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Mahogany Inkwell Caddy With Drawer, Circa 1840
This wonderful mahogany caddy has turned brass feet and applied brass decoration. It has a single long drawer dovetailed. It is entirely made of mahogany. The jars are constructed of lead crystal cut with brass caps resting on red wool.
Size: 3.5'' tall; 3.75''wide; 10.75'' diameter.
Weight: 1.7 lbs.
Medium: Mahogany, Glass, Brass
Circa: C. 1840
Condition Report: Some worm holes and minor imperfections.
A bit of history: The demise of the inkwell began in the 1880s, with the invention of the first practical fountain pen by Lewis Waterman. Not only did Waterman's writing instrument carry its own supply of ink, the flow of the ink was emitted in a regular, controllable stream. In 1939, Liszlo Biro, a proofreader from Hungary patented the first ballpoint pen. Eighteen years later the U.S. Post Office would replace all straight pens and inkwells with the much improved ballpoint. After centuries of use, the inkwell virtually disappeared from daily life. Inkwells also illustrate the class distinctions so evident in earlier times. Prior to the 16th century, it was considered undignified for an aristocrat to do his own writing and a scrivener would fulfill the duties of correspondence. Consequently, inkstands were primarily utilitarian and without ornamentation. However, by the end of the 16th century, the well-to-do began handling their own correspondence and the elaborate silver inkstand would become a "necessary" item. These were often made in the shape of a box and contained items beyond the inkpot, including a wafer box for paste wafers (used to seal letters) and a sander or pounce pot. The sander held powdered gum sandarac, a fine sand which was sprinkled on the unglazed paper to prevent smearing. The sand would be poured back into the pounce pot once the ink was dry, ready for reuse. Many boxes were also fitted with a drawer for the storage of quills and sealing wax. In the 17th century, traveling with one's own writing materials became a necessity for the literate and the travelers' well was introduced. For the affluent, the inkwell was housed in a box with host of other necessities, including paper, quill pens, ink, sewing notions, medications and toiletries. Of course, the humble traveler would simply carry a tiny inkwell which could safely be tucked away in a pocket or valise without spilling. Cruet-type stands also became popular in the 17th century home. These included three cylindrical containers, one for ink, one with a perforated top for use as a sand-caster and the third for wafers. Up to this time, an inkstand was commonly known as a standish, a term which would be eliminated in18th century America. The 18th century would bring about many other changes. Silver or gold inkstands would be prominently displayed at the homes of the wealthy and often featured Rococo designs, footed stands and trays with grooved channels for penknives or quills. Many included a matching bell, used to summon a servant when a letter was ready for posting. Travelers' boxes became known as compendiums and would feature ornate designs, covered in tortoiseshell veneers, ivory or embroidered fabrics. From 1750-1880, the "golden span" of china would begin in England, making it the greatest china producing country in the world, followed closely by Germany. Many of these china inkwells were made as souvenirs or specifically for export to the U.S. and porcelain inkwells would be made with feminine appeal. Unfortunately the fragility of these inkwells has made them rare; most surviving examples exist only in museums. By the mid 19th century, inkstands became both ornate and whimsical, with each country specializing in their own unique style. In the Palais Royal shops of 1850's to 1880's Paris, figural designs made of ormolu (gilded bronze), porcelain and shell would abound. In England, glass-insert inkwells would be encased in maple, oak, rosewood, mahogany, burled wood and papier-mache. In America, cut glass inkwells were the rage; an 1840 U.S. Census lists 34 glass cutting shops in America. 19th century America would also produce excellent examples of blown mold, milk glass and pressed glass inkwells. Today, those attributed to the Sandwich glass factories of New England are valued in the several thousands of dollars. Gutta percha, resistant to ink and a modern day forerunner to plastic, was used both in carved designs and as an insert material. By the 1870's, figural shapes of animals, men and exotic birds were frequently mounted on inkstands, celebrating the Victorian's love of kitsch.
Provenance: Louis Gianni.
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