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Figural Travelling Inkwells

Travelling inkwells of the late 1800’s took on many forms; some were designed for function over style in order to ensure that the ink remained in its container no matter how arduous the form of travel, some were made from precious metals and exotic materials to reflect the social status of the owner, and some were designed primarily as a novelty, with any concern over potential ink leakage taking a backseat to the creativity of the design. 

These novelty travelling inkwells would often be purchased to be given as gifts, or picked up as a souvenir during one’s travels. We’ve all been in that situation while vacationing, not knowing what to pick up for our loved ones back home – “What should we get for Aunt Harriet? She’s impossible to buy for!” “Well, she likes hats so let’s get her an inkwell that looks like a hat box!”. 
Maybe the conversations didn’t always go exactly like that, but there was an almost endless variety of figural inkwells made, and fortunately many have survived in spite of their somewhat inferior quality. 

Regardless of the exterior shape of the figural travelling inkwell, most of them are very similar in terms of their inner workings and how they were made. 
“Hat Box” – snake skin covering
A pressure clip is pushed to open the inkwell’s outer case, which then reveals an inner casing consisting of a secondary hinged lid as well as another pressure clip that holds it in place. 
“Hat Box”- inner casing
The glass inkwell is revealed once this secondary lid is opened. The inside of the inner lid would normally be lined in either leather or cork so that a reasonably good seal is formed with the glass bottle when closed. The casing and most of the fittings were made from brass and formed into a wide variety of shapes. 
“Hat Box” – bottle and leather seal
Various types of leather were used to cover the outer casings, including shagreen and snake skin.  

Here are a couple of other figural inkwells in my collection…
“Heart” – engraved brass interior


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