Saturday, October 9, 2010

Where it All Began . . . . .

Writing, either as words or in picture form is as old as man himself.
The picture writing of cave men, and later the Egyptians are examples of ways man found to make permanent records of special events.
The Romans used wax tablets, in small ‘note book’ form to record messsages, and reed-paper and dyes for more lasting records.
The Chinese made writing an art form, using a brush and flowing lines with various dyes.

Originally ink was made by combining lampblack with gum and a little water and forming the mixture into small sticks or cakes which were dried in the sun and later dissolved when required. This is the basis of Indian Ink, which despite its name, was invented in China. Being water based it was easily washed off the parchment or paper, so vinegar was substituted for water and the writing became ‘fixed’.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries chemists made ink and sold it in bottles, but it could also be bought from street vendors. 

In London, around 1834 Henry Stephens began manufacturing a ‘carbonaceous black writing fluid which will accomplish the so long-desired and apparently hopeless task of rendering the manuscript as durable and as indelible as the printed word.’
Perry & Co advertised their Perrian Limpid Ink, which had a flowing property peculiar to itself and does not corrode Metalic Pens.
The Term BLUE-BLACK ink means that the ink will write blue, but dry to a permanent black colour.

Ink was very corrosive, and pens and quills needed to be cleaned regularly.  It was also very evaporative, hence the small openings in inkwells.  

Ink sold, in the mid 1800s for One Penny for a small stoneware bottle full (this is about 2 tablespoons full of ink).
Banks, Schools and large Offices bought their ink in bulk and dispensed it from a large bottle or barrel into smaller inkwells.  Some inks were available in Powdered form, making them popular for Schools and large institutions.

The 19th Century saw amazing changes in the literacy of the UK population.
In 1870 Gladstone’s Education Act set the path towards a modern educational system, giving power to elected Councils to provide both primary and secondary education and spreading its provision into rural and urban areas alike.   The effect was profound.
Between 1870 and 1890 the average school attendance rose from one and a quarter million to over four and a half million, while expenditure per pupil doubled.
This new educational revolution fostered the creation of clerks in preference to farm labourers. For the first time, paper and dip pens replaced slate and chalk,  thus laying the foundations for a great surge in the need for ink-related products.  In the early 1800s, with the introduction of the steel nib, quill pens were slowly phased out of use,  and the job of the quill cutter (a very skilled job at the time), was lost.
What we call a Pen Knife today, is really a POCKET Knife, and a pen knife,  was what was used to cut quills, with a thin sharp blade at one end and a very small guillotine action to cut the tip, (the nib), at the other end.

This is a quote I found about Quills … written in 1665….

Take a quill (feather) that is clear, the second or third in the wing. Scrape it with the back edge of your pen-knife, and slit is just in the back, and when you have equally shaved down your nibs, cut the ends of them sloping, so that the nibs towards the right hand may be shorter; round the ends of them a little, and when you have cut a place to receive the ink, wet it in your mouth, and hold your pen in your right hand between the fore-finger, middle finger and thumb.. In writing, sit upright in Majestic Posture……

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