Home > General Inky Interest, Penbox Pen News > Vintage Inks and Vintage Ink Bottles

Vintage Inks and Vintage Ink Bottles

Vintage ink bottles.

Vintage Ink Bottles

Originally ink was made by combining lampblack with gum and a little water and forming the mixture into small pellets which were dried in the sun and later dissolved in water when required. This is the basis of Indian ink, which, despite its name, was first formulated and used in China. Being water based, it was easily washed off papyrus, parchment or paper, so vinegar was substituted for water and the writing became fixed. Various substances were added to make different colors and for centuries scribes made their own inks, based on their personal recipes.

About 1832 Dr Henry Stephens (1796 – 1864) accomplished the desire to make a writing fluid as permanent and as indelible as the paper or parchment it was written upon. ‘It is proof against every known chemical agent, and combines with the paper so strongly as to resist moisture and most other influence’ the Stephens’ Ink company claimed. The discovery of aniline dyes some years later enabled the corrosive constituents of ink to be removed and the need for pen wipes used for the cleaning of steel nibs after their use vanished.

Above is an image showing a selection of ink bottles featuring some Victorian glass and earthenware examples and later twentieth century examples. For the ink bottle collector there are enough shapes and sizes to offer a wide field of interest. Victorian glass examples can be octagonal, have bevelled edges, fluted or ribbed sides, be unmarked or show the maker’s mark on the side or base. And many where made in the shape of locomotives, a house, shoe or boot, with or without a ledge to rest a dip pen.

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