had its modest share of "traffic" - people who either purposefully sought out its posts or stumbled accidentally upon its images. Some of its posts like Turning Point and Print Gallery owe their huge popularity to Pinterest and Google images. Others like Churchill's Pens were picked up by the Fountain Pen Network. Some were included in articles on sites like Flavorwise. The Pen Addict is responsible for many hits on many posts, and from here I extend my thanks. 

Throughout these years Palimpsest has augmented its collection of Literary Pens Pencil and Inks - a reference source related to the ways writing instruments are presented or written about in literature and poetry. Palimpsest's existence, a product of its author's long standing interest in writing instruments as material and inspirational objects, spurred also another venture: the opening in 2011 of an Etsy shop called Inklinks, where vintage writing supplies are virtually stockpiled and physically sold to those who appreciate "this sort of thing". It was Palimpsest which provided the words which are handwritten and decoupaged on beach stones, stones themselves palimpsests of time and memory. These palimpsest pebbles are on Inklinx at Folksy.

Most popular posts by category are:

1. Montblanc Meisterstuck Classique 




Literary Pens Pencils Inks

Stationery Stores
1. Pen to Paper of Brighton
2. Hennig of Dusseldorf
3. Akkermann of Amsterdam

Thank you for reading. Here's to the next five years.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Writing in the trenches

Writing in the trenches. Source: Imperial War Museum
Nowhere else would the adage "the pen is mightier than the sword" have less credence than in the trenches of World War I. How anything a pen was able to communicate could stop the horrors which humans have unleashed upon themselves? But in the face of unceasing death, writing went on. Crouched in the muddy crevices of trenches soldiers wrote to their loved ones and even kept diaries recounting their daily lives such as they were in the insanity of war that surrounded them. Pen and ink were the ammunition of the human psyche. 

Pen and ink manufacturers responded to the changed conditions of the market with new advertisements directed less at the soldiers themselves than at their relatives back home who would regularly send them care packages. Mabie, Todd pen and ink makers advertise their "Swan Safety" Military Fount-pen and their ink tablets: their writing kit which included a pocket clip too promised to be sufficient for 250 four-page letters. 

Dunkirk Evening Observer, 20 September 1917

 "There is no ink in the trenches," Mabie Todd proclaimed in their ink tablets ad, "but there is plenty of water."

Take some time off from killing or dying to pen a line to a friend with a Swan fountpen, pre-eminently a Campaigner's pen: 
The Times, 8 November 1917.

For your trenches correspondence, use an Onoto pen:

 The Waterman fountain pen "has indeed proved to be 'ideal' in every sense of the word," a Colonel with the British Expeditionary Force in France allegedly wrote in 23rd June 1916.
Punch, 13 September 1916

And don't forget: "for peace to be permanent it should be signed in permanent ink - Field's Ink, the ink that never, never fades," insisted Caribonum's ad in The Times in 1919. Sadly for Caribonum, the  Treaty of Versailles was signed using Stephens' Ink.

The Times, 10 March 1919

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Ink a Day: Blackwood & Co Ink (wherein scant evidence is explored)

London ink manufacturer Blackwood & Co departed from the pantheon of ink makers without leaving many traces behind. 

An advertisement in The Times attests Blackwood's existence already in 1851. Their "steel pen, copying, writing and other inks" are "contained in the clean registered stone and glass bottles with durable cork" and are "superior to all others in use." At that date Blackwood was based at 26 Long Acre (Covent Garden) and continued to do so three years later in 1854.

Blackwood & Co ad, The Times, 4 November 1851

In May 1856, Blackwood & Co had their ink bottles patented and again in 1871.

Blackwood & Co ad, date unknown. Source: Pinterest

Blackwood's patented syphon bottles. Source: eBay
Blackwood advertising their finest quality free flowing ink in patent syphon bottles, glass or stone. Company is now at 18 Bread Hill. Blackwood ad is placed right above their competitors, Stephens' Ink. Source: The Times, 25 January 1861.

In 1861, another advertisement in The Times gives a different address: the manufacture is now at 18 Bread Street Hill in the City. In 1878, they take part in the Paris exhibition and although no awards were taken back home, Blackwood must have done well for themselves becoming writing ink suppliers to the H.M. Stationery Office.

Palimpsest's research in the National Archives, British History online, Archive. org and did not yield any more fruits. This is work in progress.

