This little traveling inkwell dates back to the mid-1800s. It is a lovely example of a Tunbridge souvenir. It is made of metal that was covered with a patterned veneer created of thin strips of wood. A button in front, when pressed, opens the lid. The box holds both a metal sander, or pounce pot and a glass ink bottle. There is a hole between the bottle and sander that would have held a pen, and a pen rest in the back where a collapsible pen could be stored. The underside of the lid is fitted with two springs which are covered respectively by cork and velvet to fit over the sander, and leather to fit over the inkwell. This kept both ink and sand, or pounce, from spilling during bumpy travels.
Tunbridge ware was made in the 18th to 19th centuries in the spa region of Tunbridge Wells, England as souvenirs. Mosaic designs were made by cutting thin sticks of various woods and colors, and then clamping and gluing them together. This created a block, which was then cut into thin strips of veneer, revealing the pattern. The veneer was then glued to a background of either wood or, as in the case of this inkwell, metal, sanded and varnished.
SIZE: When closed, the inkwell box measures about 1 3/8 inches high, just over 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide.
CONDITION: The Tunbridge decoration shows its more than 100 years of age. Little squares are missing on top and a section of strips are missing on the base. The mosaic on top may have had more color to it; if so, that has faded with time. The clasp mechanism works well, although the lid doesn’t completely shut down tightly. The bottle and sander are in good condition, as are the cork and leather covering the springs. The green paint inside has some worn sections.
Tunbridge Ware Traveling Inkwell, Nineteenth Century