Thursday, 30 January 2014

Her Majesty's Stationery Office at Ryman's

To a stationery enthusiast, an early 19th-century list of office supplies is both enticing and mystifying. For instance, what are wafers, India rubber, pounce, and sand boxes? And of what possible use could a ferret be?

Read more at Ryman blog where Palimpsest is guest blogging this week.

Friday, 24 January 2014

A Steel Pen The Most Odious Thing in Nature

"Miss Stackpole, however, is your most wonderful invention. She strikes me as a kind of monster. One hasn’t a nerve in one’s body that she doesn’t set quivering. You know I never have admitted that she’s a woman. Do you know what she reminds me of? Of a new steel pen – the most odious thing in nature. She talks as a steel pen writes; aren’t her letters, by the way, on ruled paper? She thinks and moves and walks and looks exactly as she talks. You may say that she doesn’t hurt me inasmuch as I don’t see her. I don’t see her, but I hear her, I hear her all day long. Her voice is in my ears, I can’t get rid of it."

Henry James, Portrait of a Lady, first published 1880-1.

Why the most odious thing in nature? Is this an echo of the sentiments of steel-pen opponents "the steel pen is the true root of all evil"?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Stationery Store Series: Boesner of Dusseldorf

If you are used to shop for stationery and writing supplies in tiny crammed shops or intimate boutiques, prepare to be awed. Boesner of Dusseldorf, Germany, is a temple of a store. Not so much in that it evokes feelings of devoutness but in its monumental proportions. Its industrial scale dwarves you on approach and once inside its lofty ceilings and ample spaces appeal to the explorer in you. You may need a compass to navigate Boesner's endless shelves of supplies. Allow a couple of hours for browsing. Better still cancel all non-essential appointments for the morning.

The abundance and polychromy is perhaps overwhelming but such is the curse (or blessing) of massive stores. Not a place for agoraphobics. Shelves upon shelves stacked with tubes and bottles containing all sorts of paints and pens. Expect all the usual brands and then some more. Stores like that do not do intimate. They do functional and practical. But there is an allure to that in that Boesner invites you to acquire all, to possess everything, even in the knowledge that your purchased object of desire may never be consumed. You are buying into possibilities.

The ink enthusiast will be glad to find a comprehensive range of Rohner & Klingner, and J. Herbin bottled inks, as well as a selection of nibs and dip pen holders ( I brought home R&K Scabiosa and Solferino). I cannot begin to enumerate the pens.

Notebooks and pads are not neglected either. I bought a couple of notebooks from my favourite German brand, Brunnen. I was of course tempted to purchase all sizes and colours - and what about the array of handmade paper displayed seductively? Would I also need some of those?

A bottle of this and that, a nib, a pencil cap, a notebook, a bookbinding tape and a couple of purchases later, one reaches the till exhausted and ready to make one's wallet lighter than expected. And vows not to come back (but knows that one will).


Boesner is on Wiesenstra├če 72, 40549 D├╝sseldorf, Germany

Monday, 6 January 2014

Pencil Lead Tubes and Cases

In the olden days pencil leads travelled well in tiny metal tubes or cases, some plain, some more decorative, sometimes inscribed with the maker's name. Wolff's solid ink leads case is an example of a decorative little container with a hinged lid, while other pencil lead holders were plain utilitarian tubes.  Pencil lead boxes have become collectibles and some command high prices on eBay. Some of these tiny tubes make ideal storage for calligraphy or writing nibs.

Johann Faber pencil lead tube