Thursday, 27 February 2020

Luminous ink in the Time of Cholera

Nevertheless, after a resigned siesta, he submitted to reality and wrote her a note excusing himself. He wrote it by hand on perfumed paper and in luminous ink so that it could be read in the dark, and with no sense of shame, he dramatized the gravity of his accident in an effort to arouse her compassion.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

Ink: J.Herbin 1670 Red Hematite ink

More inks in the Time of Cholera

Monday, 24 February 2020

Iris Murdoch's Black Prince in a Rathbone Place stationery shop

Winsor and Newton shop in Rathbone Place, London
(picture from Winsor and Newton Catalogue of Artist's Materials, London 1874)

I turned into a stationer's shop in Rathbone Place. I can browse indefinetly in a stationer's shop, indeed there is hardly anything in a good stationer's shop which I do not like and want. What a scene of refreshment and innocence! Loose leaf paper, writing paper, notebooks, envelopes, postcards, pens, pencils, paper-clips, blotting paper, ink, files, old-fashioned things like sealing wax, new-fangled things like sellotape....I had to load somebody with presents. I collected for Rachel a ball of red string, a blue felt-tipped pen, a pad of special calligrapher's paper, a magnifying glass, a fancy carrier bag, a large wooden clothes peg with URGENT written on it in gold, and six postcards of the Post Office Tower.

Iris Murdoch, The Black Prince, 1973

picture from Winsor and Newton Artist's Materials Catalogue, 1874

Rathbone Place, a street off Tottenham Court Road in central London, has been populated by artists since the 18th century and by the 19th century, there were many art supplies shops in the street. Renowned artist colour manufacturers George Rowney and Co, suppliers to J.M.W. Turner, traded there from 1817 to 1884; William Winsor and Henry Charles Newton set up business at No. 38 in 1833 and continued trading in the area until 1987.  Jackson and Sons also set up shop in Rathbone Place in 1817. Charles Dickens has spoken of the Winsor and Newton "Rathbone Place magicians":
Has anyone ever seen anything like Winsor and Newton's cups of chromes and carnations...and crimsons, loud and fierce as a war-cry, and pinks, tender and loving as a young girl?
old George Rowney pencil,
featured in Pencil Archaeology

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Margaret Atwood's Pencils on the Go

Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing, the Guardian asked authors for their personal dos and don'ts. That's what Margaret Atwood said:

1. Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.
2. If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.


"Margaret Atwood's Rules for Writers" The Guardian, 22 February 2010.

Pencils pictured: Mitsubishi 9850 HB and Tombow 8900 HB

See also: The Forbidden Pencil of Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Stationery Store Series: Quill of London

Quill, is a quiet, understated little shop in Angel, north London, with a focus on calligraphy and bespoke stationery. It stocks Kaweco fountain pens, Midori brass pencils and pens, Blackwing pencils, wax stamps, notecards and correspondence sets, and calligraphy supplies - inks, nibs, pads, and accessories. 

The products on the shelves feel curated but there is not an awful lot to browse and things don't have prices, so you got to constantly ask. The place feels more like the front room of someone's house with wooden floors, a long table in the middle and an antique chest of drawers. Quill runs regular calligraphy workshops so if this is your thing that's a place to start. They also create personalised stationery for special occasions, like weddings, and they take calligraphy commissions.

Find them on

37 Amwell St. 
London EC1R 1UR

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Pencil in Irena's Children

He was interrupted in mid-sentence by the stomping of heavy boots outside the door. Someone's pencil dropped to the floor in panic and rattled. These were the feared but familiar sounds of Nazi boots, and the teenage students in the dark room could hear now the horrible bellowing outside the window, the barked orders for the Jews to show themselves. 

Tilar J Mazzeo, Irena's Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman who saved 2,500 children from the Warsaw Ghetto, 2016

Irena Stanislawa Sendler, b. 15 February 1910, Polish humanitarian who served in the Polish Underground Resistance during WWII, rescued thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw ghetto. Google Doodle is dedicated to her today.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Enmity pencil in Franzen's Corrections

Something as daily and friendly as a pencil still occupied the random spot on the workbench where Alfred had laid it in a different decade; the passage of so many years imbued the pencil with a kind of enmity.

Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections, 2001

Monday, 3 February 2020

Inks in the Time of Cholera

But, indifferent to the uproar, she was captivated on the spot by a paper seller who was demonstrating magic inks, red inks with an ambience of blood, inks of sad aspect for messages of condolence, phosphorescent inks for reading in the dark, invisible inks that revealed themselves in the light. She wanted all of them so she could amuse Florentino Ariza and astound him with her wit, but after several trials she decided on a bottle of gold ink.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera, 1985.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Mary Somerville's Pen

Mary Somerville holds probably a propelling pencil
like the ones made by Samson Mordan.

In a letter of July 12, 1849, thanking Somerville for a copy of Physical Geography, Humboldt praised Somerville's superior combination of precision, lucidity, and taste; her high attainments in mathematical analysis; and the comprehensiveness of her knowledge. ...
"You alone could provide your literature with an original cosmological work, a work written with the lucidity and taste that distinguish everything that comes from your pen," he told her.

Kathlyn Neeley, Mary Somerville: Science, Illumination and the Female Mind, 2001.

Google celebrates Scottish scientist Somerville with a Doodle to mark the day she published in the world's oldest science publication, Philosophical Transactions. She was the first woman to do so.