Whenever I see auctioneers waxing lyrical about antique inkstands, I’m always slightly bemused.
I know auctioneers are paid to wax lyrical about everything, and I know antique inkstands can be things of beauty in themselves. But I have to wonder how many auctioneers experienced the reality of using a pen that you had to dip in the ink every few words. Did any of them sit at school desks like this
with inkwells like this filling the appropriate hole at the top?
Well I did, you see.
And while I didn’t use a quill (old yes, antique not yet) I did learn to write using a steel-nib pen like this and there wasn’t anything particularly lyrical about the experience. Those pens had minds of their own. They crossed their nibs, spat blots, ran dry mid-word and splayed out like the legs of stubborn donkeys when pushed too hard.
And then there was the ink. It was mixed from powder and inkwells were topped up about once a week. But if the ink was getting low, you were quite likely come up with a glob of sludge when you dipped, with very messy results.
So I can’t get too excited about inkstands and even less excited about the quills that might have dipped into them. They might look romantic in hindsight, but I’m sure they caused their users endless trouble and countless rewrites.