The recent Webbie hubub left me pondering my fountain pen accouterments. Taking inventory, I discovered 35 bottles of ink. (Before a recent purge of unloved inks and colors, I had more.) Some pen pals have far more ink bottles than I and some have far less. For moi, however, the information that I possess 35 bottles means that my “less is more” lifestyle is in danger.
It happens easily enough, doesn’t it? In my case, I thought green was my favorite ink. Along the way of trying out inks, I discover the favorite color might be brown. Bottles accumulate because any given new ink may be the “one” ink that is more spectacular than all the others. And somehow I acquire a lot of blue when I don’t even really care for blue ink. Of course, the same phenomenon transpires with pen accumulation.
Early on in my fountain pen days I tried bright beautiful colors like J. Herbin Rose Cyclamen. A lovely ink but not one I choose to write with regularly. And then there’s Caran d’Ache Saffron, quite a lovely orange shade in a beautiful bottle, sitting unused. My first inks were Noodler’s Ink because, wow, it’s made in the USA and isn’t that special? Noodler’s has cool names and artwork on the boxes and the bottles, too. (I might be a sucker for packaging.) Eventually I landed on J. Herbin and Diamine inks because my vintage pens write the best with those. There’s something lovely about the tradition of J. Herbin (1670) and Diamine (1864) that make me feel like I’m writing with the ink that Alexandre Dumas, Collette or Radclyffe Hall probably used.
35 bottles of ink… the brands break down as follows:
- Diamine 16 bottles (Twelve 50ml and three 30ml and one-sample size)
- J. Herbin 9 bottles (One 100ml and eight 30ml)
- Private Reserve 3 bottles (All 50ml)
- Montblanc 3 bottles (All 50ml)
- Caran d’Ache 1 bottle (30ml)
- Sailor Jentle 1 bottle (50ml)
- Sheaffer Skrip 1 bottle (60ml circa late 1990’s)
- Waterman 1 bottle (50ml)
Private Reserve is a more recent experiment and I’m not sure yet about these inks. They are highly saturated and come in some interesting colors like PR Avacado and Ebony Purple. The Sailor Jentle was bought at the recommendation of Brian at Edison Pen and has been used exclusively in my Edison pen. The Waterman was a brown ink quest (Havana), the Sheaffer appeared mysteriously, and the Montblanc was bought for the bottle shape.
Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? —Alice to the Cheshire Cat
That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. —The Cheshire Cat to Alice
Only unlike Alice, I care very much indeed where I end up. For a moment I wondered if I should sell bottles, trade bottles or give bottles away. Many of these inks I still like very much. The answer became clear: Use them up, silly! Isn’t that what you bought ink for? To write with?
Sometimes slowly, ya know? My last personal challenge was to take my pen collection to a maximum of twenty pens. The new challenge to myself: No new bottles of ink until I use up an existing 33!
I wonder how long that will take me and what will be discovered? Yes, of course, I’ve come to the end of an ink bottle before. Ink bottles, however, have always been coming and going.
First ink bottles up to be sucked dry: Diamine Florida Blue (30ml) and J. Herbin Cacao Du Bresil (3oml). The Webbie Ink Journal will record my progress.
Select Reading List on Referenced Ink Manufacturers
- Bosley, John, Using and Collecting Vintage Ink, The Pennant, Summer 2009
- Clark, Greg, America’s Back in the Ink Business, Stylus Magazine, Aug/Sept 2004 (about Noodler’s and Private Reserve)
- Conner, Rick, A Brief History of Ink, Feb 2005, rickconner.net/penspotters
- Elie, Jean, Interview with Laurent Nusse, CEO G.Lalo/Herbin, Dec 2009, blog.penandco.com
- Fiorella, Sam, Casey’s Nightmare, Sept 2002 (A brief history of Sheaffer’s Skrip ink), pendemonium.com
- Harris, Melvin, The Maybrick Hoax: A Fact-File for the Perplexed, Jan 1997, (casebook study of a Jack the Ripper hoax involving Diamine ink), archive at pendemonium.com
- Marcus, Greg, The Price of Ink, Feb 2010, marcuslink.com
- Marcus, Greg, About Diamine Ink, date unknown, marcuslink.com
- Marcus, Greg, Herbin Ink, date unknown, marcuslink.com
- Picon, Marie A., Common Sense, Pen World, August 2009 (Nathan Tardif talks about ink)
Referenced Manufacturer Links