My Winterberry Farm Primitives Shop Blog

Monday, July 14, 2014

Antique Ink Stands

Ink stands were once an indispensable part of everyday life as far back in history as ancient Egypt and ancient China where ink was invented. Over time ink wells became more than just a place to store ink and writing instruments, they became highly prized object d'art pieces. In France, the most expensive ink stands were made of porcelain or highly decorated ormolu (a gold-mercury amalgam applied to a bronze base) and were sometimes more important works of art than just places to store ink. Inkstands were there when Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence.
This is the actual inkwell used by both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin during that hot July in 1776. It was made by Phillip Syng in 1782 and is housed at the Independence National Park in Philadelphia, PA. It consists of the ink pot, quill holder, and a pounce pot that was used to sprinkle 'pounce', a powder to help dry the ink and stop it from spreading. As Thomas Jefferson dipped his quill into that silver inkwell on his desk, I wonder what he was thinking. Were the words coming to his mind so quickly that he had to stop several times to sharpen his quill and sprinkle the pounce from the pounce pot? Many of the 18th century inkwells were made of porcelain, pewter, maper mache, bronze, ivory, glass, wood, and brass with many of these inkwells so rare that they can only be found in museums.
As can be seen in this painting 'Still Life with Books' by Edwart Collier in 1702, the inkstand was a necessary object in everyday life more than 300 years ago. In early America, inkstands were could be found in many taverns or inns for use by the patrons while they were on their travels. Some even had drawers for the storage of paper, sealing wax, or other necessary items for writing letters in the 18th and early 19th centuries. As can be seen in this picture of a circa 1800-1830 walnut inkstand with drawer, there are two wells on either side of the glass inkwells for the storage of quill pens and a drawer below for paper and other items necessary for writing a letter.
A walnut wood inkstand like this one would have been owned by a tavern or inn and may have sat on a table in the tavern's dining room or in an small alcove off to the side of the main room so letters could be written in a quiet area to allow for concentration. The writer would request paper - for a price - or may have even had paper that was carried with them. It is also possible that inkstands like this one may have been found in the more expensive rooms in inns that would also count women as their patrons on the few times of the year that women would travel to see family or friends. A walnut inkstand like this one may have had a home in the room where a woman and her family would stay and she would have been able to write and send letters using this type of inkstand.
This inkstand is a wonderful piece of history with its felt bases for its original glass inkwells intact, single drawer with it original hardware and those fabulous dovetails on that single drawer. Found on my website at under the 'Early Antiques' button, it would look fantastic sitting in your tavern room or great room on a small tavern table that may also have some twists of tobacco and an early pipe or two...