Glass paperweight which reads "Blackwood & Co's Standard Writing
Inks as Supplied to H.M. Stationery Office sold by all stationers
18 Bread St Hill London; date unknown
Above and below: Blackwood's light aqua igloo shaped ink bottle
with "Blackwood & Co Patent London" embossed. Private collection

Blackwood & Co light aqua octagonal bottle with "Blackwo[od] & Co London" embossed.
Private collection. See the cleaning process here.

Early post-1850s ceramic Blackwood & Co ink bottle.
Source: Pinterest

Monday, 3 November 2014

Ink a Day

Leaving behind any existential problems Palimpsest may have encountered previously regarding the futility of ink, ink comes back with a vengeance in the new Series Ink a Day. This has been started in Inklinks but Palimpsest hastens to take up the relay and continue the homage to ink old and older than old.

Posts to date at Inklinks:

Waterman's Carnation ink
The Swan Easy-Fill Filler
Stephens' Ink stoneware

In the Ink a Day series Palimpsest will try to dig out information about historic inks: names, bottles, labels, ads. Some inks are extinct, while others, such as Waterman, are produced to this day. Ink making was a thriving trade in 18th and 19th century London. Palimpsest is looking forward to the creation of an ink-tour, a walk where the inkthusiast will stroll along the ghost remnants of writing fluid factories.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Kingsand quicksand

Does it matter if Conway Stewart's Kingsand ink is a lighter or darker shade of brown? Is the world going to be a better place if Kingsand flows well or if its viscosity is not satisfactory? Do we need to really care about the quality of its shading? Such existential problems tormented the author of Palimpsest as she peered into the depths of the ink bottle. She supposed that the Earth will continue to revolve around itself if said ink is found to be more or less saturated or if it bled or not on to ordinary paper. The sun will still shine tomorrow. People will still be engaged in terminating each other lives in various violent ways. Of course this critique can be directed to most human pursuits. But such is the nature of falling into the quicksand of doubt about one's content production. 

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Conversations with writing tools

An extension of the self? A writer's aid? A depository of wisdom? "Our writing equipment", Nietzsche has said, " takes part in the forming of our thoughts." Writers have been known to be preoccupied with the type of writing instruments they use (Steinbeck searched for the perfect pencil, Kipling had to have a Waverley nib, Truman Capote alternated between pencil and typewriter, Proust used "plain and pointed" Sergent-Major nibsNabokov went for Ticonderogas), or they may be particular about the choice of ink (Dickens preferred blue, Roland Barthes revelled in coloured inks, Faulkner filled his fountain pen with a succession of inks without cleaning it first, Kipling loved Indian ink). 

Does the choice of writing equipment (the medium) influences writing style? There is a debate on the influence of inscription technologies on the development of human thinking (the "medium theory"). Goethe, for instance, declared that when inspiration came to him (usually at night) he found that he could write more readily with a pencil rather than with a pen as "the scratching and splattering of the pen" would cause confusion and "stifle a little inception in its birth". Nietzsche's writing style is said to be "tighter and more telegraphic" during the time he used the writing ball.

The ongoing conversation between writer and writing instrument is nowhere more vocal as in the instances when the writing tool itself becomes an entity:

Back in the 16th century Erasmus' calamus introduces itself as "the little reed pen" which has written so many large volumes by itself, guided however by the hand of its master. The reed pen boasts to have been preserved by Erasmus as sacred to the Muses and dedicated to Apollo but although it has produced so many immortal words, it is doomed to perish in obscurity. Lord Byron addresses his grey goose-quill as Nature's noblest gift, the author's pride, a slave to his thoughts, and obedient to his will, but it too like the reed of Erasmus before it  is condemned to be forgotten. The "honest" and "sacred" inkwell of Cavafy contains whole worlds in its ink - words that are almost mystically kept there for the poet to find and are reserved only for him as the inkwell will refuse them to any other after the poet's death.   

No mystical qualities for the pen of Seamus Heaney. It sits between his finger and his thumb, "snug as a gun" - an allusion to the "pen mightier than the sword" adage - and it is a toiling pen and a fighting pen which makes the man of letters equal to the toiler of the land: "But I've no spade to follow men like them / Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests. / I'll dig with it."

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The London Writing Equipment Show 2014

The annual London Writing Equipment Show took place this year in the Holiday Inn hotel in Bloomsbury and as was the case the year before it offered the visitor a pen paradise experience. Here are a few photos Palimpsest took to mark the occasion: